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No. 4 Huskers Set to Host Tyler Hildebrand’s Long Beach State

September 08, 2023

No. 4 Nebraska took care of business against its first ranked opponent on Wednesday and now turns its sights to a tough team led by a familiar face.

Long Beach State, coached by former Husker assistant Tyler Hildebrand, will visit the Devaney Center on Saturday. 

“Tyler’s a great coach, so I’m sure we’ll have a good matchup on us,” freshman Harper Murray said. “Long Beach is always a good game and we’re all excited.”

Hildebrand played a role in recruiting Murray but left to Lincoln take the Long Beach job five months after her commitment. 

The Beach is 3-3 but opened the season with a four-set win over preseason No. 1 Texas and also knocked off Indiana in four sets. The team’s losses have come to Loyola Marymount, Washington and UCLA. Long Beach swept Omaha on Friday night to begin its Nebraska trip.

In year one under Hildebrand, Long Beach State went 19-9, securing its highest win total since 2016. That included a 14-6 record in Big West play, the best conference mark since 2014. The Beach is looking to build off that success in year two starting with a challenging nonconference slate.

“He was at Nebraska for two years,” Coach John Cook joked, remarking on his former assistant’s success. “He’s been with a lot of great coaches, a lot of great programs. He’s coached beach, he’s coached indoor, he’s coached men and women. He just has a lot of experience and that’s why I’ve hired him twice. He’s a very good coach and now he’s learning how to build a program and he’s doing a great job. They’re breaking records, they’re breaking attendance records. They beat a Big Ten team for the first time in 20 years or whatever it’s been, they beat the number one team in the country, so he’s making a great turnaround there and building that program. 

“And I love it because he’s so stressed out about more than just coaching now. I love it because these guys have no idea when you’re head coach all the other things you have to deal with and take care of.” 

Cook said he sent Hildebrand a congratulatory text after the win over Texas. 

Long Beach State returned second-team All-Big West setter Zayna Mayer and two-time All-Big West pin hitter Katie Kennedy while adding transfers from Northwestern (senior outside hitter Hannah Lesiak), Utah (junior outside hitter Abby Karich) and Oregon (junior outside hitter Alise Agi). Junior Savana Chacon has stepped into the libero role this season and is averaging 4.21 digs per set. Kennedy is leading the attack with 2.59 kills per set on .298 hitting. 

“They’ve got a great setter, Tyler’s a great coach, they play really fast, and he’s got several transfers in, so he’s upgraded his roster,” Cook said. “It’s not easy to beat Texas.”

Earlier in the season, Cook descried this Nebraska team as a stampede, which is a theme idea the players were kicking around before the season.

“We talked about it a lot, the idea of when you’re in a stampede, there’s no slowing down, there’s no stopping, you kind of trample everything in your path and you don’t notice who’s in front or behind,” Lindsay Krause said back in August. “There’s just one group working together.”

Nebraska has trampled over its first six opponents, dropping just one set along the way. After the team’s 3-1 win over No. 16 Creighton on Wednesday, Cook used a different analogy.

“We’re getting better every match,” Cook said. “It’s not going to be a rocket ship, it’s going to be a diesel truck going, a tractor. Guys are getting ready to harvest pretty soon, aren’t they? They’re getting the combines out there? We’re on a combine track right now. We’re learning and we’ve got a brutal stretch coming up here of great teams. So we’ve got to keep learning what it’s going to take.”

Creighton was the first team to take a set off Nebraska, ending the Huskers’ streak at 17 straight set wins to open the season. That followed a 2-0 start to the match that saw Nebraska outscore Creighton 50-22 and appear to be cruising toward another sweep. Cook is hoping the Huskers learn from the lapse.

“I just think learning the sense of urgency on every point,” Cook said. “Mentally you cannot let up, and I thought the scoreboard caused us to let up a little bit and then Creighton got back into it, got a nice run, we started making errors … We’ve got to learn the sense of urgency on every point. You can talk about it all you want in practice and you can work on it in practice, but this is where they learn it.”

Nebraska will need to continue upping its game with a stretch of five straight matches against top-20 opponents coming up.

But first Nebraska will have to deal with the Beach. First serve at the Devaney Center on Saturday is set for 7 p.m. CT on Nebraska Public Media and Big Ten Plus.

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