FNBO Huskers Pay Loud & Proud ad 970 x 250

Coming soon!

We're taking a short break while we put the finishing touches on a fresh, new way of delivering Nebraska athletics content and stories. Visit HailVarsity.com soon to experience the next evolution of Huskers sports coverage.
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Volleyball Notebook: Redshirt Conversations, Back at Home, Room for Improvement

September 05, 2023

Through five matches, only two Huskers have not seen the court this season: junior setter Kennedi Orr and freshman opposite hitter Caroline Jurevicius.

Coach John Cook has used the same starting lineup and general rotation in the past three matches. Ally Batenhorst and Maggie Mendelson have seen the floor as both a starter and as a sub while sophomore Maisie Boesiger has played as a serving sub. Sophomore pin Hayden Kubik has played a few rallies near the end of two matches. Everybody who had seen the floor prior got into the match at Memorial Stadium last Wednesday, but not Orr or Jurevicius.

“We think long-term for them, but you can’t make plans because everybody’s got to be ready to go,” Cook said of their status. “So we’re just going to make sure we manage their seasons as best we can for them, for us, and if we need them, they’re going.”

Cook said he is always having conversations with his players about roles, playing time and other things, including the possibility of redshirting. Cook told Huskers Radio play-by-play man John Baylor before the first match that he didn’t intend to redshirt anybody this season, but redshirting is a two-way decision — one that doesn’t need to be finalized until the end of the year.

“You don’t do that until the end of the season,” Cook said. “That’s one of the things we think about: do you want to blow a year if you’re not going to play that much? So those are some of the things we’re always thinking about. We’re not like football where you can go play four games and still redshirt; we play one play and it’s over.”

Home Sweet Home

Nebraska is happy to be back at home this week after its first road trip over the weekend. Cook said the young Huskers handled their first experience in a hostile environment well as Nebraska swept Kansas State on Sunday in the Wildcats’ new facility, Morgan Family Arena.

“It’s great,” Cook said. “It’s volleyball only. They probably should have made it bigger, but we probably should have made Devaney bigger. You don’t know. I’m just really glad they got something because where they used to play was not good. So well deserved, fits in great there, it’s a beautiful facility. Reminds me of the same facilities that Ohio State built, where Iowa plays and Indiana; all kind of built that same 3-4,000-seat arenas. So it’s great. The crowd’s right on top of you and a great environment.”

No. 4 Nebraska will face two tough opponents at home this week before hitting the road again to travel to No. 5 Stanford next Tuesday.

For the first time since 2019, No. 16 Creighton will visit the Devaney Center Wednesday night for the annual in-state battle. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the match during the 2000-21 season and the two squared off at CHI Health Center Omaha each of the last two seasons since Omaha was hosting the Final Four last year.

Creighton will visit Nebraska again next season to get the home-and-away schedule back on track.

On Saturday, Nebraska will welcome former assistant coach Tyler Hildebrand back to Lincoln for the second straight year with his Long Beach State squad. The Beach already has a win over Texas under its belt this season.

Cook is looking forward to the return to normalcy a home match will bring, but he’s continued to hear feedback following the world-record-setting Volleyball Day in Nebraska from last week.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Cook said. “From everywhere, people have reached out, thanked us, commented about how great this is for women’s sports, what a great event, world record. We were on every news station last week. So it’s been great. The feeling you get, it impacted a lot of people. This was a dramatic moment for women’s sports, for volleyball, for Nebraska. It’s not just going to be an afterthought that goes away, it was, like I said, a dramatic moment that people have latched on to. It’s not just 8000 people, it was 90. I think the other thing is Coach [Terry] Pettit wrote a nice little thing on social media about how it impacted him, but the thing that he really points out is 92,000 people came to celebrate women’s volleyball and athletes in this state, and that isn’t happening anywhere. So that’s why it was such a dramatic moment. 

“Just to kind of see how these national news anchors were moved by it,” Cook continued. “I did one interview — I think it was with CNN, she was actually a Husker graduate — and you could just tell how proud she was in the interview and moved by that event, so that was kind of cool because those guys are doing a lot of big stuff and just seeing the pride in her face.”

Room for Improvement

Nebraska is 5-0 and hasn’t dropped a set yet this season, but Cook still sees plenty of room for improvement.

“I still feel like it’s a work in progress,” Cook said. “We’re doing some really good things but we’ve got a lot of things we can do better, and we’ve got to get better. I still think they’re working through things. There’s a lot of competition for spots. But I think we’re getting better every match.”

Cook said he and his staff start each week looking at their stats and reviewing video to determine how they can improve, and they take what they learn into practice. This week, he’s focused on two key areas.

“Serving and passing; that’s always going to be something, so we’ll spend a lot of time on that today,” Cook said. “Offensively, maybe just being a little more creative and opening that up a little bit. Those would be the two biggest things.”

Though Nebraska hasn’t faced a ranked opponent yet, the Huskers are leading the country in opponent hitting percentage once again at 0.037. They’re also fifth in blocks at 3.13 per set, leading the Big Ten in both categories. Offensively, Nebraska still has plenty of room for improvement, however, hitting .260 with only two starting attackers over .200.

One of those is freshman outside hitter Harper Murray, who is leading the team with 3.2 kills per set on .306 hitting.

“She’s gotten a lot of playing time,” Cook said. “Right now statistically she’s doing some really nice things. She’s serving really well, she’s our leading outside hitter efficiency-wise and she’s done a really nice job blocking. She’s a six-rotation player. Kansas State down there was a new experience for her; she struggled a little bit but she pulled herself out of it. So I think that’s just the biggest thing is learning how hard and how long you have to play well for against all these teams at this level. She’s working really hard. She wants to be great and I think that’s probably her greatest strength is she wants to be great. She’s not settling for anything right now; she wants to be great.”

Sunday was Murray’s first match hitting under .250 at nine kills on .231, but junior Lindsay Krause picked up the slack with her best match of the season, finishing with nine kills on .286 hitting, five digs and four blocks.

“She just was doing a great job attacking, especially out of system,” Cook said. “She made some huge swings, had a couple of really nice blocks, and that’s what we’ve been seeing in practice.”

Cook said last week he’s looking for someone to emerge at the second outside hitter spot alongside Murray, and Sunday was a good step forward for the Husker who led the pins in hitting percentage last year while playing on the right side.

Nebraska’s leading attacker efficiency-wise is freshman middle blocker Andi Jackson, who also led Nebraska in kills last week. She averaged 3.0 kills per set on .625 hitting and 1.17 blocks per set, leading the Huskers with 10 kills on .750 hitting and five blocks at Kansas State Sunday after leading the team with eight kills on .500 hitting and two stuffs against Omaha on Wednesday. She’s currently third in the country in hitting at .581.

“I think the biggest thing for her is she’s kind of settled down,” Cook said. “I think when she first got here it was like ‘Do I really belong here?’, coming from where her background was and the level of volleyball she played. Now I think I see a very confident, composed player in her, and she’s really, really coachable and she’s really picking things up fast. But I think the main thing is she’s just living in the moment and she’s settled down and she knows she can be a great player.”

  • Never miss the latest news from Hail Varsity!

    Join our free email list by signing up below.