Typically on a Monday, Coach John Cook — a big fan of cross-sport analogies — bats leadoff for Nebraska’s Monday press conference, reflecting on the past week and looking ahead to his team’s upcoming matches.
This isn’t a typical week, however, and Cook wasn’t at the podium on the sixth floor of Memorial Stadium on Monday. That’s because the Nebraska volleyball team is already in California as the Huskers gear up for their first match of the season outside of Nebraska.
The Huskers are taking on Stanford on Tuesday night. They flew out on Sunday, practiced in Palo Alto on Monday and will fly back to Lincoln Tuesday night after the match.
“It’s going to be really tough,” Cook said after Nebraska’s loss to Utah on Saturday night. “They’re good, and going there… But we need to get on the road and learn how to compete.”
The loss to Utah was Nebraska’s first setback of the season, and it came after the Huskers raced out to a 2-0 lead and had a couple of match points in the third set.
“How do we bounce back? Reload and go,” Cook said. “You’re only as good as your last match and there are a lot of hard matches, so you’ve got to get over wins and losses fast and prepare and get better and learn from it.”
Senior setter Nicklin Hames said bringing energy and finishing strong will be two of the Huskers’ big focuses coming out of the Utah loss.
“We look at it, we move on, try to figure out what happened, what went wrong, and just do what we can control,” Hames said. “I feel like our energy was really low and so going into next game, making sure we have a lot of energy. I felt like maybe we thought that it was going to be an easy sweep after we went up two sets and we can’t let that happen again because we’re playing great teams. Utah’s a great team and we’re going to Stanford, we can’t let that happen.
“So just being really determined and, honestly, we really need to work on finishing. So going into matches knowing when it comes down to it, we really have to finish at the end.”
The quick turnaround means the Huskers won’t have long to think about what went wrong against the Utes.
“It sucks right now but it’s really important to just not dwell on anything because it’s a learning moment, obviously,” freshman opposite hitter Lindsay Krause said. “We just have to use it and take what we can and learn from it and go into the next match head on.”
The Stanford match is part of a multi-year agreement between the Cardinal, Huskers, Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats. The Huskers will return to Lincoln to host Louisville, coached by former Husker Dani Busboom Kelly, on Saturday.
“Us, Stanford and Kentucky have won the last six national championships, so there you go,” Cook said. “And then Louisville’s in there, but they’re going to play Kentucky every year. We’ll play Stanford every year. We’ve got to get tested for the Big Ten.”
Tuesday’s match with the Cardinal will be Nebraska’s third straight top-20 matchup. Stanford is at No. 16 in this week’s AVCA Coaches Poll, dropping two spots from last week after splitting matches with Minnesota (3-1 loss) and Penn State (3-2 win) in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.
The Huskers (6-1) dropped from No. 3 to No 6 after sweeping Creighton and falling to Utah. Despite losing to the Huskers, the Bluejays (9-1) climbed two spots to No. 17 after dropping just one set all weekend in wins over SMU, Illinois and Omaha. Utah (7-0) leaped up 10 spots to No. 10. Louisville (6-0), Nebraska’s final nonconference opponent, moved up from No. 10 to No. 5.
Texas (7-0) remained atop the rankings with 53 first-place votes. Wisconsin (6-0) held steady at No. 2, receiving 11 first-place votes.
Ohio State (8-0) replaced the Huskers at No. 3, moving up one spot. Purdue (5-1) dropped three spots to No. 9. Minnesota (3-3) moved up two spots to No. 11 after beating Minnesota and Oregon. Penn State (5-3) rounds out the Big ten teams in the poll at No. 20, down two spots for last week. Michigan is among those receiving votes with eight points, good for 31st.
Kathryn Plummer may be gone, but Stanford still has a pair of fantastic pins in outside hitter Caitie Baird (4.23 kills per set on .281 hitting) and opposite hitter Kendall Kipp (3.41 kills per set on .281 hitting). Freshman setter Kami Miner is averaging 11.55 assists per set while guiding a Cardinal offense that is hitting .277 overall. Sophomore libero Elena Oglivie is leading the defensive effort with 5.05 digs per set and is tied for the team lead with seven aces.
Tuesday’s match will be televised on the Pac-12 Network. First serve is set for 7 p.m. CT.
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.