The volleyball is dug and sent to the setter.
“Go,” the crowd shouts.
Junior Mary Pollmiller sets the ball up in the air behind her.
“Big,” the crowd shouts again.
Then, sophomore middle blocker Meghan Haggerty sprints around Pollmiller, and she leaps toward the falling ball. She smacks the ball to the floor of the empty center of the court.
“Red,” the crowd roars.
This is a vital play for the Nebraska volleyball team, according to Nebraska coach John Cook.
“We’ve got to be able to kill balls from behind the setter because usually that’s going to be a one on one, if we pass,” Cook said. “Meghan is great at that. That’s got to become a strength of ours.”
The Nebraska volleyball squad defeated both No. 8 Minnesota and No. 23 Wisconsin over the weekend, and the middle blockers made a big difference in both of the matches.
Haggerty notched 20 total kills on the weekend, along with 11 block assists and one solo block. The other sophomore middle blocker, Cecilia Hall, racked up 13 kills and eight block assists in the two matches.
Hall only recorded one block assist against the Golden Gophers, but Cook said she could have had more.
“Cici could have had about five if she just would have stayed with it,” Cook said. “That could have been a bigger number.”
The Huskers out-blocked the Gophers 9.5-2.5, and according to Haggerty, it was all because the squad stuck to the game plan.
“We prepared a lot this week just working on blocking, and we knew where they were going to hit their strong shots,” Haggerty said. “I think just staying disciplined as blockers and just kind of reading the sets, that’s how you get it done.”
Cook also said the preparation was key to improving on the blocking.
“We worked so hard on our blocking the last few weeks, so it’s good to see us get some results,” Cook said.
Cook said earlier in the season he needs the middle blockers to step up because they will be a key component to the Husker squad. After the Minnesota game, Cook said he thinks the play from the middle blockers is almost where it needs to be.
“It’s getting closer,” said Cook after the Minnesota match. “Our middles are contributing more, and we’ve got to keep them involved.”
After the first three games of the season against Louisana-Monroe, Auburn and Saint Louis, the Huskers had only tallied 16 blocks. In the two Big Ten matches last weekend, the Huskers racked up 27 blocks.
Both the middle blockers have had consistent numbers on their kills. Haggerty leads the duo with 72 kills on the year and averages 1.80 kills a set, but Hall is not far behind with 65 kills and an average 1.51 kills per set.
One factor for the middle blocker’s increased role in the offense is Pollmiller. With the setter gaining confidence setting the middle blockers, they are getting more attempts.
According to senior outside hitter Kelsey Robinson, the offense is finding its rhythm because Pollmiller is spreading the ball around, and this rhythm helps the team in all aspects of the game.
“Being in this system more than just like one or two games has really helped us,” Robinson said. “When we can get things going, it kind of makes us more comfortable as a team, and that helps the flow of the way Mary sets.”