Nebraska coach John Cook said Jazz Sweet was “on a mission,” this past weekend.
The Nebraska junior right side hitter took her play up a notch in two Big Ten road wins for the No. 2 Huskers.
She led the Huskers with 18 kills and hit .351 in a five-set win over Illinois to open the Big Ten season. The next night, Sweet again led the team with 13 kills while hitting .561 in a 3-set win over Northwestern.
“Jazz was on a mission this weekend,” Cook said. “Hope it keeps up. Finally we saw her on a mission. She was a very inspired, determined player and had a really good weekend.”
It may have been Sweet’s best weekend of play in her two-plus seasons with the Husker program.
“I just think I’m definitely competing,” Sweet said. “We were just all doing what we could do to put our team in the best position to win.”
Cook said he saw more intensity from Sweet in the two Big Ten road matches than he had seen during the non-conference portion of the schedule.
“She wants to be a great player,” Cook said. “That’s her mission. She had a great Asian trip to start off the year, then she didn’t seem very inspired. She sure brought it this weekend. It was fun to watch.”
Cook couldn’t really say why Sweet played so well, but he hopes it continues when the Huskers (10-1, 2-0) travel to Rutgers (6-7, 0-2) Wednesday night for their third straight road match to open the Big Ten season.
“She was inspired for whatever reason,” Cook said. “I’d like to see her do that every night. We challenged her with that. I’m on her all the time. She plays right there (in practice) where I stand.”
Part of Sweet’s success might be traced back to more experience with setter Nicklin Hames. The two now have a full year of playing together under their belts. That’s given them more time to get their timing down and learn how to play together.
“I think it’s definitely her knowing she can fire it back there and knowing she’ll have success setting everyone,” Sweet said. “But the backset is probably one of the hardest sets to set. It takes a lot of work to get your confidence there and to be able to fire it around no matter where you’re at on the floor.”
Sweet, a 6-3 junior from Topeka, Kansas, is now one of the Huskers’ most experienced players. She was on the national championship team as a freshman in 2017 and on the national runner-up team last season.
“She’s one of our older players now,” Cook said. “She’s won a national championship and been very close. She knows what it takes. Can she make her teammates around her better? That’s going to be a big step for her.”
Now Cook would like to see the entire team step up to the level Sweet showed this past weekend. It will take that kind of performance for the Huskers to reach their potential.
“For us, we have to have everybody play like that,” Cook said. “We have to be a balanced attack. But when you have a lefty over there you can set her in a lot more situations than you can with a righty. That’s what helps take a load off our left sides.”
For Sweet, it’s now a matter of doing her thing match after match.
“I think I’ve been through enough hard matches and big enough situations I definitely trust my training when I go out there,” Sweet said. “I definitely trust my ability to play volleyball with this team at this point.”