Volleyball notebook: Cook says Creighton will be best team Nebraska has played this season

September 4, 2018
Nebraska's Jazz Sweet goes in for a kill against Santa Clara during the Ameritas Players Challenge on Sept. 1 at the Devaney Sports Center.

When the Nebraska volleyball team plays Creighton on Thursday, coach John Cook says the Bluejays will be the best opponent Nebraska has played this season.

That gets your attention, considering the Huskers played Florida in the first match of the season in a rematch of the national championship from 2017, and Nebraska got beat. The Huskers also played Oregon, a top-20 team playing in the Pac-12 Conference.

But, Cook was ready to defend his statement about Creighton, which is ranked No. 14 in the AVCA poll, with a list of reasons why. It starts with Creighton having two good outside hitters in Jaali Winters and Taryn Kloth, which is something Nebraska doesn’t have right now.

“Their transfer setter (Madelyn Cole) is doing a really nice job, (Megan Ballenger) has been a great player the whole time she’s been there, Brittany Witt is a great libero,” Cook said. “They’re only playing one freshmen, really. They’re experienced; they know what they’re doing.”

Creighton has a 4-2 record and has challenged itself by already playing top-10 ranked teams Kentucky and USC. The Bluejays beat Kentucky and lost to USC, but also lost to Northern Iowa.

Nebraska and Creighton did not play last season, with Cook opting to play in a tournament at UNO instead. After Nebraska lost its first two matches of 2017, Creighton fans wished they were scheduled to play the Huskers that season, thinking that could be the year Creighton got its first win against the Huskers. Creighton was ranked higher than Nebraska at one point last season.

Creighton and Nebraska last played in 2016, with the Huskers winning in four sets. Cook is looking forward to playing a good opponent.

“You look on paper, they’re way more experienced than us and they’ve been in a lot more bigger matches then we have with that group then we have,” Cook said.

Creighton got more practice time this summer than Nebraska because they went on a foreign trip, and Cook said it shows in how they’re playing.

The plan is for Creighton and Nebraska to play again next season in Lincoln, and Cook thinks it’s good when they play.

The match has been moved from Creighton’s on-campus arena to the CHI Health Center Omaha. There have already been 10,500 tickets sold for the 17,000-seat arena.

“For the state of the Nebraska, there is probably going to be over 10,000 in there, and we all ought to be proud of where women’s volleyball is in this state, and there is a great example of it,” Cook said.

Next recruiting class visits: The next class of Nebraska players made its official recruiting visit trip together last weekend, and got to take in the Huskers’ matches and be on the field before the Nebraska football game on Saturday evening.

The class is outside hitters Madi Kubik (West Des Moines, Iowa), Riley Zuhn (Fort Collins, Colorado) and Fallon Stutheit (Johnson-Brock), libero Kenzie Knuckles (Yorktown, Indiana) and defensive specialist Emma Gabel (Lincoln Pius X).

Prepvolleyball.com recently released its ranking of the top 100 high school seniors. Kubik was No. 4, Zuhn 32nd and Knuckles 37th. Four of the top 10 players are Stanford commits.

Kubik and Knuckles are each planning to graduate from high school early to join the team for spring practice.

Poll shakeup: There was a lot of shakeup in the AVCA poll after then-No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 Texas, No. 4 Florida and No. 7 USC lost last week. Central Florida beat USC, with Lincoln Southeast graduate Nerissa Moravec having six kills and hitting .417 in the match for Central Florida.

Minnesota moved up to No. 1 in the poll, and Wisconsin is No. 2. Nebraska (4-1) won all three matches last week, but in the shakeup, dropped two spots to No. 7. There are four Big Ten teams in the top-10.

USA wins: The U.S. youth national team swept Canada late Saturday to win the NORCECA under-18 Continental Championship in Honduras. The Americans finished the tournament with a 5-0 record. Nebraska commit Kennedi Orr was chosen as the best setter of the tournament. Husker commit and Omaha Skutt sophomore Lindsay Krause was also on the U.S. team.

Winner, winner: While the competition wasn’t great, it’s noteworthy that all three NCAA Division I programs from the state won a tournament last week. Nebraska won the Ameritas Players Challenge, Creighton the SMU Classic in Dallas and UNO the Omaha Challenge.

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