By Lincoln Arneal
Last Friday, Nebraska coach John Cook was asked if he would consider using a two-setter offense.
His answer was simple and direct.
“No. Not right now.”
Less than a week later, Nebraska unveiled a 6-2 system with Nicklin Hames and Anni Evans running the offense. The change of mind resulted in another Nebraska sweep. This time the second-ranked Huskers took care of Loyola Marymount 25-17, 25-16, 25-17.
Cook said he’s talked with his assistants about making the move for a while and wanted to try it out. He went with those setters rather than sophomore Kennedi Orr, who has started two matches, because Evans is used to going in and out of games and Hames can handle anything thrown at her.
“When you run a 5-1, your setter has to be really good and find ways to get your hitters kills,” Cook said. “Kennedi is still figuring that out. Of course, Nicklin has four years of experience and Anni is a very good setter. We wanted to look at it and see. We spent a couple of days working on it. My job is to figure out our best lineup that gives the best chance to win.”
Hames finished with 21 assists, while junior Anni Evans added nine as the Huskers finished with a .363 hitting percentage.
Hames said before the season she was returning to take on a different role as a defensive specialist. However, she was open to the idea of a two-setter offense when it was implemented in practice on Monday. She hadn’t run a 6-2 system since her senior year of high school when she also was an attacker.
“It’s definitely different than a 5-1,” Hames said. “You have to go in and try to keep the rhythm of the other setter. I thought me and Anni did a pretty good job of that. Anni set the sauce as we like to say – she set really good. It made my job coming in really easy to just keep the offense going.”
Cook said he also wanted to get all six attackers on the court. Outside hitters Ally Batenhorst and Lindsay Krause rotated for the first three matches, but tonight Batenhorst played outside hitter while Krause moved to the right pin, where she played all of last season.
Batenhorst led the Huskers with 10 kills on 24 attacks, while Krause added four. Sophomore opposite Whitney Lauenstein finished with nine kills with a .368 hitting percentage. Senior Madi Kubik put together a stellar night with eight kills on 14 errorless swings (.571) and nine digs.
“Having all of us pins out there and having an opportunity for all of us to hit is really good for our team. I think it really helps our offense,” Batenhorst said. “The 6-2 is obviously different, but coach says great ones adjust. It’s working out for us and we just kind of roll with it.”
The middles also had solid performances as senior Kaitlyn Hord hit .545 with seven kills and two blocks. Freshman Bekka Allick had five kills, two blocks and two digs.
LMU (1-3) finished with a .185 hitting percentage, the highest for a Husker opponent in the young season. Kari Geissberger finished with 10 kills
The Lions neutralized the Huskers’ block with a fast-tempo offense. NU finished with just four team blocks, including two triple blocks. Batenhorst said LMU runs its out-of-system offense in the middle of the court, which allowed their defense to gang up on hitters.
Hames said the Lions’ offense is as fast as they will see all season.
“If they’re in-system, they were a very challenging team to stop,” she said. “Hopefully, we don’t see that much speed this whole season, but I thought they did a great job with that.”
Previously, Cook said he was hesitant about running a 6-2 because teams use four subs every rotation because it limits subbing options. Nebraska countered that by having 5-foot-9 Kenzie Knuckles start in the front row before she served and Allick stayed in to serve. Both moves paid off as Knuckles recorded three aces and five digs, while Allick also added an ace on 11 serves.
After a solid offensive showing, Cook was non-committal about which offense Nebraska would run against No. 16 Creighton next week.
“I don’t know. I got to watch the video, practice tomorrow and we have another match on Saturday,” Cook said.
The Huskers face Ole Miss Saturday night.