Pioneer Classic & Cornhusker Clash Recap

In the Pioneer Classic and the Cornhusker Clash, the University of Wisconsin Platteville (UWP) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) took to the courts to play back-to-back double headers to start their seasons. Below are the results:

Pioneer Classic:
Game 1: UNL def UWP 4-1
Game 2: UNL def UWP 3-2
Cornhusker Clash:
Game 1: UNL def UWP 4-1
Game 2: UNL def UWP 4-3 (OT)

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Group Picture at Pioneer Classic.

Pioneer Classic
The first game of the day started out as I expected with both teams going back and forth trying to wear the other down. The first point lasted over 10 minutes and the second point went 14 minutes. At the end of the half, UNL was up 2-0. In the second half, Platteville was able to take the first point, but UNL proved to be too much and took another two points to win 4-1.
The second match of the day Platteville settled in to give UNL an even more competitive match. Each team traded points to make it tied at half time 1-1. In the second half, both teams traded points again to make it 2-2. In the final stretch of the second half UWP and UNL battled back forth and with just seconds left UNL was able to secure another point avoiding overtime to get the 3-2 win.
After watching both games, the key to UNL’s success can be mainly attributed to their returning players outperforming UWP’s. They made less mistakes, which allowed them to stay in games longer to secure the win. One other major factor was their catching. In previous years, this is how Platteville was able to win against UNL and this time they turned that on UWP. There were times that the Pioneers seemed like they were rolling, but then the Cornhuskers would have two or three catches in a row to turn the tide in their favor.

Cornhusker Clash
The first game started out very similarly to the way that it did at the Pioneer Classic. UNL started out with the first point followed by Platteville getting the next point. UNL pushed to get another point before the half and came close with getting their opponent down to one player, but time expired before they could get the last out. The next half, every time it seemed like UWP was going to get a point, UNL’s catching took over which led to them taking the game 4-1.
In the second game UNL took control of the 1st half. They were getting cross throws with ease and getting catch after catch giving them the lead at half 3-0. In the second half, it was UWP’s time to shine as they were clicking on all levels. They started making catches, getting hits, and making less mistakes. UNL played well that half, but the Pioneers were firing on all cylinders and were able to get the three points to tie it up to take it to overtime. In the end, UNL was able to make the most plays and win in a 4-3 (OT).

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UNL Team picture at Cornhusker Clash.

The following individuals stood out at these events. For UNL, it was Ethan Glenn (96), Robyn MacDonald (14), and Tommy Eggert (8). Ethan and Robyn had several catches throughout both events. They made big catches at crucial moments helping secure the victories. Ethan and Tommy both have incredibly strong arms that made several connections and were enough to keep Platteville from putting the pressure they wanted on UNL. Robyn’s communication on the court was also a big factor as to why UNL was able to stick to their strategy and not panic.
For UWP, it was Jared Colden (18), Jacob Sebranek (22), and Cody Larson (81). Jared did an excellent job of throwing and putting UNL on guard at all times. Jacob had several huge catches that came in big and was throwing effectively when the Pioneers needed it. When both of these two were out there doing what they do best, it was tough to compete against the Pioneers because the team was able to feed off that. Cody, who is only in his first year, really impressed me. He blocked everything that came his way, which allowed him to get several close range kill shots. If he had any fear at those close ranges, he never showed it.

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UNL Team picture at Pioneer Classic.

Captain’s Thoughts
Erik Zander What were your expectations for your team going into these events and do you feel your team was able to meet them?
Robyn MacDonald– Going into these tournaments, I had high expectations about our individual skills (throwing, catching, blocking, etc.). We’ve had returners step up and become play makers at practice, and we’ve had a lot of time to really improve on making kill shots and catches. All our new players have made huge strides this semester. Many came in with a lot of talent and athleticism and have taken all the advice and coaching to really develop their dodgeball skills. I was really impressed and pleased with our showing at these events as we had kills and catches coming from a variety of players.
These being the first tournaments for about half the roster made me initially nervous about our team cooperation and ability to work as one unit, but I was very proud of how quickly everyone settled in. Returners stepped up to help lead and guide the team, and from the first whistle, everyone looked very comfortable and confident. We’ll always have room to improve, but I’m so proud of our showing after the long break from play.
Jared Colden- My expectations were to help the new guys get some important experience. We have a lot of them, and we had to try to give them the opportunities to see how fast paced tournaments can be. That way they can see the difference between practice and actually playing in a tournament setting. I also wanted them to see what they needed to work on personally (i.e. throwing, blocking, etc.) and to see overall what we need to work on as a team. These were our first two events in a long time so we were bound to have some things to work on.
As far as the team meeting my expectations, I think they met them and beyond. I am really proud of our new guys stepping up to the plate and performing extremely well. It took them a couple points to get settled in during our home tournament, but after that they seemed to get used to it. The Nebraska tournament started a little rough for everyone, but after awhile things started to click especially with our new guys. They were blocking for our throwers, catching, and even had a couple of good throws in. Overall, I have been proud and continue to be proud of where our team is right now.

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UWP Team picture at Cornhusker Clash

EZ-How do you feel your team handled back to back tournament weekends?
RM– We handled back-to-back weekends really well! Our captains and coach made sure to use practice time to discuss and work on areas for improvement without additionally wearing the team out. Some people were nursing soreness, but everyone went into the second weekend still very excited and ready to perform better. It was awesome getting opportunities so close together to see our current progress as well as figure out areas to improve.
JC-For not playing in a tournament setting for almost a couple years, I was kind of worried of how the team would react to having back to back tournaments. I was surprised a little to see how enthusiastic our team was for playing back to back. It seemed like our guys couldn’t get enough. Some of our arms were pretty sore about halfway through the Nebraska tournament, but I expected that because of the amount of dodgeball we played two weeks in a row. Hopefully, after our break everyone will be excited to play again.

EZ- What impressed you the most about your team at these events?
RM– I am super impressed at our catching at these two events. In both tournaments, we had many players make important catches which gave us more numbers and momentum. We talk about catches a lot at practice and how important they are, so it was awesome to see so many players commit to that mentality and how it paid off. I was also very proud of the returners for stepping up and making big plays and decisions. Leadership came from many places, and the new players stepped up with no fear. Our captains especially helped lead us through difficult moments, and I was happy with the teamwork and attitudes we had across both days.
JC- I was impressed by how fast our new guys got used to the faster pace of tournament play. It’s hard for us to replicate that in practice so they were going into it a little blind. After they got settled in they took care of business like they have in practice. They didn’t let small mistakes bring them down and they were pumped up when good things happened. I feel like everyone looks out for each other on this team. If someone makes a minor mistake, someone is there to tell them “you got it next time.” I think it showed at the Nebraska tournament. We had a rough first game against them. During our second game we had a rough first half, but rallied in the second half to take it to overtime. Losing in overtime always sucks, but talking with the team in the huddle, none of them hung their heads. What impressed me is that everyone wants to get better and how much the new guys have improved since the first practice. I trust in everyone there for a block or to get a catch when we need it. That also goes for the vets on the team. We have grown quite a bit and I feel like everyone wants to continue to do so.

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Group Picture at Cornhusker Clash.

EZ- What impressed you the most about the other team?
RM– Platteville’s play off their back line was very impressive. After a UNL throw, UWP would return immediately with lots of speed and pressure. They forced us to backpedal quickly which is a difficult position to be in, and they were able to capitalize quickly if someone was exposed. The athletic ability and team coordination was something I noticed very early about the current team. I was also very impressed by the way UWP seemed to work as one single unit the entire time. Both returning and new faces seemed to have great court awareness, so UWP’s players were always working together which led to many well executed team plays.
JC- Where do I start with Nebraska? They impressed me a lot. Looking at their roster before our home tournament, I was able to recognize four or five names. As soon as we started playing, I realized that they had more returners than I thought. Seeing most of their team, if not all, at their home tournament I thought they did a good job recruiting like they always do. They are an amazing team to play. They definitely did not let COVID stop their growth. They are a strong team with a lot of great players. Each one of them have strengths that benefit the team in a huge way. They’re very aware on the court, I can’t count how many times they had team catches against us. Nebraska has done a very good job with teaching their new people and getting them up to speed. Their new people have played great so far, it’s hard to tell if it was their first tournament or their tenth. I’d say that this is the best Nebraska team I have ever played. They have grown a lot and continue to grow every tournament. I see them doing very well this year and hope that they can play outside of the Midway Conference.

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UWP Team picture at Pioneer Classic.

Final thoughts
Finally, we were able to get back on the court after almost two years and see some familiar faces from UWP and UNL. It was fun to see how the talent of the returners had developed and fun to see that the match ups between the Cornhuskers and the Pioneers are more competitive than ever before. This is the best UNL team to date and this UWP team is going to be right up there. Both teams have put in a lot of work and hopefully come spring time we will see it pay off and both teams will make some noise!

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