The Huskers moved up in the final AVCA Poll and a pair of Husker freshmen earned postseason recognition on Monday afternoon.
VolleyballMag.com named outside hitter Madi Kubik its national freshman of the year after a standout first season in Lincoln.
Kubik, the No. 4 recruit in the class of 2019 according to PrepVolleyball.com, stepped into a six-rotation role from day one, replacing one of the best hitters in program history in Mikaela Foecke, and she got better and better as the season went on.
Kubik averaged 2.73 kills per set on .218 hitting and 2.52 digs per set. She recorded six double-doubles, 15 matches with double-digit kills and 13 matches with double-digit digs. She had a season-high 22 kills on .314 hitting in a four-set win over Purdue and 20 kills on .296 hitting with 17 digs in a five-set win at Minnesota.
Kubik was named the AVCA North Region Freshman of the Year. She was also a second-team All-Big Ten and All-Freshman team selection and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. She boosted her attacking numbers to 2.96 kills per set on .241 hitting in conference play, and they were even better than that down the stretch.
Freshman libero Kenzie Knuckles made VolleyballMag’s honorable mention list as well, which included 40 players. Knuckles made the Big Ten All-Freshman team after averaging a team-best 3.83 digs per set and guiding Nebraska to the best opponent hitting percentage in the conference.
The Huskers also moved up one spot in the final AVCA Coaches Poll, ending the season at No. 5.
National champion Stanford is No. 1, runner-up Wisconsin is No. 2 and the other two Final Four teams round out the top five with Baylor at No. 3 and Minnesota at No. 4. The Gophers jumped ahead of Nebraska while Pittsburgh and Texas dropped following relier-than-expected exits from the NCAA Tournament.
Penn State moved up one spot to No. 7, Purdue moved up one spot to No. 13 and Michigan dropped out, from No. 22 to the top of the others receiving votes list.
Louisville, coached by former Husker Dani Busboom Kelly, jumped from unranked to No. 14 after making a run to the Regional Finals.
Hawai’i, Nebraska’s opponent in the Sweet 16, ended at No. 15 (three spots up from the pre-tournament poll). Creighton dropped one spot to No. 16. Dan Diego dropped one spot to No. 21 and UCLA rounds out the poll at No. 25, one spot down from the last poll. Missouri, Nebraska’s second-round opponent, is third among others receiving votes.
The Huskers finished 28-5 this season and will return their whole rotation, although Coach John Cook does have to find a new assistant coach after Kayla Banwarth accepted the Ole Miss head coaching job last week.
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.