Early in the second set of Nebraska’s three-set win against Wisconsin on Friday, Nebraska senior Gina Mancuso went to the serving line with Nebraska leading the set 2-1.
On Mancuso's first serve, Wisconsin had a hitting error. Next, she served an ace for a 4-1 lead. Another tough serve by Mancuso preceded a Badger hitting error, then Mancuso dropped in a second ace for a 6-1 lead.
By that point, Wisconsin needed a timeout to catch its breath and search for an answer to Mancuso’s serving.
The crowd at the NU Coliseum was really getting into what Mancuso had going at that point. How about Mancuso? You had to wonder if she was more nervous to keep the serving run going, or excited about the moment. While it may seem easy, serving in front of 4,112 fans and thousands more watching on television can be anything but easy.
“I, for sure, got excited,” Mancuso answered that question following the Huskers’ 25-22, 25-15, 25-20 win against the unranked Badgers.
Mancuso kept serving, Nebraska kept scoring points and Wisconsin needed a second timeout to slow the damage. The good times finally ended, but not until Mancuso had served seven straight points and NU led the set 9-1.
That was one of several highlights during the match, which was the Huskers’ sixth straight victory following back-to-back losses to Iowa State and Penn State.
Also Friday, Minnesota beat Iowa, so the third-ranked Huskers (14-2, 6-1 Big Ten) and No. 10 Minnesota are tied for second place in the Big Ten standings entering Sunday’s showdown at the NU Coliseum.
Nebraska had a season-high seven ace serves (but also eight serving errors) Friday, led by Mancuso’s three. Lauren Cook and Lara Dykstra added two ace serves apiece.
“Coach (John Cook) harps on us all the time that we have to be aggressive with our serve,” Mancuso said. “At the beginning of the season, I didn’t really have a good serve. That’s something that I’ve really been focusing on. That was really fun to be doing something like that.”
Mancuso has had her share of serving errors, but also leads the team and is tied for third in the Big Ten with 20 ace serves.
“Gina’s freshman year, she (was fourth) in the Big 12 in aces per set,” John Cook said. “She’s got it back, and it’s a huge weapon for us."
Nebraska gave up a few too many easy points for the coach's liking in the first set, but he was pleased overall. Nebraska’s .396 hitting percentage for the match was its best since conference play began.
The Huskers also never allowed Wisconsin’s balanced attack to get going. Crystal Graff led the Badgers (14-6, 2-5 Big Ten) with 10 kills.
Mancuso also had eight kills on 12 attempts for a season-high .583 hitting percentage.
Her match was just one of several noteworthy individual showings by Nebraska players:
* After a tough against Indiana last week, Morgan Broekhuis took advantage of several situations where the 6-foot-5 right-side hitter was one-on-one against an overmatched blocker. Broekhuis led NU with 12 kills on .370 hitting percentage.
* Setter Lauren Cook took some attempts away from teammates such as Mancuso, but it’s hard to argue with the results. Four times in six attempts, Cook was able to get points by dumping the ball over the net to the open floor.
* Junior middle blocker Hayley Thramer was just shy of her season high with 11 kills on 20 attempts for a season-best .500 hitting percentage.
Thramer also had a match-high six blocks. Coach Cook was asked if he was more impressed by what Thramer accomplished blocking or hitting?
“I personally like the blocks,” the coach said. “She did a really good job blocking tonight. If we go back through the tape she probably had two times where she wasn’t in the right spot and didn’t see it right, which is awesome for a middle blocker.”