It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. That’s a pretty common concept in sports. The 11-word phrase or something similar to it has been adopted by sports teams everywhere. The 2017 Huskers volleyball team seems to be the most recent to buy in.
Since losses to top-tier Florida and Oregon on opening weekend, the Huskers have gone 6-1. Their lone loss came at the hands of Northern Iowa, which has toppled four ranked teams on the season. But that is in the past, as the Huskers’ most recent weekend seems to indicate they are back to the same high level where they ended 2016.
Over the weekend, the Huskers traveled to State College, Pennsylvania, to face Penn State in a hostile environment against the No. 2 team in the nation. Nebraska dropped them in three straight sets.
Penn State was not only ranked second in the nation, but it received 13 first-place votes in last week’s poll. All of this is to say the Huskers’ win was really impressive. The win certainly struck the pollers, as they raised the Huskers six spots in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Poll. The now No. 8 Nebraska showed more last weekend than they had at any point this year.
Without senior setter Kelly Hunter in the first tournament of the season, the Huskers came out flat. Since then, the team has somewhat struggled against lower-tier opponents. For the last few weeks, even in their wins, the Huskers hadn’t exhibited a lot of fire.
That was surprising for most Husker fans, as the team was a in the top-five during preseason, and floundering around in the middle of the the top 25 seemed pretty unlike the John Cook teams of years past.The team became stagnant in the polls, and really needed a statement win to kick off the tough upcoming conference stretch on a high note. That win came against Penn State.
Most Nebraska fans likely would’ve loved to see the Huskers win even in five sets, but the three-set takedown showed defied expectations immensely and showed dominance, firepower and unity that hadn’t been seen from the team yet this year.
Until the Penn State match, the Huskers had not looked like the team they have been in past years, but that changed, and now the team seems to have found its identity. It showed that immediately, one match later against bottom-tier Rutgers, dominating the Scarlet Knights for another straight-sets victory, surrendering just 46 total points in the whole match.
The win gives the Huskers a much-needed momentum boost as they continue their quest in conference play. With six Big Ten teams in the top 25, and two additional teams receiving votes, things are going to be difficult for Nebraska in the coming months.
Minnesota and Penn State were announced, tied for third in the new polls. If Nebraska can beat PSU, they should on paper, be able to take down Minnesota as well, helping prepare them to make a run in the NCAA tournament come the end of the year.
Ultimately, it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish, and the Huskers are gearing up to finish well in the 2017 season.