The Nebraska volleyball team will play its lone 2017 spring match against Colorado State at the new Kearney High School on Saturday at 3 p.m. The match will have an audio broadcast on Huskers.com. Select Husker Sports Network affiliates (Hastings, Lexington and North Platte) will carry the match on the radio. John Baylor and Matt Coatney will call the action. Doors to the match will open at 1:30 p.m. The Huskers will sign autographs for one hour following the match. Approximately 2,000 tickets to the contest sold out in less than 30 minutes.
The trip to Kearney continues Nebraska’s tradition of touring the state for spring volleyball matches. The Huskers played Colorado in Ogallala last year and have also made recent visits to Grand Island, Wayne and Norfolk.
The Huskers also will hold an open practice at Kearney High School on Friday from 6-7:30 p.m. A short autograph session will follow.
Nebraska is coming off a Big Ten championship in 2016 and its second straight NCAA Semifinals appearance. The Huskers won their fourth national title in 2015 but fell short of a repeat in 2016 after a 3-0 loss to Texas in the semifinals. The Huskers left everything on the court last year, winning their first Big Ten title since 2011 and placing four student-athletes on the AVCA All-America teams.
Nebraska’s spring volleyball roster comprises 12 players after the loss of four seniors to graduation, including three All-Americans. The Huskers indeed will have a significantly new look in 2017 with six new players. Allie Havers, a 6-5 middle blocker who just completed a four-year career on Nebraska’s women’s basketball team, has already joined the team and has one season of eligibility to play volleyball, a sport she excelled at in high school. Havers and five incoming freshmen make up the group of six newcomers in 2017.
Those six will join a solid group of 11 returners, including All-American setter and captain Kelly Hunter. The 5-11 senior is poised to lead the Huskers after a sensational junior season in which she earned second-team All-America honors and an All-Big Ten selection. Fellow senior Briana Holman, who has also received All-America recognition in her career, will provide leadership for the young Husker squad, as will seniors Annika Albrecht and Sydney Townsend. Junior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke has twice received AVCA All-America honorable mention and has been working toward becoming a six-rotation player for the Huskers.
In addition to new faces on the court next season, head coach John Cook will rely on new faces on the bench. Tyler Hildebrand and Kayla Banwarth enter their first seasons as assistant coaches on the Husker staff, filling the positions previously held by Chris Tamas (new Illinois head coach) and Dani Busboom Kelly (new Louisville head coach).
Scouting Colorado State
• Colorado State went 21-9 last year with a 15-3 record in the Mountain West Conference, which was good for second in the MWC standings. The Rams qualified for the NCAA Tournament but fell in the first round to Kentucky, 3-1.
• The Rams placed five student-athletes on the All-MWC team last season, and all five will return in 2017. Leading the way is two-time honoree Alexandra Poletto at middle blocker. She averaged 2.48 kills and 1.27 blocks per set in 2016 while hitting .340.
• Kirstie Hillyer was an All-MWC selection and was the league’s newcomer of the year. As a redshirt freshman last year, Hillyer posted 2.58 kills and 1.65 blocks per set in conference matches while hitting .339.
• All-MWC outside hitter Sanja Čizmić led the team with 3.02 kills per set last year. All-conference setter Katie Oleksak averaged 11.26 assists per set.
• Nebraska is 6-2 all-time against Colorado State with the last meeting in 2011, a 3-2 Colorado State win in Fort Collins.
• Nebraska head coach John Cook is entering his 18th season at Nebraska and 25th overall season as a head coach. Cook is 499-65 at NU and 660-138 overall.
• Tom Hilbert is entering his 21st season as head coach at Colorado State. He has a 509-122 record at CSU and is 683-194 overall in 28 years as a Division I head coach.