LINCOLN — During Nebraska’s three-match losing streak, coach John Cook saw a need for Nebraska to become tougher mentally to overcome adversity and react positively.
In other words, he wanted the Huskers to become bulletproof. Cook said with that approach nothing bothers them. They just move on to the next point and don’t get too up or down.
The mindset served the sixth-ranked Huskers well during a 10-match winning streak to start the Big Ten season. Now following NU’s first loss of league play on Wednesday to No. 3 Wisconsin, the Huskers will become bulletproof as they move on from that setback when they take on No. 11 Minnesota on Saturday at 7 p.m.
“It’s something we’re on right now because early in the year, we were letting a lot of things affect us — how we were playing, how the match was going,” Cook said. “Bulletproof creates a mindset. If it was a bad set or we made a couple of errors or we let a ball drop again, we’re not going to do that again. We’re on to the next play. We’re going to be a little tougher.”
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The mentality is similar to a point-by-point approach, but it takes it to the next level by addressing match-long trends of overcoming struggles such as setting, passing or attacking.
Cook said being bulletproof helps if NU runs into a hot player, whether that’s Utah’s Dani Drews, Stephanie Samedy from Minnesota or any number of All-Americans the Huskers play. They have to focus on keeping a stable mindset to not let errors snowball, whether that be during a match or with consecutive setbacks.
Cook said Nebraska learned some technical skills in the Wisconsin match, but the defeat reminded him of the consecutive losses to Utah, Stanford and Louisville when they weren’t playing up to their potential.
“We lost three in a row and won 10 straight in the Big Ten,” Cook said. “I don’t think anybody thought we’re gonna do that and so we’ll see how we respond after this.”
Freshman outside hitter Lindsay Krause said they’ve seen how well they can play in wins against No. 13 Penn State and No. 12 Purdue, but they took a step back against Wisconsin. She said NU made the same mental mistakes that haunted the early-season setbacks, including not completely trusting each other and struggling to find an offensive groove.
“We learned how easily it could fall back if we get complacent about it,” Krause said. “Going into the rest of the season, we have to keep it at the front of our brains and be in the driver’s seat the whole time, realizing that we have to be assertive and can’t just expect it to happen.”
Senior setter Nicklin Hames said the bulletproof mentality will be helpful because they can’t dwell on the loss too much as their quest to win the Big Ten remains intact as they are tied with the Badgers at 10-1.
The Gophers (13-6, 8-3) are coming off a tough stretch last weekend, losing to Penn State but knocking off No. 9 Ohio State at home. Samedy led the Gophers with 22 kills and 21 digs in four sets against Ohio State.
Outside hitters Airi Miyabe and Jenna Wenaas also are threats for Minnesota as they average more than three kills per set. The defense is anchored by senior CC McGraw, who took over a match against the Huskers last year with her floor defense.
Hames said the key is not to allow the setback to creep into the match against Minnesota.
“You just kind of have to look over this game, see what went wrong and then move on because it’s a pretty quick turnaround and just got to be ready for the next opponent,” she said.