The Nebraska volleyball team has been back on campus for a couple of weeks now, and Coach John Cook told Hail Varsity the reintegration to campus has gone smoothly.
“We’ve got a routine down now, everybody’s got their space,” Cook said. “It took a few days to get it all worked out, there were some hiccups, but everything’s going now. Now the key is going to be can everybody stay healthy and can we avoid an outbreak. If you follow some other programs, that’s happening. Now it’s up to our athletes to make good decisions and still try to follow all the safety for preventing any outbreaks.
“For us, the football and basketball programs that are back, it’s really, really important that they stay on top of it. That’s what we’re kind of, each week, reminding them: make good decisions, be safe, pay attention to where you are and who you’re with, and try to avoid areas that are high-risk.”
According to Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger, at least 30 football players at LSU spent last week in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 or coming into contact with people who have tested positive. According to the report, none of the positive cases were traced back to football workouts as they’ve all been tied to the community, particularly bars and restaurants.
There have been a handful of other college football programs reporting positive cases in recent days as well, and some have put a halt to workouts.
Nebraska’s trying to avoid that, and Cook said everything’s been fine with his team so far. After navigating a few months away from his players, learning how to use Zoom and looking for creative ways to further camaraderie from afar, Cook said he’s happy to have his players back on campus.
“It actually feels like we have a team and a season that we’re preparing for,” Cook said. “Now, am I convinced it’s going to happen? I don’t know. I still have my doubts. But we’re working towards that. This group, I think, is working really hard and they’re fired up to be able to get to work. I think we’re starting off in a lower place than we normally do because of everything. It was hard for these guys to maintain their conditioning and their strength, so they’ve had some good wake-up calls when they got back and got tested and everything. They’ve got some work to do, but I think they’re pretty motivated.”
After months of having to improvise at home to get workouts in, the players are back in Lincoln with access to team facilities. In addition to strength and conditioning work, they can go through volleyball workouts in the gym, so long as the coaches aren’t present.
Fortunately for the newcomers and underclassmen, Nebraska has four seniors plus co-captain and junior setter Nicklin Hames returning, and they know exactly what a Nebraska workout is supposed to look like.
“I was thinking if this happened last year, it would be tragic,” Cook said. “But because we have four seniors who have won national championships and played national championship matches, they definitely have the experience and the wisdom to know what we need to do. I’m trusting that those guys are getting this group ready to go, teaching everybody the mindset that we’re going to need to have every day.”
Though Cook and his assistants can’t currently work directly with the players on the court, the workouts are still important not only to get the whole team back into volleyball shape, but to incorporate the newcomers into the Nebraska program. Missouri transfer Kayla Caffey and freshmen Keonilei Akana, Kalynn Meyer, Abby Johnson and Anni Evans are all on campus along with the returners.
The season is still over two months away, but step one towards a return to play for the Huskers is off to a smooth start.
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.