The Nebraska volleyball team has had an impressive season, with a 25-4 record and a second-place finish in the Big Ten.
The Huskers earned the No. 5 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament, which they will open with a first-round match against Ball State on Friday in Lincoln.
Nebraska’s four losses each came against teams ranked in the top 15 — to Wisconsin twice, Stanford and Purdue.
Nebraska’s best wins were against No. 7 Minnesota and No. 8 Penn State.
And as good as the season has been — especially when you consider Nebraska graduated two of its best players from last season in Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney — Coach John Cook thinks the Huskers can go to a higher level in the NCAA Tournament.
“I still think we’ve got another level, and I’m hoping it comes out in the tournament,” Cook said. “We’ve shown it at times. We just haven’t been consistent enough. But winning at Minnesota was a big boost for us.”
To go to the next level, right-side hitter Jazz Sweet says Nebraska needs to improve getting kills on out-of-system attacks. Lexi Sun says Nebraska can improve in serving and passing.
Nebraska hasn’t done well against Wisconsin — a team Nebraska may have to play a third time in the tournament — but Cook says those matches have shown the players the level they have to reach.
“You got to remember this is a really young team and they’re getting battle-tested and we’ve done a good job,” Cook said. “I’m happy for them that they’ve done as well as they have and got to this point. I think we have another level though. We call it going from good, to great, to unstoppable. That's my job to get them there by (Friday).”
Cook was pleased with how consistent Nebraska has played.
“We weren’t ready for Stanford when we played them, and Wisconsin played great against us both times,” Cook said. “But I think they’re understanding the level they’re going to have to play at to make a big run here.”
Big Ten finish: Nebraska finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Big Ten with a 17-3 record. Minnesota and Penn State also tied for second. Wisconsin won the league at 18-2.
It comes in a conference where seven teams were ranked.
“This conference is brutal,” Cook said. “I was texting with Kelly Sheffield, the Wisconsin coach. He called our conference gnarly. I said, ‘It’s brutal.’ It’s a war every week.”
Wisconsin claimed its sixth Big Ten title and the first since 2014.
Cook feels good about where the Huskers finished in the standings.
“It’s nice to win the championship, but to finish second in this conference is a big accomplishment,” Cook said.
This was Nebraska’s ninth year in the Big Ten and its won the championship three times, finishing second four times. The Huskers’ lowest finish was fourth.
Poll update: Nebraska is No. 6 in the final regular-season coaches’ poll. Each of the top six teams stayed the same as last week: Baylor, Pittsburgh, Stanford, Texas, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Another deep run in the tournament wouldn't be unprecedented for Nebraska despite not being ranked in the top four. When Nebraska reached the national championship match the past two seasons, it was ranked No. 5 and No. 6.
Worth quoting: “I like the talking trash afterwards. That’s my favorite part (of blocking). Just because I’m small.” — Nebraska’s Nicklin Hames.