After a small speed bump dropping two matches in a row to Iowa State and Penn State this past week, the Nebraska volleyball team avoided losing three straight matches in a row for the first time since 1973, taking care of Ohio State 3-1 on Saturday. And after a long week, the Huskers are finally back home Wednesday, riding steadily on the back of Hayley Thramer and the team’s blocking ability, ready to get back on track against No. 24 Michigan State.
The Huskers have trademarked blocking this year, making it a primary concern in practice and in games, which helped them crawl out of a hole against Ohio State Saturday, and headed back in the right direction.
“Both Hannah (Werth) and Gina (Mancuso) have improved (blocking), Meghan (Haggerty) has exceeded expectations, Lauren (Cook) is doing extremely well for us right now,” NU coach John Cook said in a press conference interview Monday.
In the past three matches, NU has outblocked opponents 40 to 17, including a 13 to three margin in its loss to Iowa State.
“Some coaches don’t think blocking has very much of an impact because let’s say you only stuff two and a half balls a game, that’s half and a half points, but when we’re going to dig 14 or 15 per game, you spend your time on digging, but, to make your defense better, blocking has to be better,” Cook said. “And I think if someone blocks or tips a ball, things happen more than just the stat column, because it gets in the hitters head.”
Thramer has been a driving force in the block column of the stat sheet this year, clocking in 15 blocks in the Huskers last three matches.
“I told you guys in the beginning, I think Thramer is one of the best blockers in the country,” Cook said. “She’s just getting really confident and understanding the game and following a game plan, this is her third year basically playing for us, so I just see, I see things starting to click for her.”
Thramer isn’t surprised NU is such a great blocking team, considering how much time they put forth towards it in practice.
“(Being a good blocking team), it’s a big confidence booster, obviously,” Thramer said. “After blocking someone a couple times in a row, everyone around you gets jacked up, and it relaxes you just to know the blocking defense is doing their job. It’s a confidence booster.”
The Huskers won’t want to let up above the net Wednesday against Michigan State, a team Cook described as “big and physical.”
Nebraska has never lost to the Spartans, demolishing them six sets to two overall in a pair of matches last year. But this year things may not be so simple; Michigan State has only lost one match to No. 13 Purdue, and that was in five games. And with tall, physical hitters, Nebraska’s blocking ability will be up to the test.
“They’ll be tough,” Cook said. “It’s the Big Ten. You gotta bring it every night.”
The match is set to start at 7 p.m. at the NU Coliseum, and will be broadcast on BTN.