Nebraska vs. Kentucky, NCAA Volleyball Elite Eight, 12/9/17

Kentucky's Leah Edmond (13) watches as her shot is blocked by Nebraska's Briana Holman (13) and Jazz Sweet (12) during the second set of an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight match last year at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky.

Craig Skinner and his team have been preparing for Nebraska all week.

It's not a luxury Kentucky had a year ago when the Huskers won in four sets on the Wildcats' home floor to reach the Final Four in Kansas City.

NU's win came a day after the Huskers swept Colorado, and Kentucky outlasted BYU in five sets. With the NCAA Tournament set up so winners are playing on back-to-back days, there's less time for teams to break down film and look for weaknesses.

In Kentucky's case — and Nebraska's, too — it had less than 24 hours to study the Huskers before a regional final meeting. Now the Huskers and Wildcats are meeting again, but this time in a regional semifinal setting, allowing both teams more time to study each other.

"It evens it out a little bit," said Skinner, a former Husker assistant coach under John Cook. "Both schools have the same amount of video, same amount of days to prepare, same opportunity to get to know the opponent, and that can be used to our advantage."

Nebraska (26-6) will be facing one of the nation's hottest teams. Kentucky (26-4), ranked 10th, has won 23 straight matches, and that included an 18-0 run through the Southeastern Conference. The Wildcats beat Murray State and Purdue to reach the Minneapolis Regional.

Skinner said getting more days to prepare for an opponent is not always a good thing.

"We'll go through our normal routine, but it's matches like this I think there's a lot of tendency for people to overanalyze or overprepare what your opponent is about, and how to do things. We just have to do what we do and do it well."

Not only is preparation different this time, so is the makeup of the Wildcats' team. With four new players on the court this year, Skinner said he had a completely different squad, though the Huskers are familiar with junior outside hitter Leah Edmond, who was named the SEC player of the year.

And asked if Kentucky is using last year's loss to NU as motivation, Skinner said, "I don't think so. Our team kind of seems to stay in the present."

Kentucky had a chance to clinch a Final Four bid on its home floor last year. Though the latest chance is coming away from Lexington, the fire remains the same, sophomore setter Madison Lilley said.

"Obviously, we were tired physically and mentally (entering last year's match against NU), so I think that played a big role," Lilley said. "Then having the whole week to prepare is definitely going to make a difference. I know that the fire is there. There's no doubt in my mind that we're going to come out and play as hard as we can, with a lot of fire and compete really hard."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.


Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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