'Living on the edge': Husker volleyball must walk fine line to avoid service errors

LINCOLN — No play in volleyball is more deflating than a missed serve.

Nebraska coach John Cook has called service errors a weak play that allows the other team to gain a mental advantage.

In a three-set loss to Wisconsin, the Huskers saw that happen as they let a few service errors derail their plan to serve aggressively and try to disrupt the Badgers’ offense. NU finished the match with 10 service errors and zero aces.

Cook said he couldn’t pinpoint one reason for all the miscues. It could be focus, not following a routine or making a mental mistake.

“We are trying to be aggressive all the time, but we started off pretty good, but then backed off,” he said. “When you serve into the middle of the net that’s not an aggressive serve.”

Even when serves don’t result in an ace, serving aggressively can force a team to play out of system or limit the number of attacking options. Too often against Wisconsin, Cook said, they sent over easy serves, which allowed hitters to tee off. The Badgers finished hitting .376 in the match.

“Everyone has a big stud, and you gotta somehow stress them with your serving,” Cook said.

The serving errors aren’t limited to just one player. Six Huskers hit an errant serve in the third set. The only player who did not was freshman Nicole Drewnick, who only attempted one serve.

On the season, Nebraska has 108 errors compared to just 50 aces. The Huskers’ 1.06 aces per set is last in the Big Ten. Before last week’s matches, NU ranked 255th in the nation out of 322, and added just two aces in six sets.

Cook said he would grade the Huskers’ serving game this season a D-plus. He said the players need to lock in on themselves and the ball and walk a fine line with their aggression.

“You’re living on the edge,” he said. “You’re trying to serve as tough as you can and not make errors.”

More from the middle

Callie Schwarzenbach has been on a roller coaster ride in the past four matches.

The sophomore middle blocker performed well against No. 20 Illinois with eight kills on 12 swings but followed that the next night by hitting .000 on 13 attacks against Northwestern. Against Rutgers, Schwarzenbach hit .778 on nine swings. However, she was a nonfactor against Wisconsin with one kill, two errors and just six attempts before being subbed out in the third set for freshman Riley Zuhn.

Cook said he needs Schwarzenbach to play more consistently.

“She’s super aggressive and flying around and working hard,” Cook said about Schwarzenbach’s play in good matches. “The other ones she slows down and is frozen. I don’t know if it is stress or what, but we have to get it fixed.”

Huskers drop in poll

NU fell three spots to No. 5 in this week’s AVCA poll after going 1-1 last week. Meanwhile, Wisconsin jumped six spots to No. 7 after knocking off the Huskers and formerly No. 5 Penn State, which fell to No. 8. Minnesota rose one spot to No. 6.

The NCAA released its first edition of the RPI rankings on Monday. The Huskers checked in at No. 7, one spot behind Wisconsin. The two biggest differences between the two rankings are Penn State is No. 19 in the RPI and Washington is No. 4 in the RPI and No. 11 in the coaches poll. Undefeated Baylor is No. 1 in both.

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