If Stanford and Nebraska are both able to get through the first couple of weeks of the season, Husker volleyball fans may get to see a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup when the Cardinal come to the Devaney Sports Center on Sept. 18.
The AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll came out Tuesday, and the same teams that ended the season at the top are still there. Stanford, which defeated the Huskers in five sets in the NCAA championship match in December, is No. 1 with the Huskers No. 2.
It’s a loss the Huskers haven’t forgotten.
“(It) really created a monster that’s grown inside of us that we are ready to unleash in the next couple of months,” junior outside hitter Jazz Sweet said Friday at the team’s media day. “We’ve seen pictures of it over and over for the past eight months, and so we are ready to get back out there.”
Husker coach John Cook hasn’t forgotten that match either. He said three lost points cost them a national title. Two of them in the fifth sets came on mistakes that should never happen.
“That haunts me,” Cook said. “I don’t know if it’s kept me up, but it’s motivated me to do a better job coaching so if we’re in that position again we’re going to make those plays and not let those things happen.”
Cook was asked if this Nebraska squad could be a Final Four team this season. The Huskers still must figure out how to replace All-American outside hitter Mikaela Foecke.
“I’m not going to say that now,” Cook said. “Now we know what a great player Mikaele Foecke was. She’s literally in the hunt to go to the Olympics as you want to call her a freshman.
“That’s unheard of at that level. So who is going to step up and take that? Ask me in a few months and I’ll tell you. We’ve got Capri Davis, Lexi Sun, Jazz Sweet. All those guys. Who’s going to take over that responsibility and who’s going to do it under pressure?”
Stanford received 62 first-place votes in the AVCA poll and wracked up 1,598 points. Nebraska had one first-place vote with 1,451 points.
The Huskers aren’t the only Big Ten team in the five of the AVCA poll. Minnesota is third, Texas fourth and Wisconsin fifth.
Illinois is sixth, Kentucky seventh and Penn State eighth. The Nittany Lions received the other first-place vote in the poll.
BYU and Florida round out the top 10.
Michigan checks in at 15th and Purdue 17th.
Nebraska is scheduled to play 12 regular-season matches against teams in the preseason top 25. That includes No. 18 Creighton
The Huskers will open the season against the Blue Jays on Aug. 30 at the Devaney Center as part of the Husker Invitational.
This is the fourth straight year both teams have been in the preseason top 25.
The Huskers downed the Blue Jays in five sets last September at the CHI Health Center in Omaha. Cook expects another challenge this year, but said he likes what his team did over the summer.
“They are a close-knit group and they’ve worked really hard,” he said Friday at the team’s annual media day. “We got a shot, so that’s all I want. I haven’t slept for the last couple nights just because I’m so excited for this season to start, and I’m really glad I feel that way because that’s the way it should be. This is a big deal.”