The AVCA released its 2019 preseason poll on Tuesday and Nebraska came in at No. 2 behind reigning national champion Stanford who received 62 of the 64 first-place votes.
The Huskers, who received one first-place vote, return five starters from a team that went 29-7 and made it all the way to the National Championship before falling in five sets to Stanford. Nebraska lost three seniors from last year’s team including two All-Americans in outside hitter Mikaela Foecke and libero Kenzie Maloney.
“I really like this team,” Coach John Cook said. “We have some competitors on it. They hate to lose. Any time you’ve got a group like that, that’s a fun group to coach. We went to Asia and they didn’t bat an eye. I never heard one complaint the whole trip. This is our fifth time we went and all the other times I threatened to send people home from China or Japan. This group handled it really, really well. I feel like they’re a very close-knit group and they've worked really hard, so we’ve got a shot. That’s all I want.
“I haven’t slept for the last couple nights just because I’m excited for the season to start and I’m really glad I feel that way because that’s the way it should be. This is a big deal, it’s fun, it’s exciting.”
The Huskers will get another crack at the Cardinal late in the nonconference schedule as Stanford travels to Lincoln to face the Huskers on Sept. 18.
“I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that we don’t think about it,” junior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins said about the loss to Stanford. “We were so close. We’ve used it as motivation every single day when this team comes in. I’ve never been on a team that works as hard as these girls. I know we’ve said that in the past, but this year it’s different. Everyone is just so driven and so motivated and we want to play well for the person next to us. Even in lifting we go in there and it’s like a competition with the person next to you, like ‘Oh, you just lifted that? Well, I can do that too.’
“Everyone is just trying to get that much better every single day and so it’s really cool to see. No one wants to experience that pain ever again so we’re going to work hard every single day to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Nebraska is one of seven Big Ten teams in the top 25 including five in the top eight. Minnesota is No. 3, Wisconsin is No. 5, Illinois is No. 6, Penn State — who received the other first-place vote — is at No. 8, Michigan is at No. 15 and Purdue is at No. 17.
In addition to Stanford, the Huskers will face three other teams in the preseason top 25 during nonconference play: No. 18 Creighton in the season opener on Aug. 30 as well as No. 24 Arizona and No. 21 San Diego in the USD Invitational on Sept. 6 and 7.
Fans will get their first look at the 2019 Huskers in the annual Red-White Scrimmage at the Devaney Center on Aug. 24.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.