Friday, December 12, 2014

NCAA | Nebraska outlines strategy for facing Washington volleyball’s Krista Vansant

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.”

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?

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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  1. Glad he's thinking about Krista, as well he should. Nebraska has a couple of great blockers, but we can hit them hard from four places on every rotation. We're going to make them work. Looking forward to a great match tonight.

  2. I didn't think we (Huskers) had a snowball's chance in hades to go to Seattle and win that match, but I guess my snowball is still round, firm, and hard. Congratulations on a great season, Huskies!

  3. I feel sorry for Krista and kaylie... Best of luck in the future and thank you for the memories.

  4. Success is so fragile sometimes. But in the bigger picture, this is a great team. Krista and Kaleigh are always going to be remembered as among the greatest Huskies.

    Jack and Leslie, tell us about officiating, regular and post-season. How are the refs selected, how does the NCAA ensure quality, how are they trained, how are they assigned to matches? How is their performance measured and improved?

  5. You have to wonder if those two call in the 4th set were called correctly for the Huskies when it was close to the back line, but the replay showed that they were clearly in, would have happened in the 5th set. Nebraska did get quite a few more kills than the Huskies did and the youth in some of the positions ended up costing the Huskies. I guess that FSU has to wonder too when they had a pretty good lead in the 4th set and BYU ended up winning that set as well. I guess that I won't be using that ticket tonight to the match since it isn't worth it to go to a match where I don't like either team and would not be getting home until after 11 p.m. with a 8:30 start time. Great season Huskies, just a bitter finish and not what you wanted.

    1. I agree the officiating was crap last night but it was crap both sides of the ball. It was a clear case for instant replay. The dawgs just didn't get it done and were outplayed in almost all facets. I would like to see BYU go through but Stanford win it all to keep it in the Pac-12 AND we can say we were the only team to beat them!

    2. I'm not crazy about instant replay in volleyball. As a fan and player what we want is for the officials to fade into the background and not be a factor in the game. In the vast majority of matches they do this well. In this most recent match they became a factor because their errors at key times attracted attention and broke momentum. (Yes, it went both ways.) Instant replay would just make it worse by breaking momentum more often.

    3. Big time volleyball needs a replay system. Something like they have in professional tennis with a set number of challenges. The tennis system does not take very long, thus not unduly interrupting play. It appears to be super-accurate. Better to endure a few very short breaks during a match than allow bad calls to potentially affect the outcome, as they arguably did Friday night.


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