No. 4 Nebraska, with only two losses on the season, was always going to be a formidable opponent for the Michigan volleyball team. After Saturday night’s game in Lincoln, it was apparent that the Cornhuskers were a class above the Wolverines, as they dispatched the visitors, 3-1.
In the earlygoing of the first set, it was a back-and-forth tussle as Michigan (3-3 Big Ten, 13-4 overall) and Nebraska traded points. The Wolverines’ junior middle blocker Abby Cole and sophomore outside hitter Adeja Lambert had nice starts to the game, recording two kills apiece in the first set.
Yet, with the score knotted at eight, the Cornhuskers (5-1, 14-2) began to pull away. Nebraska’s Mikaela Foecke, Amber Rolfzen and Kadie Rolfzen, who combined for 42 kills in the match, began to give the Michigan defense trouble. The Cornhuskers raced out to a commanding lead and never looked back, taking the set by a score of 25-18.
“They run a simple offense, but they run it really well,” said Michigan coach Mark Rosen. “We couldn’t match their efficiency, and they were more consistent throughout the match.”
In the second set, the Wolverines came out with a renewed sense of confidence. Led by redshirt junior outside hitter Ally Davis, who had three kills in the set, Michigan took a 10-5 lead. Just as it looked like the tide was turning in the match, the fourth-ranked Cornhuskers roared back into life, winning 15 of the next 24 points en route to a 25-19 set win. The Wolverines were forced into many mistakes as the Cornhuskers reasserted their dominance at the net, courtesy of the Rolfzens and Foecke.
In the third set, down two sets to zero, Michigan began to look like the team that had recently beaten Michigan State and Iowa. The Wolverines only trailed once in the entire set, and after breaking a 13-13 tie into a 16-13 lead, they held on for a 25-20 set win.
“I loved that we fought back in the third set,” Rosen said. “Earlier in the season versus North Carolina and down 2-0 as well, we really didn’t muster much of a comeback. Tonight we kept battling, and I am happy with that.”
In the fourth set, Nebraska put any suggestions of a comeback to a quick rest as the Cornhuskers received adept attacking and strong defensive play from Amber Rolfzen, who stifled Michigan on defense and gave the Wolverines’ defenders problems on offense. Buoyed by a plethora of attacking options, Nebraska dominated Michigan in the game’s final set and eased to a 25-17 set win and a 3-1 match win.
With four games in Ann Arbor over the next two weeks, including an Oct. 24 matchup against Ohio State, Rosen knows where his team needs to improve and where it is excelling.
“I thought our blockers did a really nice job,” Rosen said, “but overall, we need to be more consistent, as we are going to be playing numerous teams at the same level as Nebraska.”