Any win in the Big Ten is a good win?
Yes, and no, at least for Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook on Friday. There are many times after Nebraska wins that Cook says any conference win is good.
But Cook was wanting a lot more after Nebraska got a 25-15, 25-19, 25-23 victory against Michigan State in the Big Ten opener at the Devaney Sports Center.
After starting the match in style, Nebraska’s setting and defense wasn’t as sharp down the stretch.
In the third set Michigan State got its deficit to 23-22, before Madi Kubik and Maggie Mendelson had kills to end the match.
Now Nebraska gets its first really big match of the Big Ten season when No. 7 Ohio State comes to Lincoln on Saturday for a 7 p.m. match.
“We got to play better,” Cook said. “I thought we came out and played really focused and had a great first set and then we just lost our focus and started playing some ugly volleyball. So the Huskers got to learn they can’t just go by one set, and set their tone from that. We’re going to have to clean up a lot of stuff in the next 22 hours.”
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Friday’s win marks career win No. 800 for Nebraska coach John Cook, with 639 at Nebraska and 161 at Wisconsin. He’s the 19th college women’s coach to reach the milestone. He’s won 83% of his matches overall.
Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts was on the court to honor Cook after the match, giving the coach a belt buckle. Cook has taken up horsemanship, and a little roping, in the past year. It’s a good way for him to relax from the demands of the job, and he also likes that it connects him to parts of the state outside of Lincoln.
Madi Kubik had 14 kills, which was six more than any other player in the match.
Nebraska’s middle blockers were also a bright spot, although Cook wished they would have been even more. Freshman Bekka Alllick had six kills and hit .308. Senior Kaitlyn Hord also had six kills on .455 hitting.
Nebraska’s two settrs in the two-setter rotation were Kennedi Orr and Anni Evans. Nicklin Hames is still out with an injury.
“We passed really well tonight and we should have set more middle,” Cook said. “When your setters aren’t that confident … Kennedi was struggling a little bit. The last thing they want to do is set middle. We got to continue to run middle attack with those guys. We’ll keep emphasizing that.”
Evans had 18 set assists, and Orr 14.
While Nebraska topped the Spartans in kills 43-27, Cook said Nebraska’s setters needed to put up more “hittable balls.”
“If setters start becoming inconsistent it’s hard to keep a good rhythm,” Cook said. “That’s one of the challenges in a 6-2, setters are coming in-and-out. They’ve got to be consistent in their three rotations. They’re basically in there to win three rotations, side out three times and then get out. I’m sure we lost a lot more points inn Kennedi’s rotations tonight than Anni’s. We have to be better. She has to be better.”
Cook was also frustrated with Nebraska’s normally-good defense. Not being focused at a few moments allowed Michigan State setter Julia Bishop to sneak over kills five times.
“When a setter dumps five balls in (eight) attempts that’s not a great effort. That just tells you right there,” Cook said. “And we get blocked nine times in three games on balls that we should cover. That’s not a great effort. It’s not my opinion, those are your stats right there.”
Nebraska has won 13 straight matches against Michigan State dating to 2013.
Now comes a quick turnaround to play Ohio State, which swept Iowa on Friday.
Last season Ohio State swept Nebraska with many of the same players as this season, with the Buckeyes being one of just two teams to sweep Nebraska last season.
“They’ve beat us the last (two) times we’ve played,” Cook said. “We’re going to have to have a great effort. They do everything really well. They have some players who have given us fits, so we’ve got to do a really good job and pressure them.”
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