Nebraska volleyball started the 2019 season where it had ended the previous one–No. 2 in the preseason American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. The AVCA poll tends to work like that. The Huskers’ 2018 season ended one set short against national champion Stanford, so the Huskers were No. 2, behind Stanford, to open 2019.
But there was a key difference. The Cardinal returned almost everybody. Nebraska had to replace Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney. The Huskers didn’t have a senior on the roster. Junior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins and sophomore setter Nicklin Hames were named team captains in August. Freshmen Madi Kubik and Kenzie Knuckles were going to have to play key roles at outside hitter and libero respectively.
Yet Nebraska volleyball remained excellent in 2019. The Huskers went 25-4 in the regular season, earning the fifth overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They won their first three games there before drawing Wisconsin, the eventual national runner-up, on its home floor. The Badgers beat Nebraska for the third time in 2019, ending the season, but for head coach John Cook it didn’t feel like the typical ending to a season.
“If you look at our team as a group, we’re getting better in these matches and growing from it,” Cook said after the final match. “This whole group returns. I put a football field up on the white board and said ‘OK, now we’re at the 50-yard line, and here we go. We’ve got another year and the goal is to get to Omaha.’ I just think we’ll learn from this.”
Let’s take a look back at the year in Nebraska volleyball through the lenses of Hail Varsity staff photographers Eric Francis and John Peterson.