CHICAGO — The Big Ten coaches tabbed Nebraska to repeat its second-place finish this season in the conference’s preseason poll, and three Huskers made the 15-player preseason all-conference team.
Reigning Big Ten (and national) champion Wisconsin topped the poll while Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State rounded out the top five.
Nebraska went 16-4 in conference last season including a forfeit win over Rutgers. The Huskers finished 26-8 overall and fell to Wisconsin in five sets in the national championship to finish as the runner-up. They return six players with significant starting experience and added another via the transfer portal.
The Badgers went 17-3 in conference and 31-3 overall but will have to replace a stellar senior class led by five-time All-American middle blocker Dana Rettke, setter Sydney Hilley and libero Lauren Barnes. Wisconsin has won the Big Ten in each of the past three seasons. The Badgers bring back two preseason all-conference picks in Anna Smrek and Devyn Robinson and 2021 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Julia Orzol while adding another preseason all-conference pick in Michigan State transfer Sarah Franklin.
Senior outside hitter Madi Kubik, sophomore libero Lexi Rodriguez and transfer middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord are all preseason All-Big Ten selections. Nebraska is one of three teams with three players on the team, joining Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Kubik was the only unanimous selection for the team. She led the Huskers with 3.49 kills per set overall last season and stepped her game up even more in conference play, finishing third in the league with 4.11 kills per set. She was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and a third-team AVCA All-American.
Rodriguez earned the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year award as a freshman last season and also landed on the All-Big Ten First Team and the BigTen All-Freshman Team. She was a first-team AVCA All-American and the National Freshman of the Year. She averaged 4.33 digs per set while coordinating the best defense in the Big ten.
Hord was a three-time All-Big Ten First Team selection at Penn State before transferring to Nebraska this offseason. She was an AVCA second-team All-American last season after averaging a career-best 2.92 kills per set on .394 hitting and 1.4 blocks per set, third in the Big Ten and seventh nationally.
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.