LINCOLN, Neb. – Fresh off a 2-0 week over Penn State and Iowa, the Huskers have to get ready for perhaps their toughest test of the season to date – a mid-week trip to No. 2 Minnesota. Following that, the Huskers will wrap up the season at home against No. 18 Michigan.
“I felt really good about last week’s effort and playing well this time of year is always a challenge,” Coach John Cook said. “We got two nice wins in the conference last week. It sets up this week to be a big week. That’s what you want coming down the stretch is being in a position to have some meaningful matches. These are about as meaningful as they get.”
Cook said the Huskers aren’t looking at this week any differently than they have the rest of their conference schedule. They’ve been there and done that.
“It feels like it’s that week every week,” Cook said. “Probably for this year it probably is not any different than any of these other matches we’ve been playing in the Big Ten. Just seems like every week there’s a huge match.”
This week is just another in a long line of significant tests for the Huskers, and at 26-1, they’ve aced every one of them but one.
“We pride ourselves on being consistent, preparing the same, treating each match the same and I think that gives us the opportunity to be really consistent throughout this conference,” Cook said. “That’s kind of our mantra that we go by and these guys have bought into it. I think that’s what allows us to have that opportunity.”
This is the second meeting between the Huskers and Gophers. On Oct. 24, Nebraska out-lasted Minnesota in five sets at the Devaney Center. Cook highlighted a couple of areas in which the Huskers will have to improve in round two to make it a season sweep.
“The biggest thing was we let them out of some situations; we got them in trouble and let them get out by roll-shotting, tipping, throwing around; we just let balls drop and looked around which Minnesota does,” Cook said. “We were a little inconsistent passing; we have to be better passing and be more consistent with that. But we did a lot of really good things against them.”
This time, the match will take place at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis.
“It’s a good volleyball environment,” Cook said. “It’s like the old Coliseum – it’s bigger than that – but it’s an old building that they converted to volleyball … It seats about 5-, 6,000 and I’m sure it will be packed. It’s a nice facility.”
First serve is set for 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
>> Saturday’s Big Ten finale against the Wolverines at the Devaney Center will be the last regular season appearance for the four seniors, Kadie and Amber Rolfzen, Justine Wong-Orantes and Andie Malloy. Cook reflected on what the class has done – and what they are still seeking to do.
“The first thought that I have, that class was ranked number one in the recruiting things or whatever but it started with seven or eight players and really it’s down to four – Kelly [Hunter] redshirted so she’s technically not even in the senior class,” Cook said. “I think Kadie and Amber and Justine have done a great job of playing a lot of good volleyball over their careers in a lot of big matches. You go back and look at some of the big wins we’ve had. There’s really two things eluding them – a Big Ten championship which they haven’t accomplished and winning another national championship. That was the seed we planted in January and they’ve done a great job of working toward that.
“I think Andie adding into that class, it feels like she’s been here for four years. It’s the smoothest, most seamless transition for a transfer I’ve ever [seen]. She’s just part of the family and it’s just like it was meant to be. It’s a great senior class. They’re all very good students and they all have a chance to go on and play beyond Nebraska if they choose to.”
The Rolfzen twins arrived in Lincoln with incredible expectations after committing to the Huskers in eighth grade, but Wong-Orantes has also become a star despite an almost polar opposite beginning to her career.
“Of course, Justine’s a great story too,” Cook said. “She’s a last-minute addition, a setter who we converted to libero. She took a huge risk coming here from California and she’s done an amazing job.”
First serve is set for 7 p.m. Saturday and senior night festivities will follow the game.
>> The latest RPI rankings have the Huskers third overall behind two teams Nebraska has swept this season – Wisconsin and Texas. Cook’s not putting too much stock into it, however.
“That just reaffirms to me that the RPI is a mess and it has been for years,” Cook said. “That’s all it tells me.”
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.