Huskers Head to Omaha to Battle Bluejays
The No. 7 Nebraska volleyball team makes its only non-conference road trip of the season this week when it makes the short drive up to Omaha to play the No. 14 Creighton Bluejays on Thursday at 7 p.m. at CHI Health Center Omaha. The Huskers will then return home to host Iowa State on Sunday, Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Both Husker matches this week will be televised. The Nebraska-Creighton match will be on NET-1 and will have a free live stream at NETNebraska.org. Larry Punteney, Kathi Wieskamp and Nancy Metcalf will be on the call. The Huskers’ match against Iowa State will be televised on ESPNU and can also be viewed at WatchESPN.com. Paul Sunderland and Dain Blanton will call the action from Lincoln.
Thursday night’s match at Creighton will be on Husker Sports Network radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and 105.9 FM in Omaha. Doors for the match are scheduled to open at 5:30 p.m., and the facility will have a clear-bag policy in effect. As of Tuesday morning, nearly 11,000 tickets had been sold. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com.
Sunday’s match against Iowa State will be on Husker Sports Network radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and AM 590 in Omaha. A live audio stream will be provided for both matches at Huskers.com and on the official Huskers 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.
Former Husker legend Sarah Pavan will have her jersey retired following the Iowa State match on Sunday. Pavan will also be inducted into the Nebraska Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday. The Kitchener, Ontario native is NU’s all-time leader in kills (2,008) and kills per set (4.56). Pavan is one of five players in NCAA history to be named a four-time first-team AVCA All-American. The others are Megan Hodge (Penn State), Bev Oden (Stanford), Logan Tom (Stanford) and Kerri Walsh (Stanford). Pavan helped lead the Huskers to the 2006 NCAA Championship. She will be the ninth volleyball player in school history to have her jersey retired.
About the Huskers
• The Huskers improved to 4-1 on the season after going 3-0 at the Ameritas Players Challenge last week with wins over Ohio (3-0), Wake Forest (3-0) and Santa Clara (3-1). Nebraska improved to 35-1 all-time in the Ameritas Players Challenge.
• Mikaela Foecke was named the most valuable player of the tournament after averaging 3.20 kills per set on a .403 hitting percentage. She was also part of the VERT Challenge All-Tournament Team earlier this season.
• Kenzie Maloney (3.20 digs per set) was the best libero of the tournament, and Lauren Stivrins - with 2.40 kills per set, 1.20 blocks per set and six aces - was also selected to the all-tournament team.
• Foecke leads the Huskers with 3.41 kills per set this season on .299 hitting. Jazz Sweet adds 3.06 kills per set. Freshman Callie Schwarzenbach is averaging 1.35 blocks per set, while Maloney leads the team in digs at 3.65 per set. Freshman setter Nicklin Hames is putting up 9.47 assists and 3.35 digs per set.
• Nebraska ranks third among Big Ten teams in opponent hitting percentage at .101. The Huskers have held all five opponents this season below .200 hitting, and NU’s last three opponents combined to hit .027.
• The Huskers rank fourth among Big Ten teams in service aces with an average of 1.88 per set. Hames ranks third in the conference with 0.53 aces per set.
• John Cook, Nebraska: 19th year at Nebraska (535-70); 26th year overall (696-143)
• Kirsten Bernthal Booth, Creighton: 16th year at Creighton (321-162); 19th year overall (433-203)
• Christy Johnson-Lynch, Iowa State: 14th year Iowa State (273-132)
• Nebraska is 17-0 all-time against Creighton. The last meeting was on Sept. 17, 2016, a 3-1 Husker win in Lincoln at the Ameritas Players Challenge. The teams did not play last year after playing each other from 2014-16.
• Nebraska is 82-2 all-time against Iowa State, including a 3-0 sweep in the last meeting between the teams on Sept. 2, 2016 in Lincoln. Sunday’s meeting will be the sixth non-conference matchup between the teams since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011. The Huskers are 4-1 in that span. Iowa State’s win came on Sept. 15, 2012, 3-1 in Ames.
• No. 14 Creighton is off to a 4-2 start this season and is coming off three sweeps over Arkansas State, North Carolina State and SMU. The Bluejays opened the season at the Trojan Invitational, where they beat then-No. 5 Kentucky, 3-2, and dropped a 3-2 match to then-No. 10 USC. The Bluejays also lost to Northern Iowa on the trip, 3-0.
• Creighton returned five starters from last year’s team that went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Jaali Winters leads the team with 4.00 kills per set and has a team-high six aces. Taryn Kloth adds 3.95 kills per set, and Megan Ballenger chips in 3.05 kills per set on .331 hitting. Winters and Kloth were AVCA All-East Region picks last year.
Scouting Iowa State
• Iowa State entered the week with a 5-2 record but will play two matches before facing the Huskers on Sunday afternoon. The Cyclones play at Creighton on Friday and have a neutral-site battle against Wichita State on Saturday. Iowa State is one spot outside the AVCA Coaches Poll with 88 points.
• Iowa State earned a 3-1 win at No. 17 Northern Iowa on Aug. 29, then followed that by going 2-1 at the Montana Invitational with wins over Gonzaga (3-1) and Montana (3-0) before a 3-0 loss to No. 22 Utah.
• Jess Schaben, a two-time All-Big 12 first-team selection, leads the team in kills with 3.20 per set entering the week. The 6-2 outside hitter is a two-time AVCA All-America honorable-mention recipient.
• Junior libero Hali Hillegas was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last year and is averaging 5.64 digs per set so far this season, which leads all Big 12 players.
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 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 14th on Nebraska’s career kills list with 1,228, which also ranks sixth in the rally-scoring era (2001 to present). Her 97 career aces are fifth-most in school history in the rally-scoring era.
• Maloney, a libero from Louisville, Kentucky, was named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament team in 2017 and was a PrepVolleyball.com 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 PrepVolleyball.com, 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 PrepVolleyball.com 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 239 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 696-143 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.
• Cook passed former Husker head coach and AVCA Hall of Famer Terry Pettit on the all-time career wins list earlier this season. Pettit finished his career with 694 career wins, which Cook passed on Aug. 31 when Nebraska beat Wake Forest.
Huskers Ranked No. 7 in AVCA Coaches Poll
• Nebraska is ranked No. 7 in the AVCA 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 473 times, which is also the most in NCAA history.
• Nebraska has appeared in all 528 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 696 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 (535-70).
• 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.