LINCOLN — The Nebraska volleyball team isn’t exactly heading into its biggest weekend of the season with a head of steam.
The Huskers (22-3, 14-2 in the Big Ten) have a nice winning streak going with six straight victories, but they struggled Saturday night in a 3-2 win over Iowa, a team that entered the match with a 3-12 record in the Big Ten.
“Going into this week we know we’ve got to look at what went wrong against Iowa, what we did good against Iowa and then move on and get ready for these two games this weekend,” sophomore setter Nicklin Hames said. “I think it’s things that we can control, like communication and having energy and going out there with the right mindset. I think we just weren’t really in the right mindset and we weren’t communicating and it showed out on the court.”
The Huskers will need to do all those things when they go on the road to face Minnesota (20-4, 14-2) on Friday and league-leading Wisconsin (19-5, 15-1) on Sunday.
Nebraska, Minnesota and Penn State are all tied for second in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin with four matches to play before the end of the regular season.
“I think if you’d asked me at the beginning of the season in our non-conference play if we could be in the position we’re in right now. I would say I’ll take it,” Nebraska coach John Cook said Monday at his weekly press conference. “We can’t ask for anything better than going into a big weekend with a lot on the line, and that’s what we want. We want a shot at this.
“It’s going to be a tough road going on the road twice at Minnesota, Wisconsin, but that’s life in the Big Ten, so we’re looking forward to the opportunity to see if we go to another level.”
Hames said the players know what’s at stake this week. The Huskers won Big Ten titles in 2016 and 2017.
“It’s a big week, but you know we don’t want to put too much emphasis on it because it’s another Big Ten game,” Hames said. “It’s going to be a battle, no matter what. The Big Ten title is there, there is a race for it so this these two games have a little bit more priority.
“But we’re just going to go out there be ourselves, battle hard and see where that takes us,”
This is the first Friday-Sunday weekend of the season for the Huskers. Hames said it’s the first one she remembers in her nearly two seasons with the program.
Last year the Huskers played at Wisconsin on a Friday and lost 3-2, then fell 3-1 the next night at Minnesota.
“I think it’s going to be nice having that little break between because I remember last year when we made this road trip,” Hames said. “We got done at Wisconsin at like 11:30, and then didn’t even get to Minnesota until like 1 or 2 a.m, and so it was hard bouncing back the next day and playing Minnesota, because they’re both really good teams.
“And so having that day in between, you kind of get to reset before you play the next game kind of recover so that’ll be nice.”
Cook doesn’t really agree about playing Friday-Sunday.
“I would prefer to play Friday-Saturday because when you go to Sunday, it makes for a really long week, and then it changes the routine of the next week,” Cook said. “Our players like having Sundays off, which I’m sure all college students do.”
Kubik honored by Big Ten
Nebraska freshman Madi Kubik was named the Big Ten Conference freshman of the week.
The outside hitter from West Des Moines, Iowa, averaged 4.38 kills per set and 2.25 digs per set in wins over Michigan State and Iowa last week, It was her second career Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor.
Kubik had 19 kills and tied her career high with 16 digs in the five-set win over Iowa on Saturday. She recorded 16 kills on .306 hitting in a sweep at Michigan State last Wednesday.