Huskers Face B1G Weekend Against No. 9 Minnesota, No. 16 Wisconsin

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Huskers Face B1G Weekend Against No. 9 Minnesota, No. 16 Wisconsin

The No. 3 Nebraska volleyball team begins a four-match homestand with a pair of top-16 opponents this weekend. The Huskers and No. 9 Minnesota Golden Gophers will battle on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. The teams enter the week tied for the Big Ten lead with 7-1 records. The match will air on NET and be streamed through BTN Plus ($). On Saturday, Nebraska will host No. 16 Wisconsin at 7:30 p.m. on BTN and BTN2GO.com. John Baylor and Diane Mendenhall will have the radio call on Husker Sports Network (107.3 FM in Lincoln and 105.9 FM in Omaha). A free live audio stream and live stats are available at Huskers.com.

The Huskers will celebrate the “Weekend of Champions” reunion on Friday, as the 1995 National Champions (20-year reunion) and 2005 runners-up (10-year reunion) will be honored between sets two and three against Minnesota.

Nebraska (16-2, 7-1 Big Ten) will be playing its third of four Friday-Saturday Big Ten weekends and second in a row. Nebraska has won 13 of its last 14 matches and has its highest ranking (No. 3) since the 2012 season and remains second in the NCAA RPI for the second straight week. Nebraska is tied with Minnesota for first in the Big Ten standings with 7-1 records.

Minnesota (15-3, 7-1 Big Ten) has won 15 of its last 16 matches after starting 0-2. The Golden Gophers won both matches of the “Border Battle” with Wisconsin last week, 3-2 in Madison and 3-1 in Minneapolis. The Gophers’ only Big Ten loss was 3-2 at Penn State on Sept. 26, three days after they topped Ohio State on the road, 3-2. Nebraska and Minnesota had an instant classic the last time the teams met. The Huskers rallied from a 2-0 deficit and 16-13 hole in set three to win the match 3-2 in Minneapolis last year on Oct. 22. Minnesota’s last win in Lincoln was Sept. 27, 1980. Of the six matches between the schools as Big Ten foes, four have gone five sets.

Wisconsin (12-6, 4-4 Big Ten), the defending Big Ten champion, has not played at the same level this season after losing second-team All-American Courtney Thomas and honorable-mention picks Dominique Thompson and Ellen Chapman to graduation. But the Badgers have faced a difficult Big Ten schedule with all four losses coming to top-10 teams. Wisconsin swept NU in Madison last year, 25-19, 25-21, 25-18. The Badgers have not won in Lincoln.

About the Huskers

• Nebraska leads the Big Ten with 16.06 digs per set and ranks 49th in the nation.

• In Big Ten play, the Huskers lead the conference in blocks per set (3.0) and opponent hitting percentage (.164).

• Nebraska has reached double-digit blocks in seven straight matches and in 10 of the last 11 after beginning the season with double-digit blocks in two of the first seven matches. The last time NU had at least seven straight matches of double-digit blocks was a string of nine matches in a row in the 2005 season. NU led the nation in blocking that year (4.12 per set) and reached the NCAA Championship match.

• The Huskers are hitting .265 on the season to rank third in the Big Ten and 24th nationally.

• Nebraska averages 14.17 kills per set, which ranks third in the conference and 23rd in the nation.

• Libero Justine Wong-Orantes averages 4.59 digs per set, third-most in the Big Ten. Wong-Orantes has a remarkable 5.10 digs per set in eight conference matches to lead the league and has earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week twice in the month of October. The Cypress, Calif., native has played every set in 63 consecutive matches dating back to her freshman season in 2013. She had a career-high 30 digs to lead the Husker comeback effort at No. 1 Penn State on Oct. 2. She was named the espnW National Player of the Week. Wong-Orantes is coming off 27 digs at Illinois, a career high for a three-set match to earn her latest B1G honor.

• Middle blocker Amber Rolfzen leads the team with 85 blocks. Her 1.63 blocks per set is first in the Big Ten and sixth nationally. Her block average is the best by a Husker since Melissa Elmer’s school-record 2.17 in 2005.

• Two-time All-American Kadie Rolfzen is putting up a team-best 3.18 kills per set along with 2.58 digs per set. The junior has 32 career double-doubles and was the B1G Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 21.

• Setter Kelly Hunter guides the Husker attack with 11.24 assists per set. The sophomore had a career-high 57 assists and nine kills in the comeback win against Oregon on Sept. 5. Hunter was named the B1G Setter of the Week on Aug. 31 and Nebraska Invitational MVP on opening weekend. Hunter has notched 50 or more assists four times this season. She is coming off a career-high six blocks in the win at Illinois.

• True freshman outside hitter Mikaela Foecke averages 2.98 kills per set and led the Huskers against Penn State with a career-high 22 kills, the most by a Husker this season. Foecke has won two Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week honors. Last week, Foecke served five aces in back-to-back matches at Northwestern and Illinois. She entered the weekend with four service aces on the season and had 10 in one weekend, now ranking second in Big Ten play in aces per set (0.46).

• Outside hitter Kelsey Fien, an All-Big performer in 2014, is averaging 2.44 kills per set. Fien had a career-high 19 kills against Oregon on Sept. 5.

• Senior middle blocker Cecilia Hall is putting up 1.81 kills per set on the season with a team-best .310 hitting percentage.

Scouting Minnesota

Minnesota leads the Big Ten in digs per set in conference play (16.27), is second in opponent hitting percentage (.165) and third in blocks (2.73 per set). For the season, Minnesota hits .253 while holding opponents to .163. Daly Santana leads the Big Ten in kills through all matches played with 4.43 per set on the season. Freshman setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson averages 11.03 assists per set. Paige Tapp leads the team in blocks with 1.45 per set in conference play, while twin sister Hannah chips in 1.12 per set.

Scouting Wisconsin

The Badgers are led by All-America setter Lauren Carlini, whose 11.57 assists per set leads the Big Ten. The Badgers are hitting .253 this season and holding opponents to .172. Lauryn Gillis leads the team in kills (3.14 per set), while Tionna Williams ranks fourth in the Big Ten in blocks (1.34 per set). Haleigh Nelson is hitting .380 on the season and averages 1.20 blocks per set. Taylor Morey, a preseason All-Big Ten pick, averages 4.55 digs per set.

Rolfzen Closing in on 1,000 Kills

Junior Kadie Rolfzen enters Friday’s match with 979 career kills. She is aiming to become the 21st player in Husker history to reach 1,000 career kills and just the ninth to do so before her senior season. The last Husker to reach the 1,000-kill plateau before her senior season was Jordan Larson as a junior in 2007.

Wong-Orantes Moving Up Career Digs Chart

Junior Justine Wong-Orantes ranks sixth in school history with 1,156 career digs entering Friday’s match. Wong-Orantes surpassed 1,000 career digs at Iowa State on Sept. 19, becoming the fastest Husker to reach 1,000 digs, doing so in just 75 matches.