LINCOLN, Neb. – Fresh off a 2-0 road trip with wins over Penn State and Rutgers, Nebraska maintained its unanimous hold over the No. 1 ranking in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll.
Two Huskers earned conference recognition for their performance over the weekend as Amber Rolfzen was named co-Defensive Player of the Week after averaging 2.1 blocks per set and junior setter Kelly Hunter was named Setter of the Week after averaging 11.8 assists per set and totaling 14 digs and eight blocks.
As he does every Monday, Cook addressed the media to look back on his team’s performance over the weekend and preview the upcoming games.
“We got it done this past weekend,” Cook said. “[Winning] two back-to-back matches is always a great weekend in the Big Ten and of course, another great battle with Penn State. Really happy about that and now we have to regroup and play Wednesday-Saturday here for the next couple of weeks.”
Cook said he would probably prefer the Wednesday-Saturday format the Huskers will see for the final six regular season games over playing two matches in the same weekend.
“I think it’s a grind and playing back-to-back – let me just ask you guys a question,” Cook said. “What other sport in college sports plays two top five teams back-to-back? We just did it a couple weeks ago; Penn State had to do it on the road and travel; we had to play an 8 o’clock match Friday night, traveled, we got to the hotel at 2 in the morning in New Jersey and then played Rutgers the next night then fly all the way home and get back here at 2:30 in the morning. We’re asking a lot of these student athletes, but no other sport is really doing that.
“At this time of year, to be able to go to a Wednesday-Saturday format, it’s certainly I think a lot easier on our athletes and allows us to prepare for each match as opposed to trying to prepare for two teams and travel in between.”
>> With a 3-2 win at Penn State on Friday, Nebraska improved to 3-0 in five set matches this season. Cook said the secret to their success in games that go the distance is how the Huskers worked in the offseason.
“I think that starts in January, it’s the work they’ve done since January as a team, working on the team things that we’ve talked about in the weight room and all those things that give us the opportunity to play our best in game five,” Cook Said.
>> Friday’s win held some historical significance as well as libero Justine Wong-Orantes broke Kayla Banwarth’s school record for career digs.
“It’s very tough,” Cook said. “That’s an incredible accomplishment, especially who she beat out – Kayla. I don’t know how to compare it but that is an epic record to get. She’s got to feel pretty good about that, but it also is just a testament to how great of a player she is and to pass up Kayla is pretty significant.”
Cook said Wong-Orantes should have the opportunity to follow in Banwarth’s footsteps and play for the USA national team.
“She will be invited to the national team in May, so she will get a shot,” Cook said. “Based on last year – she made that USA Team, kind of the B Team that replaced our national team (which was getting ready for the Olympics) that went to Mexico and she was the starting libero on that team. She’s got a really good shot if that’s what she wants.”
>> The Huskers had to go from a packed house at Penn State on Friday to Rutgers on Saturday, where the listed attendance was 617.
“It was very difficult; it was a big mental challenge for us,” Cook said. “Fortunately, most of the people there were Nebraska fans. I tweeted about that; our East Coast Nebraska fans – Maryland and Rutgers and a lot of the fans were in both places, they are very loyal, dedicated sports and Nebraska fans. They love the Huskers. We signed autographs for 30 minutes after those matches for all those people. I’m very, very impressed with Nebraska fans on the East Coast.”
Other than the fan turnout, the highlight of the Huskers’ win at Rutgers was redshirt freshman outside hitter Tiani Reeves getting into the game and recording her first career kill.
“Tiani got her first kill, so that was a big deal,” Cook said. “There was a big celebration in that Rutgers locker room after that match. I think that shows you Tiani’s place on the team. I think the girls really like here and she’s a very valuable part of our team and our chemistry and all those things. It’s cool to see them get really happy for her. To get her first kill, that’s a big deal for the route she’s taken to get here.”
>> Cook highlighted his left-side hitters as his most improved defenders this season.
“Probably Mikaela [Foecke], and Andie [Malloy] is slowly getting better,” Cook said. “Those two get stressed the most; teams try to attack them. Mikaela’s done really well about the last six matches in how we evaluate blocking; we don’t go by stuffs.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.