Published Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 8:17 pm / Updated at 8:28 pm
Defensive challenges keep on coming for NU
Nebraska at Ohio State
When: 6 p.m. CDT Friday
Where: St. John Arena, Columbus, Ohio
Radio: 93.3 FM KFFF

LINCOLN — Kadie Rolfzen’s move to college volleyball means the level of opposing attackers she’s facing as a Nebraska freshman is more than a slight upgrade from those she saw in Metro Conference matches at Papillion-La Vista South.

But she and the rest of the Huskers have embraced — and honestly, relished — the challenge of squaring off against the top attackers in the Big Ten.

“Coach always challenges us to shut down the other team’s best outside hitter or best middle hitter,” Rolfzen said after NU’s win over Iowa on Wednesday. “Him telling us that as blockers, it forces us to be on our blocking game.

“It’s like a challenge Coach tells us, and I think we always step up. It’ll be a great test for our block and our defense.”

The most recent test Rolfzen is referring to comes Friday when No. 13 Nebraska (14-4, 7-2) finishes the first half of the Big Ten schedule by traveling to No. 24 Ohio State (14-7, 2-7) for a 6 p.m. match.

The Buckeyes have sputtered lately, losing five straight matches, including a three-set defeat at No. 2 Penn State on Wednesday. But Ohio State features the Big Ten’s leader in kills, senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary, who ranks fourth in the nation averaging 4.89 kills per set.

Leary, who has taken twice as many attempts as any other Buckeye, is another in a string of elite attackers Nebraska has faced this season. However, the Huskers’ previous performances against other teams’ top weapons provide reason for optimism.

Nebraska has faced seven of the Big Ten’s top 10 leaders in kills, and only one, Michigan State’s Lauren Wicinski, truly put up big numbers to lead her team to a win over the Huskers. Wicinski had 20 kills and hit .293 in the Spartans’ 3-1 victory on Oct. 12.

Some noteworthy defensive performances by the Huskers against top Big Ten hitters:

Ľ Holding Illinois’ Jocelynn Birks, who is fifth in the league with 3.76 kills per set, to a .125 hitting mark in a 3-0 win.

Ľ Limiting Iowa’s Alex Lovell to seven kills with six errors Wednesday. She had been averaging 3.67 kills per set coming into the match.

Ľ Holding Minnesota outside hitter Ashley Wittman, an all-conference pick, to a negative-.150 attacking mark with three kills against six errors in a sweep on Oct. 4.

Ohio State was one of the nation’s surprise successes with a 12-0 start, but the Buckeyes came back to earth once conference play started. OSU’s .160 team attack percentage in Big Ten play is ahead of only last-place Indiana.

Still, NU senior Kelsey Robinson said, the Buckeyes’ up-tempo attack and a notoriously raucous home crowd at St. John Arena have the potential to deal opponents fits.

“They run some crazy systems sometimes,” Robinson said. “I know they serve really fast, and they run a few things out of the serve receive. They run different plays than most teams do. It’s just a little crazier on their side of the court.”

A win Friday would be important as the Huskers head into the second half of conference play, which should be slightly more challenging than the opening five weeks.

The Huskers will play ranked foes Wisconsin, Minnesota and Purdue on the road in the back end of the schedule and close the season with a match against the Nittany Lions at the Devaney Center on Nov. 30.

Bottling up another of the Big Ten’s top attackers would give the Huskers a surge of momentum and likely keep them in the running for a Big Ten title.

“It’s a huge match for us, a huge match,” coach John Cook said. “Fortunately we spent a lot of time Monday and Tuesday preparing for (Ohio State) because they’re a complete opposite of Iowa how they play, how fast they go. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

Contact the writer:




< >
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Big Ten football recruits
The World-Herald's Big Ten recruiting database contains every football recruit that signed with a Big Ten school from 2002 to 2011, complete with color-coded interactive map representations, player information, high-concentrations recruiting clusters and more.
Devaney Center timeline
Check out a World-Herald timeline to see the evolution of memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, memorable quotes and more.
Follow OWHbigred on Twitter
Looking for the latest Husker sports news from The Omaha World-Herald and Follow us on Twitter!
Husker scholarship distribution chart
Want to see how many scholarships NU has invested at each position? Wondering how the Huskers have appropriated their offers by class? Check out our handy chart to look further into how Bo Pelini has built his team.
Husker Signing Day 2013
The World-Herald's top-notch coverage of the Nebraska football's class of 2013, complete with videos, photos, articles, live recruit interviews, interactive components and more.
Husker turnovers: A slippery slope
Bo Pelini has coached 68 games at Nebraska. When NUís turnover margin is positive or even, the Huskers are 35-2. When they lose the turnover battle, theyíre 13-18. Why hasnít Nebraska joined the nationís elite? More than anything, itís turnovers.
Interactive: Bo Pelini's contract
View an interactive PDF of Pelini's revised contract signed by the NU football coach, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Darin Erstad's contract (2012)
View an interactive PDF of NU baseball coach Darin Erstad's contract released in August 2012, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Tim Miles' contract
View an interactive PDF of Tim Miles' contract signed by the Nebraska men's basketball coach on May 4, 2012, complete with brief legal explanations, comparisons to other Big Ten coaches and more.'s Big Ten coverage
Delivering the best news coverage and analysis of the Big Ten Conference, from and other top news outlets from around country.
Husker Recruiting: Changes shrink NU's sphere of influence
For decades, the Great Plains represented fertile recruiting ground for Tom Osborne's football program. Restoring that lost tradition won't be easy.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >