John Cook calls tonight’s Washington match “the ultimate test”
- #12 BYU vs #8 Florida State| Fri, Dec 12 | 4:00PM | Alaska Airlines Arena
- #11 Nebraska @ #3 Washington| Fri, Dec 12 | 6:30PM | Alaska Airlines Arena
- Regional Final | Sat, Dec 13 | 8:30PM | Alaska Airlines Arena
|Washington's Krista Vansant was named the Academic All-American of the Year|
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
When Nebraska takes the court against Washington in the 2014 NCAA Volleyball Tournament’s third round, it will add to a rather daunting lineup of Husker opponents this season. Washington is seeded #3 in this year’s bracket, which means Nebraska will have faced seven of the top nine tournament seeds at some point this year, including the top five (#1 Stanford, #2 Texas, #3 Washington, #4 Wisconsin and #5 Penn State.) Their only victory so far among that group was a split of the two matches against Penn State.
Even so, during Thursday’s press conference, Nebraska Coach John Cook called tonight’s Washington match, “the ultimate test.”
|Washington's Krista Vansant |
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
“Washington’s one of the top teams,” he said. “They’re playing at home. They’re having a great year. We’re going to have to play our best match of the year.”
Throughout the 15-minute session, Cook kept coming back to one topic: Washington senior Krista Vansant. “Vansant makes it pretty hard,” he said.
“She’s a better passer than she was two years ago,” he said of the 2013 National Player of the Year. “She’s a better blocker. Her range of attack is a lot better now. She has a lot of shots, and she hits with a lot of range. She just doesn’t hit with the same shot. She has a lot of shots. She’s gonna make you defend the whole court.”
Cook also paid tribute to Washington’s serving and defense, and to Washington’s other hitters and middles. But clearly, he’s spent time thinking how the team will defend against Vansant.
“There’s three things that have to happen to slow her down,” Cook said. “One, you gotta serve tough, so it makes it harder to get her the ball. Our block’s gotta be disciplined and be in the right spot. And then our diggers have got to understand what shots to look for.
“The bottom line’s to be two points better in three games. She (Vansant) can have 90 kills, but if we still win, it’ll be okay.”
THE GAME WITHIN THE GAME
When you’re at tonight’s match, pay attention to the way the two teams line up at the start of each set.
Nebraska runs a 5-1 (one setter) offense, which means 5-10 senior setter Mary Pollmiller will play three of her rotations on the front row. Pollmiller usually serves first for the Huskers. Three rotations later, she’ll be asked to block, as the Huskers’ best blocker, Amber Rolfzen, moves back to the service line.
Will Washington’s hitters try to attack at or over Pollmiller? And will Pollmiller—who had a career-high 10 kills last Saturday against Utah—try to counter by dumping the ball over the net on the second touch?
RIVALRY? WHAT RIVALRY?
At yesterday’s press conference, Washington Coach Jim McLaughlin downplayed the notion that the Huskies and Huskers are rivals. “It isn’t like Notre Dame/SC in football,” he said.
In fact, McLaughlin says he no longer gets all that excited when Nebraska is next on the schedule. “Maybe early in my career,” he said, referring to eight matches against the Cornhuskers when he was head coach of Kansas State. Back then, he said, “It’s just exciting, we’re playing Nebraska.
“But then,” McLaughlin continued, “you get into this mode where every match becomes the most important match. Your preparation is the same and your thoughts are the same. You’re never assuming anything in this business. Otherwise, you can become very superficial very fast, and bad things can happen. On either side of the spectrum: getting too fired up, or not being prepared enough. The way this team has matured, and the way that they’ve prepared for every team, I expect them to be the same way with Nebraska. And the same way in a championship match. I don’t know if we did that last year, at the end of the year.”
- This is the third time in the past five seasons that Washington faces Nebraska in the tournament’s third round. In each instance, Washington first had to defeat Hawai’i in the second round.
- BYU faces Florida State at 4PM. The Cougars have advanced to Round 4 (Elite Eight) three times in its volleyball history: 1993, 1998 and 2007. In all three occasions, Penn State ended the Cougars’ run, in the national semifinals in 1993, and in the Elite Eight the other two times.
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