S18NUvolleyball

Nebraska's Hayley Densberger (43) bumps to pass during the second set of the Ameritas Players Challenge volleyball match against Ohio at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday, August 31, 2018. BRENDAN SULLIVAN/THE WORLD-HERALD

Hayley Densberger is always ready.

Whenever John Cook calls on her to serve, she’s there.

“Usually most of the time we’ll know a couple of rotations before if I’m going in,” Densberger said. “I’ll look at (volunteer coach Andrew) Sato and he’ll tell me if I’m serving or not serving. If he does, I just try to get mentally prepared and calm myself down a little bit. We do a lot of breathing exercises.

“I think in the bigger games, the games we try to get super excited for, even when we’re on the bench we’re still invested in the team and the game. That helps you stay ready because you’re paying attention to the game and everything that goes into it.”

Densberger will be ready when and if the No. 7 Huskers (19-3, 11-2 in the Big Ten) call on her against Iowa (9-15, 3-10) in a 7 p.m. game Saturday in Iowa City. The Huskers are 29-0 all time against the Hawkeyes.

Densberger, a junior from Malcolm, played in 30 matches as a freshman serving specialist on the 2017 national championship team. Last year she played in 32 matches on a team that went all the way to the NCAA championship match before losing to Stanford.

This season, Densberger hasn’t played quite as much but has been in 17 of 22 matches.

“I’m here for whatever the team needs,” Densberger said. “When I go in, I try to make the most out of it and capitalize on those moments. So whatever the team needs I’m here for.”

Last weekend the Huskers knocked off rival Penn State in a classic five-set match at the Devaney Center in front of the usual sell out crowd. That was just a week after the death of graduate manager Dane Leclair who fell from the fourth floor of a downtown parking garage on Oct. 26.

That’s part of the reason Densberger stopped to smell the roses before the Penn State match began with over 8,000 Husker fans in attendance.

“Husker Nation shows up every single time that we play,” Densberger said. “They are so supportive of us. I actually made a point of doing that this past weekend, after the long week and everything. When we were in warmups and they’re playing the video, usually I watch the video. I just looked around, and was like, ‘Wow.’

“Just taking in the experience and the moment. I don’t even have words for it. It just blows my mind that every night 8,000 people come out to support us. They’re always on our side. I think that’s such an amazing and awarding thing we get to do.”

Nebraska is coming off a dominant 25-18, 25-7, 25-18 sweep of Northwestern Wednesday night at the Devaney Center. The Huskers held the Wildcats to a season-low -.054 hitting percentage. That was the Huskers’ best defensive performance in the past two seasons.

Nebraska has now won 48 straight matches against unranked opponents dating back to 2017.

The Huskers seem to be finding their groove as the season winds down, but that’s become common for Cook’s teams. Over the last five seasons, the Huskers are 55-3 in November and December. They haven’t lost a November match since Nov. 23, 2016 at Minnesota.

Densberger said this team has the potential to get back to the Final Four for the fifth straight season.

“For sure,” Densberger said. “Even though we are young — and a lot of people are like, ‘They don’t have Mikaela Foecke and they don’t have Kenzie Maloney, all the past players’ — we’ve had amazing players in the past I got to play with and it’s hard to fill those shoes, but I think we’re doing a really good job.

“I think Penn State was an eye opener not only for the fans but for us as a team. If we dig down deep, we can do anything. We can play at a really, really high level. It’s just doing it every single night, every single day playing at a consistently high level. We’ll get there.”

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