Jazz Sweet continues to put down kills at a high level for the Nebraska volleyball team, and coach John Cook thinks there are signs that could continue even when the opponents are better now that the Big Ten Conference season has started.
The sophomore right-side hitter ranks second on the team with 105 kills, trailing only the 146 by senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke.
Sweet had 11 kills when third-ranked Nebraska beat No. 18 Michigan on Friday in the Big Ten opener for both teams. Now Nebraska takes a 10-match winning streak into Sunday’s match against Michigan State at the Devaney Sports Center. The match begins at 2 p.m. and will be on TV on ESPNU.
Sweet has reached double-digit kills in six of the Huskers’ 11 matches. Sweet has a .314 hitting percentage. Cook said if the Huskers’ right-side hitter is hitting .275, it’s really good, and makes you a contender for All-America honors.
Cook said there will be good chances for Sweet to get lots of kills this season, and the odds improve for that to happen if freshman middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach can also be a threat and take some of the defensive game plan off Sweet.
Setter Nicklin Hames has a great understanding of how to set Sweet, Cook said. Depending on the situation, Hames knows when the ball needs to be set fast, or higher.
“It’s just like when two beach (volleyball) players get in a rhythm,” Cook said. “Nicklin just knows how to set her in a situation, and Jazz now knows that and is able to really either wait and drive, or go fast.”
Sweet was a starter from the beginning of her freshman season last year, and the Tecumseh, Kansas, native averaged 2.22 kills per set with a .273 hitting percentage. This year those averages are up to 2.69 and .341.
This year, Sweet said, she has a better understanding of what to do when she’s hitting.
“I can kind of see the floor better, and see where the players are lining up on the other side,” Sweet said.
Last year, Sweet was sometimes just swinging, Cook said, but this year she’s swinging with a purpose and knows how to hit off the blockers’ hands for a kill. And now she’s getting the results in matches to reinforce what she’s doing in practice.
“It feels really good to know my training is really paying off right now,” Sweet said.
Sweet also had three blocks in the win against Michigan, including a couple of big ones that fired up herself and her teammates when the first set was still close. Sweet has 31 blocks this season.
“(Sweet) did a nice job shutting down their left-side hitters,” Cook said. “She was mainly matched up on (Carly Skjodt), and we held her to .184 (hitting), so that’s a pretty nice job. And I thought she had some big swings and big kills for us and moved it around really well. We were feeding her the ball a lot.”
Sunday’s opponent, Michigan State, had won 12 straight matches and was ranked just outside the top 25 before getting swept by Iowa on Friday.
Michigan State has a bigger lineup than Michigan, so Nebraska will try to improve its serving from Friday’s match to try and slow down the Spartans.
Alyssa Chronowski, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter, leads the Spartans with 3.14 kills per set.
“There are going to be some big players at the net, so we’re going to have to out-volleyball them,” Cook said.