Photo by Lydia Asplin/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Set for Ameritas Players Challenge

By NU Athletic Communications

The No. 5 Nebraska volleyball team continues non-conference action by hosting the Ameritas Players Challenge on Friday and Saturday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. The Huskers will play Ohio at Noon and Wake Forest at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. NU will finish the weekend against Santa Clara at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The other matches this weekend are: Santa Clara vs. Wake Forest (Friday, 10 a.m.), Ohio vs. Santa Clara (Friday, 5 p.m.) and Wake Forest vs. Ohio (Saturday, 11 a.m.).

All three Huskers matches will be streamed at with a BTN Plus subscription. Friday’s match against Ohio will be on Husker Sports Network radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and AM 590 in Omaha. Friday night’s match against Wake Forest and Saturday’s match against Santa Clara will be on 107.3 FM in Lincoln and 105.9 FM in Omaha. A live audio stream will be provided for all three matches at, on the official Huskers app and the TuneIn app. John Baylor is in his 25th season doing play-by-play for the Husker volleyball program. Lauren (Cook) West, a former All-America setter for the Huskers, will provide color commentary.

About the Huskers
• Nebraska opened its season with a split of its two matches at the VERT Challenge last week. The Huskers fell to then-No. 7 Florida, 3-1 (20-25, 22-25, 25-23, 23-25), before bouncing back to sweep then-No. 18 Oregon (25-21, 25-21, 26-24).
• Mikaela Foecke was selected to the all-tournament team after averaging 3.71 kills per set and 3.00 digs per set. Foecke had 15 kills with no errors to lead the Huskers past the Ducks.
• The Huskers played four true freshmen throughout the tournament. Callie Schwarzenbach had 11 kills and five blocks, while setter Nicklin Hames averaged 10.00 assists and 4.00 digs per set with a team-high three ace serves.
• This will be the 13th Ameritas Players Challenge dating back to 2006. Nebraska is 32-1 all-time in the Ameritas Players Challenge.
• Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney were preseason All-Big Ten selections. Foecke is a two-time NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player and leads the Huskers in kills with 3.71 per set. Maloney was an NCAA All-Tournament Team selection and leads NU in digs with 4.29 per set.
• The Huskers won the 2017 NCAA title, their second national championship in three years. NU finished 32-4 overall and also won a second straight Big Ten title, sharing top honors with Penn State.
• This year’s NU squad is aiming to reach the final four for a fourth consecutive year, which would be a first in program history. NU also hasn’t won three straight conference titles since 2006-08 in the Big 12.

• John Cook, Nebraska: 19th year at Nebraska (532-70); 26th year overall (693-143)
• Deane Webb, Ohio: 5th year at Ohio (82-45); 18th year overall (317-212)
• Bill Ferguson, Wake Forest: 2nd year at Wake Forest (22-44); 11th year overall (172-146)
• Jon Wallace, Santa Clara: 20th year at Santa Clara (363-208)

Series History
• Nebraska will be playing Ohio and Wake Forest for the first time in school history.
• Nebraska is 6-0 all-time against Santa Clara. The last meeting was on Dec. 15, 2005, a 3-0 Husker win in the NCAA Semifinals in San Antonio.

Scouting Ohio
• Ohio went 1-2 at the Sports Imports Classic in Columbus, Ohio last weekend. The Bobcats fell 3-1 to Texas A&M and 3-0 to Ohio State, but they rebounded to beat Albany, 3-1, in their final match.
• Setter Vera Giacomazzi was named to the all-tournament team. She paced the Ohio attack with 8.55 assists per set and had 49 assists in the four-set win over Albany.
• Middle blocker Tia Jimerson had 3.27 kills per set last weekend on .263 hitting.

Scouting Wake Forest
• Wake Forest went 0-3 at the Spartan-Demon Deacon Classic last weekend with losses to Maryland (3-0), Air Force (3-1) and UNC Greensboro (3-1).
• Middle blocker Caitlyn Della was named to the all-tournament team with 2.18 kills per set and a team-high nine blocks during the tournament. Caroline Kuhn had a team-high 2.55 kills per set.

Scouting Santa Clara
• Santa Clara enters the weekend at 2-2. The Broncos went 1-2 at the Idaho Volleyball Classic, losing to Idaho, 3-0, and Grand Canyon, 3-2. They were victorious against New Mexico by sweep. Santa Clara defeated Sacramento State Tuesday night, 3-0.
• Middle blocker Alexa Dreyer earned all-tournament honors last weekend after 2.45 kills per set and six ace serves. Freshman hitter Michelle Shaffer had 3.27 kills per set and four aces.

Foecke, Maloney Captain Young Husker Squad
• Seniors Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney are co-captaining the 2018 Husker squad. Foecke and Maloney are the lone players on the team who have been part of both the 2015 and 2017 NCAA Championship teams, and the duo will look to become the first in program history to appear in four straight final fours and win three national championships.
• Foecke, an outside hitter from West Point, Iowa, was selected the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championship in both 2015 and 2017 after leading the Huskers to their fourth and fifth NCAA titles all-time.
• Foecke became the fourth player in NCAA history to twice be named the MOP - as she also earned the honor in 2015 - and she was the first to earn the honor in non-consecutive years.
• Foecke was named an AVCA second-team All-American and was unanimously selected to the All-Big Ten team and was an AVCA All-North Region pick for the third straight year in 2017. She was named a unanimous preseason All-Big Ten team selection entering her senior season.
• Foecke averaged a team-high 3.53 kills per set on .290 hitting with 2.36 digs per set in 2017. She also had a team-high 39 aces.
• Foecke ranks 15th on Nebraska’s career kills list with 1,196, which also ranks seventh in the rally-scoring era (2001 to present).
• Maloney, a libero from Louisville, Kentucky, was named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament team in 2017 and was a first-team All-American after serving a school-record 13 aces during the NCAA Tournament.
• In her first season as NU’s libero in 2017, Maloney played all 125 sets and averaged 3.62 digs per set and 0.95 aces per set with season totals of 452 digs and 37 aces, second-most on the team.
• Maloney was named to the preseason All-Big Ten team this year.

Stivrins, Sweet Set for Sophomore Seasons
• After earning All-Big Ten Freshman team honors in 2017, middle blocker Lauren Stivrins and opposite hitter Jazz Sweet will both aim to play even bigger roles in 2018.
• Stivrins finished the 2017 season with 2.07 kills per set on .309 hitting and 1.02 blocks per set while playing all 125 sets. She tallied nine kills on .316 hitting against Florida in the NCAA Championship match and had seven kills and a career-high nine blocks in the NCAA Semifinal vs. Penn State.
• Sweet also played in all 125 sets last season and had 2.22 kills per set on .273 hitting in her first year as a Husker. Sweet posted 12 kills on .375 hitting against Penn State in the NCAA Semifinal.

New Huskers Have Big Roles to Play
• Eight of the 15 Huskers on the roster are new to the team this season, and at least a few will have to play a major role for the Huskers early on. With starting setter Kelly Hunter, middle blocker Briana Holman and outside hitter Annika Albrecht all graduating last year, as well as defensive specialist Sydney Townsend, NU will rely on its newcomers to make an immediate impact.
• Three of the eight newcomers are setters who will look to replace Hunter, the two-time AVCA All-American and 2017 Big Ten Setter of the Year. Freshman Nicklin Hames was ranked the top setter recruit in the nation by, while junior transfer Mari Kurkova has experience playing on the highest international stage with the Czech Republic. Senior Brooke Smith, who began her career at Nebraska in 2015, rejoins the squad after playing one season at Kansas State.
• Nebraska also added sophomore outside hitter Lexi Sun to its attack in the offseason. The University of Texas transfer was a 2017 first-team All-Big 12 selection and received All-America honorable mention in her freshman season with the Longhorns. A native of Encinitas, California, Sun was the National Player of the Year, the Gatorade Player of the Year and the All-USA Volleyball Player of the Year as a senior at Santa Fe Christian.

Huskers Will Play School-Record 19 Home Matches
• Nebraska will play a school-record 19 regular-season home matches in 2018.
• Nine of the Huskers’ 10 non-conference matches will be played at the Devaney Center this season. The only road trip will be up the road to Omaha where NU will face Creighton on Thursday, Sept. 6. The teams took a year off from the series last season after playing each other from 2014-16. 
• The 2018 season marks the first time the Huskers won’t play a non-conference match outside of Nebraska since 2007.

Huskers Aiming for 250th Consecutive Regular-Season Sellout
• Nebraska carries an NCAA women’s record 236 consecutive regular-season sellouts. Should the Huskers continue to sell out, their 250th straight sellout would be on Friday, Nov. 2 against Penn State.

Cook Closing in on 700 Career Wins
• Nebraska head coach John Cook has a 693-143 career record entering the week and will become the 10th active Division I head coach to reach 700 career wins with the Huskers’ eighth win of the season.
• A total of 26 Division I coaches all-time have reached the 700-win mark. Former Husker head coach Terry Pettit is currently tied for 27th on the all-time victories list with 694.

Huskers Ranked No. 5 in AVCA Coaches Poll
• Nebraska is ranked No. 5 in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll this week.
• The Huskers have been ranked No. 1 in 99 all-time polls, the most in NCAA history.
• The Huskers have been ranked in the top 10 a total of 472 times, which is also the most in NCAA history.
• Nebraska has appeared in all 527 AVCA Coaches Polls since it was established in 1982. Nebraska and Stanford are the only two programs to be ranked in every poll all-time.

Cook Adds to Legacy; Joins AVCA Hall of Fame
• Nebraska head coach John Cook is in his 19th season as the Nebraska volleyball head coach in 2018. He has led the Huskers to four national championships, eight final fours, 12 conference championships and 16 top-10 final rankings since 2000. Cook has 693 career wins and is one of the all-time winningest coaches in NCAA history.
• Since taking over the program in 2000, Cook has led the Huskers to a nation-leading .884 win percentage in that time (532-70).
• Under Cook, the Huskers have achieved 52 AVCA All-Americans and 19 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, both among the best in the nation. He is a two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year, earning the prestigious honor in 2000 and 2005, and a seven-time conference coach of the year, including Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2016 and 2017, his first and second Big Ten honors with the Huskers in their Big Ten era (2011-present).
• Cook was named the AVCA North Region Coach of the Year in 2016, his fifth career regional coaching honor and fourth while at Nebraska.
• Cook is one of only four active coaches - and one of six all-time - to be a two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year and was honored in 2008 by USA Volleyball, receiving its All-Time Great Coach Award.
• Cook was inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2017, joining former Husker volleyball coach Terry Pettit in the hall.

Husker Fans Set Attendance Standard Once Again
• Nebraska fans led the nation in attendance for a fifth straight season in 2017, averaging 8,202 fans per match, nearly 2,000 more than any other school.
• In 2016, the Huskers also led the nation with an average attendance of 8,210 fans per match, a new NCAA attendance record.
• In 2013, the Huskers led the nation in attendance (8,175) for the first time since 1992, ending Hawaii’s 21-year reign as the national leader.
• The Huskers repeated as attendance champions in 2014 with 8,083 fans per match, which included a school-record 8,585 fans at the Oct. 3 win against Penn State.
• Nebraska has ranked in the top three nationally in attendance every season since 1990 (27 straight seasons).

Cook’s Coaching Tree Continues to Grow
• Nebraska head coach John Cook’s assistant coaches have a great track record of moving on to become head coaches.
• Following the 2017 season, Husker assistant Tyler Hildebrand was named the Director of Coaching, Beach Volleyball for USA Volleyball in his home state of California.
• After the 2016 season, Nebraska assistants Chris Tamas and Dani Busboom Kelly both accepted high-level Division I head coaching jobs. Busboom Kelly became the head coach at Louisville, while Tamas accepted the head coaching job at Big Ten foe Illinois. Tamas led his Fighting Illini squad to the Sweet 16 in his first year, while Busboom Kelly made the NCAA Tournament with Louisville and was named the AVCA East Region Coach of the Year.
• Seven assistants under Cook have become head coaches following their time on Cook’s Nebraska staff: Craig Skinner (Kentucky), Lee Maes (Virginia), Lizzy Stemke (Georgia), Dan Conners (UC Davis), Dan Meske (Augustana, Associate Head Coach at Louisville), Busboom Kelly and Tamas.
• In the last eight years, five of Cook’s Husker assistants have become head coaches.

Sarah Pavan’s Jersey to be Retired on Sept. 9
• Nebraska will retire the jersey of one of the most decorated players in NCAA history, Sarah Pavan, on Sunday, Sept. 9 at the  Huskers’ match against Iowa State. Pavan will also be inducted into the Nebraska Athletic Hall of Fame that weekend.
• The Kitchener, Ontario native is NU’s all-time leader in kills (2,008) and kills per match (4.56). She is one of five players in NCAA history to be named a four-time first-team AVCA All-American, and she helped lead the Huskers to the 2006 NCAA Championship. Pavan will be the ninth volleyball player in school history to have her jersey retired.


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