Nebraska vs. Penn State: Q&A with Brian Tripp

Thanks alot, Ohio State

 Nebraska will be ready to give Penn State their best shot.  Will Penn State be ready to take it?

This match was going to be tough enough (as in really, really tough) before Ohio State downed Nebraska in Lincoln Friday night 3-1 (25-21, 26-24, 19-25, 25-23)  at the NU Coliseum.  Both the Nittany Lions and the Cornhuskers had all the reason in the world to be motivated on Sunday — Big Ten title, NCAA tournament implications, just plain team pride.

Then Ohio State, led by 6-0 Sr. OH Mari Hole (20 kills, 8 digs, 3 blocks)  had to go out and do this:

No. 20 Buckeyes Earn Road Win at No. 4 Nebraska

So now, not only will Nebraska be motivated, they’ll be as angry as angry birds (see photo above).  Penn State had better forget all about its 21-1 (11-0 in the B1G) record, and be ready for the fight of their lives, because we are pretty sure Nebraska will be ready to give it to them.

Q&A with Brian Tripp

Sunday’s match will be broadcast live TV BTN; and has a live audio feed, with Brian Tripp doing the play-by-play (sorry BTN, we’ll be watching the BTN broadcast, but listening to Brian).

We asked Brian to give us his perspective on how the match may shape up.  Big caveat – we asked our questions, and Brian gave his answers, before Ohio State’s upset win over Nebraska Friday evening.

About the Crowd

Crowd hoping to get tickets waits before a recent Nebraska women’s volleyball match

DigNittany: Penn State is ranked #1 and Nebraska #4 in the AVCA poll (#2 and #4, respectively, in DigNittany’s North Pole Poll), so this would be a great match, regardless of the setting, but it will be at Nebraska, in front of a huge, enthusiastic crowd, virtually all of whom will be cheering loudly for Nebraska throughout the match. Penn State lost in five sets last season at Nebraska.

Before we get to the specifics of the match, what are your thoughts on that venue, and the home court advantage for Nebraska? Do they really manage to squeeze 200,000 fans in for volleyball?

Brian Tripp: It sure seems like there are 200,000 people in there. It’s a remarkable place. The fans love their volleyball, so as a fan of the sport, you appreciate that. Much like Penn State, the Nebraska fan base is knowledgeable and passionate. If there is one plus, Nebraska does not have a large student section.

However, when things are going well for the home team, it can get incredibly loud on the floor in the Coliseum. At one point during last year’s match, communication was difficult on the floor. It’s an old building with steep seating on one end and the upper levels behind the endline are almost right on top of the court. I’m sure a lot of teams are excited to see Nebraska move into a different venue next year, albeit a bigger one.

About the Cornhuskers

DigNittany: You indicated to us earlier that you saw Nebraska against Illinois, and of course in the match at Rec Hall. What are your impressions of the Cornhuskers, and in particular, 5-8 Sr. S Lauren Cook, 6-1 Sr. OH Gina Mancuso, 6-1 Sr. OH Hanna Werth, and 6-2 Fr. MB Meghan Haggerty?

Brian Tripp: Let’s start with the freshman Haggerty. In the match at Rec Hall, I thought she was one of the best players on the floor. She was effective offensively, mostly on the slide, and had a great defensive awareness. She has an extremely bright future.

As for Hannah Werth, she can do it all. Werth’s athleticism on offense and defense gives teams fits. She is one of my favorite players in the conference, even though her brother no longer suits up for my beloved Phillies.

Gina Mancuso can hit any shot in any situation. She has great court vision and will get the ball in a big spot. Cook is extremely talented and plays aggressive. She will set the ball where her hitters can make plays. She finds a way to help out defensively as well, digging a lot of balls, despite being a slight liability at the net because of her size.

Nebraska is a talented and dangerous squad. However, I do not think the Huskers handle adversity well, so one key to the match is for Penn State to jump to an early lead. Watch for Morgan Broekhuis, she isn’t discussed as often with some of the stars on Nebraska’s team, but she has a nice left handed attack and will even set for the Huskers, if head coach John Cook elects to take his daughter off the floor.

About Gonzalez and Fuller

(Photos courtesy of

DigNittany: We’ve been very impressed with the play this season of 5-6 So. libero Dominique Gonzalez and 5-6 So. DS Lacey Fuller (who high-fived with Russ Rose during the Iowa match!). From what you’ve observed at the matches this season, how is the back row progressing, and could you tell us more about your view that Dom may be the best setting libero in the B1G?

Brian Tripp: The back row has propelled Penn State to a few wins. Dominique Gonzalez is always in the right spot and is an extremely effective passer on the serve. Teams try to avoid serving to Gonzalez because she handles the ball so well. Additionally, if Penn State is out of system, her setting has been great. I think she has a great volleyball IQ, knows where to put the ball for her hitters and gives them a chance in some favorable matchups.

Lacey Fuller is one of the most energetic players I have ever seen. She has had some incredible ups and is never afraid to give up her body to save a point. The team feeds off of her energy and she is very good in transition. I really like the way the backrow has progressed, including the play of Deja McClendon.

Keys to the Match

DigNittany: Next-to-last question: what are the keys to the match for Penn State and the keys to the match for Nebraska?

Brian Tripp: Penn State needs to start fast. Again, Nebraska doesn’t play great from behind and it would be great to keep that crowd relatively quiet. The Nittany Lions also must find a way to keep Nebraska’s block neutralized by passing well and allowing Hancock to set both sides of the court. Meanwhile, the Huskers need to play great defense. Against Illinois, Nebraska found a way to dig almost every attack. That’s incredibly frustrating for an opponent, especially on the road.

Crystal Ball

DigNittany: Last question – your prediction?

Brian Tripp: It’s always tough playing on the road, which is where Penn State has been for most of the month. Despite a difficult and grueling schedule, I’ll take the Nittany Lions. Penn State has looked its best in matches against top competition. I expect the trend to continue.