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Conversations with Cook: On Extra Practice, Nicklin Hames and More

August 26, 2019

Nebraska’s volleyball team got three more preseason practices this year than it did heading into last season, and for that, Coach John Cook said he is happy.

However, he feels differently about the process that created that difference.

“It’s most archaic, asinine rule in how the NCAA figures out when we start practice,” Cook said. “I still don’t trust our compliance people; I asked them five times to prove it. There’s some formula that you have when you have your first match and when you start school and when you can start [practice]. They completely need to change it and just say, ‘Everybody this is when you’re starting; go.’ And they need to move it up. 

“If you noticed this year, the season starts a week later, the same as football. Last few years we’ve been a week before football. The Final Four, I think the national championship match is Dec. 21. So everything moves back later and because of that, it gives us more time.”

The Huskers also had plenty of reps under their belt when practice began thanks to the team’s Asia trip and the practices that predated it.

“The biggest benefit was playing really good teams and seeing a style of volleyball that the Asians play, Japan and China,” Cook said. “They’re technically really good and they play really clean volleyball, very few errors … We’ve got everybody on the same page, we’re humming, we know what we need to do, we know how hard we need to work, but mainly we got everybody on the same page and we’re not spending as much time teaching how to run a drill or how hard to work.”

Cook said it isn’t tough for the Huskers to maintain their level of intensity throughout the extended preseason because hard work is simply Nebraska’s culture.

“You come here to work, you compete, and as we say — a quote from the movie Top Gun — there are ‘no points for second place.’ Your job is to win in practice when we compete,” Cook said. “I think with our culture and how we train, it’s very difficult not to go all-out every day. But we’re also developing a competitive muscle because we have to do that in the Big Ten. We have to grind in the Big Ten with back-to-backs and travel; what other sport’s doing that? Nobody.”

Other notes:

>> Sophomore Nicklin Hames was good enough as a freshman to be recognized as an AVCA honorable mention All-American as well as an All-Big Ten Freshman Team member as she led the Huskers all the way to the national championship game. What does Cook want to see her improve in year two?

“Everything,” Cook said. “More consistent. Understanding now better how to run an offense. She does a great job of knowing what sets her hitters need. Becoming a better blocker. She was already a really good server but can she take that up a notch? She’s already a great defensive player so continuing to do that. Probably the biggest thing now is she’s a leader. They’re going to look to her; can she manage that and not wear herself out during the course of a season?

>> Speaking of Hames, she led the Red team to a 3-0 win in the Red-White Scrimmage on Saturday. Her side’s offensive efficiency was one of Cook’s main takeaways after reviewing the scrimmage.

“Nicklin’s team hit over .300,” Cook said. “There are very few times we’ve ever hit that high. In fact, I asked [volleyball SID] Nate [Pohlen] to check and he found one year that we did and it was the 2016 team which basically we returned a national championship team, so they hit high. Typically it’s an ugly, error-filled night, so that’s a really good sign. And remember, those guys go against each other every day so they know how to defend and what to block and what our players hit so that to me was something that stood out. We always make a lot of serving errors; that’s part of it.”

The Huskers recorded 23 service errors between the two teams. Serving will be a major point of emphasis for the team in practice this week, but that isn’t anything new.

“If they come to Nebraska, they’re going to work on serving every day of their career here,” Cook said. “We’re going to be a really good serving team. It’s just nerves. Just like you guys when you try to hit a 3-foot putt with nothing on it, sometimes that hole gets small.”

>> Sophomore outside hitter Capri Davis was the star of Saturday’s scrimmage, finishing with 18 kills on .467 hitting. Davis has shown that kind of talent in flashes during practice and throughout her freshman season, but consistency is the next step.

“If she plays like that she’ll be on the court,” Cook said. “But Capri’s got to do that every day. My metaphor on that one is as an investor, I don’t gamble on the stock market; I pick something I know what I’m going to get every day.That’s what coaches like, I like. I want to see consistency. But she put on a  show.”

When asked how Cook might handle a rotation if all three outside hitter show the consistency Cook wants, his response was: “Wait and see.”

>> Cook confirmed that opposite hitter Anezka Szabo received a medical redshirt during the summer and will be a redshirt sophomore this season. She played in nine matches last season before an injury put her on the shelf for the rest of the season.

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