VOLLEYBALL: NEBRASKA DEF. GEORGIA TECH 3-0; NEBRASKA DEF. SOUTH FLORIDA 3-0
LINCOLN — Position switches are fairly common in college volleyball as rosters change and new additions change the calculus and chemistry of rosters. But, Nebraska coach John Cook admitted, moving a two-time All-American to a new spot is a roll of the dice.
For the first weekend, though, the Huskers' gamble paid off as Kadie Rolfzen switched from outside hitter to opposite hitter to make way for explosive freshman Mikaela Foecke on the left. The two shined in their new spots Saturday as No. 5 Nebraska picked up sweeps of South Florida and Georgia Tech in the Ameritas Players Challenge at the Devaney Center.
Foecke was nearly perfect Saturday, with only one attack error and 25 kills over the two matches. In the Huskers' three sweeps this weekend, she hit .550 with 37 kills playing on the left pin and nearly doubled her season total in kills.
"She certainly made a great case," Cook said. "She's probably looking to have a little more effectiveness over on the left. I thought Kadie handled the right really well, and we can move her all over the place."
Rolfzen had 18 kills against three errors in NU's two wins Saturday, including a double-double with 10 kills and 14 digs in Nebraska's first win Saturday, a 25-13, 25-21, 27-25 victory over South Florida. Since Rolfzen plays in all six rotations, the move gives the Huskers a new weapon in the form of a back-row attack on the right side.
"That definitely helps spread the block out because a lot of times when there's just two hitters, teams will move their whole block over to the setter and the middle of the court," Nebraska setter Kelly Hunter said. "She really opens up and spreads out the offense."
In Nebraska's second match Saturday, Foecke had 12 kills without an error on 19 swings to pace a 25-13, 25-15, 25-21 win that snapped Georgia Tech's eight match winning streak. It was a tough turnaround for the Yellow Jackets, who played NU about an hour after rallying for a five-set victory over UC Davis.
Nebraska (7-1) hit better than .350 in both matches Saturday, with Hunter keeping both opponents off balance. Redshirt freshman outside hitter Olivia Boender had 10 kills and 13 digs in her first career start against South Florida, with Kadie Rolfzen adding 10 kills and 14 digs.
Against Georgia Tech, four NU attackers took at least 10 swings, and the Huskers committed only six errors. That came after four hitters took between 15 and 24 attempts against South Florida.
"Setters have a knack for that," Cook said. "It's not something I can tell them, 'OK, she has this many (attempts), and she has this many.' It's a feel for them, and Kelly has a knack for it."
The connection developed quickly on the left side between Hunter and Foecke, two first-year starters. It was a move Cook considered in the spring when Kadie Rolfzen spent time practicing at opposite hitter. Rolfzen, who Cook said has the quickest feet on the team, can more easily make adjustments necessary for a right-handed player hitting on the right. It also allows the right-handed Foecke to see opposing defenders better as her body opens up to the court.
Foecke entered the weekend hitting .264 — a respectable but unspectacular mark. After three matches of nearly error-free play on the left this weekend, she now sits at .365 going into Tuesday night's match with Creighton at the CenturyLink Center.
"I attribute that to practice," Foecke said. "We go up and we play each other all the time, and it's great. You have the opportunity to go up, get blocked and learn those mistakes in practice versus learning them in a game."