The Nebraska volleyball team begins the 2019 season with two home matches this weekend as part of the Husker Invitational. The second-ranked Huskers will play No. 18 Creighton in an in-state showdown to open the season at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Devaney Center. Then on Saturday, Nebraska will close the tournament against UCLA at 7 p.m. The other matches this weekend are Baylor vs. UCLA at 4:30 p.m. on Friday and Creighton vs. Baylor at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Doors to the Devaney Center will open at 3:30 p.m. both days.
• The Husker matches will be televised on NET and will be streamed on BTNPlus.com and the BTN+ app. Subscriptions start at $9.95 per month. Both matches will be broadcast on Husker Sports Network radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and 105.9 FM in Omaha on Friday and AM 590 in Omaha on Saturday. A live audio stream will be provided at Huskers.com and also on the official Huskers app. John Baylor is in his 26th season doing play-by-play for the Husker volleyball program. Lauren (Cook) West, a former All-America setter for the Huskers, will provide color commentary.
• Three-time AVCA All-America setter Greichaly Cepero will be honored between sets two and three on Friday. Cepero is being inducted into the Nebraska Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday. A two-time Big 12 Player of the Year, Cepero was the AVCA National Player of the Year in 2000. That season, Cepero guided Nebraska to a 34-0 record and was the Most Outstanding Player at the NCAA Tournament when the Huskers won the national championship. Cepero helped Nebraska to a 123-10 record during her career, which included three conference titles and two trips to the NCAA Semifinals. She ranks third in school history in career assists.
• John Cook, Nebraska: 20th year at Nebraska (560-76); 27th year overall (721-149)
• Kirsten Bernthal Booth, Creighton: 17th year at Creighton (346-165); 20th year overall (458-206)
• Michael Sealy, UCLA: 10th year at UCLA (198-90)
• Nebraska is 18-0 all-time against Creighton. The Bluejays came as close as they ever have to taking down the Huskers last September in Omaha. Creighton took a 2-0 lead in the match at CHI Health Center Omaha, but the Huskers pulled off the comeback with 25-18, 25-22, 15-10 wins in the final three sets. It marked the first time a match between the teams has ever gone five sets.
• Nebraska is 12-5 all-time against UCLA. The last meetings were in 2017 when the Bruins came to Lincoln for back-to-back matches in the same weekend. NU swept both matches. UCLA’s last win against the Huskers came in 2009 in the Ameritas Players Challenge, 3-2.
• Creighton went 29-5 (18-0 BIG EAST) in 2018 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bluejays, who have been to seven straight NCAA Tournaments, are picked second in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches Poll.
• Senior setter Madelyn Cole was a first-team All-BIG EAST selection last year after averaging 10.92 assists per set with 51 service aces last year.
• Middle blocker Megan Ballenger returns after averaging 2.53 kills per set on .305 hitting last year. Libero Brittany Witt averaged 4.32 digs per set last season. Both are preseason All-BIG EAST selections.
• UCLA went 13-14 (8-12 Pac-12) in 2018 and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. The Bruins were picked seventh in the Pac-12 Preseason Coaches Poll.
• The Bruins return top hitter Mac May, who put up 3.69 kills per set and 34 aces as a sophomore and was an All-Pac-12 selection.
• Outside hitter Jenny Mosser averaged 2.44 kills per set and 2.27 digs per set last season.
Three Huskers Named to Preseason All-Big Ten Team
• Nicklin Hames, Lauren Stivrins and Lexi Sun were all voted to the 14-player preseason team by the conference’s head coaches. Additionally, the Huskers were picked second in the preseason poll behind Wisconsin. Minnesota was third.
• Stivrins, a Scottsdale, Arizona native, had a breakout sophomore season to earn first-team All-Big Ten and first-team AVCA All-America honors in 2018. The Huskers’ co-captain averaged 2.36 kills per set and had a hitting percentage of .421, the third-highest mark in school history and the No. 3 mark in the nation last season. Stivrins was selected to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team after a career-high 19 kills on .615 hitting in the championship match against No. 1 Stanford.
• Hames, a sophomore from Maryville, Tennessee, set the Huskers to the NCAA Championship match as a true freshman. The Huskers’ co-captain finished the season with 10.49 assists per set and 3.32 digs per set, along with 40 service aces, second-most on the team. Hames had 25 double-doubles during the 2018 season, which broke Jordan Larson’s school record for double-doubles. She tallied a career-best 62 assists in the NCAA final against Stanford with 12 digs.
• Sun, a junior from Encinitas, California, is Nebraska’s top returning kills leader. She averaged 3.11 kills per set and 2.69 digs per set in 2018, her first season as a Husker. Sun was one of NU’s top servers with 30 aces on the season, and she played a big role for the Huskers down the stretch with 19 kills and 12 digs in the NCAA Semifinal win over Illinois.
“29,029” and “To Be Continued…”
• The 2019 Nebraska volleyball team has two slogans for the season: 29,029 and To Be Continued…
• 29,029 is the elevation in feet of Mount Everest. The Huskers, who nearly reached the peak of college volleyball in 2018 before coming up three points short against Stanford, are using the memory of that defeat to motivate them in 2019. The Huskers will play 29 regular-season matches, and Head Coach John Cook said the hardest part of climbing Mount Everest is the final 29 feet. “Many people say the elevation is 29,000 feet, forgetting the final 29 feet. We got to that 29,000 (in 2018). We didn’t get that last 29 feet. All the bad things happen in the last 29 feet. People mentally let go, they’re exhausted, they get stuck. Our whole theme is we’ve got to figure out how to get the last 29 feet.”
• The Huskers also have a team slogan of “To Be Continued…” in 2019. The slogan references the Huskers continuing what they couldn’t quite finish in 2018 – winning an NCAA Championship. It also means carrying on the recent success of the program (four straight NCAA Semifinals appearances) and preparing to bring back the entire team for the 2020 season, as the Huskers have no seniors on their roster for the first time in program history. The ellipsis signifies the three points that separated the Huskers from a national championship in 2018.
Foecke and Maloney Leave Big Shoes to Fill
• This year, the Huskers will be without two players who led the program to four straight final fours from 2015-18 in Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney. The All-Americans both graduated, leaving big production to replace at outside hitter and libero. Foecke and Maloney won two NCAA titles, two Big Ten titles and won more postseason matches than any other player in Husker history.
• Stivrins, Hames and Sweet are among 10 returning players who will be counted on to step up for the Huskers. Jazz Sweet also returns to lead the Huskers on the right side, and sophomore Callie Schwarzenbach is back after breaking the Nebraska freshman record for blocks last season with 177. Sophomore hitter Capri Davis played a big role last year coming off the bench, and sophomore Megan Miller and Hayley junior Densberger both have a plethora of experience in the back row.
• A group of six freshmen will help offset the loss of the most decorated senior class in school history. Three of the six newcomers – outside hitter Madi Kubik, middle blocker Riley Zuhn, libero Kenzie Knuckles– were PrepVolleyball.com All-Americans and ranked among the top 40 prospects in the 2019 class. The Huskers’ incoming class was ranked No. 2 by PrepVolleyball.com.
Huskers Visit Asia in Summer of 2019
• The Nebraska volleyball team took a 17-day trip to Japan and China over the summer. The Huskers took on top professional teams from the two countries during the trip, winning about half of the sets they played. Head Coach John Cook called it “by far the best” of the five trips his teams have taken to Asia in his 20 years at Nebraska.
• In addition to the highly competitive matches, the Huskers also toured numerous sites in Asia, including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall of China. With six newcomers and no seniors on the roster for the 2019 season, the trip was a great opportunity for the team to bond on and off the court, a team that will spend the next two years playing together.
• The NCAA allows a team to take a foreign trip every four years, and Cook has made it a habit to take his team to Asia. Previous trips have usually paid off with successful seasons. In the last four seasons following a Cook-led foreign trip, Nebraska has responded by winning three conference titles and two national championships.
• Cook took his first team to Asia prior to the 2000 season, his first as Nebraska’s head coach. The Huskers responded with a 34-0 season and the program’s second national championship.
• In 2006, Cook took his team back to Asia and the results were the same: another national championship. The Huskers went 33-1 following their international trip and capped the national title with a 3-1 victory over Stanford in front of 17,209 fans at the Qwest Center in Omaha.
• Nebraska went back to Asia in 2010. Although NU did not win the national title that year, it did put together a 29-3 season that included a Big Ten title. Nebraska took a No. 3 ranking into the NCAA Tournament but was upset in a four-set loss at No. 11 Washington in the NCAA Regional Semifinal.
• The Huskers’ last Asia trip in 2014 with only one senior was followed by a 23-10 season. But the following year saw that young group go on to win the program’s fourth national title.
Nebraska Fans Continue Record-Setting Consecutive Sellout Streak
• Nebraska volleyball holds an NCAA women’s record 253 consecutive regular-season sellouts.
• Nebraska led the nation in attendance in 2018 for the sixth straight year since moving into the Bob Devaney Sports Center in 2013, averaging 8,205 fans per match.
• Nebraska has ranked in the top three nationally in attendance every season since 1990 (28 straight seasons).
Huskers Ranked No. 2 in AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll
• Nebraska is ranked No. 2 in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll. NU began and ended last season at No. 2.
• The Huskers have been ranked No. 1 in 99 all-time polls, the most in NCAA history.
• The Huskers have been ranked in the top 10 a total of 487 times, which is also the most in NCAA history.
• Nebraska has appeared in all 542 AVCA Coaches Polls since it was established in 1982. Nebraska and Stanford are the only two programs to be ranked in every poll all-time.
AVCA Hall of Fame Head Coach John Cook Enters 20th Season at Nebraska
• Nebraska head coach John Cook is in his 20th season as the Nebraska volleyball head coach in 2019. He has led the Huskers to four national championships, nine final fours, 12 conference championships and 17 top-10 final rankings since 2000. Cook has 721 career wins and is one of the all-time winningest coaches in NCAA history.
• Since taking over the program in 2000, Cook has led the Huskers to a nation-leading .881 win percentage in that time (560-76).
• Under Cook, the Huskers have achieved 55 AVCA All-Americans and 19 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, both among the best in the nation. He is a two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year, earning the prestigious honor in 2000 and 2005, and a seven-time conference coach of the year, including Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2016 and 2017, his first and second Big Ten honors with the Huskers in their Big Ten era (2011-present).
• Cook is one of only four active coaches – and one of six all-time – to be a two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year and was honored in 2008 by USA Volleyball, receiving its All-Time Great Coach Award.
• Cook was inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2017, joining former Husker volleyball coach Terry Pettit in the hall.
• Cook became the ninth active Division I head coach to reach 700 career wins in 2018.