By: NU Athletic communications
The fifth-seeded Nebraska volleyball team will face Colorado at 1 p.m. (CT) on Friday in the Lexington Regional at Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum. The match will be streamed online at ESPN3.com. Friday’s start time may be delayed if the 11 a.m. match – No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 13 BYU – goes long. The winners of Friday’s matches will meet in Saturday’s regional final at 3 p.m. (CT). That match will be televised on ESPNU and streamed on ESPN3.com.
The Big Ten champion Huskers are making their 23rd regional appearance in the last 24 years and are aiming for a third straight final four appearance, which would be a first in program history. Nebraska is no stranger to Lexington, as the Huskers won an NCAA Regional there in 2015 to advance to the final four, where the Huskers ultimately won the national title in Omaha. In that regional – which Kentucky was not part of – NU swept BYU in the regional semifinal and beat Washington 3-1 in the final.
The Husker matches this weekend will be on Husker Sports Network radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and AM 590 in Omaha. A live audio stream will be provided at Huskers.com and on the official Huskers app. John Baylor is in his 24th season doing play-by-play for the Husker volleyball program. Lauren Cook, a former All-America setter for the Huskers, will provide color commentary.
About the Huskers
• The Huskers, ranked fifth in the AVCA Coaches Poll and seeded fifth in the NCAA Tournament, enter the week at 28-4 overall and are riding a 15-match win streak, their longest of the season.
• The Huskers were co-Big Ten Champions with Penn State, as both teams finished 19-1. Nebraska beat Penn State in the only match-up between the teams this season and earned the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Since joining the conference in 2011, the Huskers have now claimed three Big Ten titles (2011, 2016 and 2017).
• Nebraska dropped just 11 sets in Big Ten play this season, its fewest since joining the conference in 2011.
• Nebraska has reached at least 25 wins in a season for the 17th time in head coach John Cook’s 18-year tenure at Nebraska.
• Nebraska finished with a perfect 17-0 home record, its first perfect record at home since 2010. The Huskers have won a nation-leading 30 straight matches at home.
• The Huskers are making their 33rd regional appearance in their 36th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance. Only Stanford equals that nation-leading mark.
• Nebraska ranks second in NCAA Division I history in all-time NCAA Tournament wins (104), trailing only Stanford (117).
• Nebraska has been to the NCAA Semifinals each of the past two years, winning the NCAA Championship in 2015 and falling in the semifinals in 2016. The Husker volleyball program has never had three straight final four appearances.
• The Huskers swept their first two NCAA Tournament matches – Stony Brook and Washington State – and trailed for only one rally the entire weekend.
• The Huskers allowed a total of 80 points combined in the two matches, which was the fewest points allowed by any team in the NCAA Tournament in the first weekend. Stanford allowed 81, while Colorado and BYU allowed 101 and 104, respectively. Colorado and BYU are in the Huskers’ regional this weekend.
• Of the six teams that didn’t lose a set in the NCAA Tournament in the first two rounds, three (Nebraska, Colorado, BYU) are in the Lexington Regional.
• Nebraska has not allowed an NCAA Tournament foe to reach 20 points in a set. Only Stanford has held its opponents under 20 in every set.
• Nebraska ranks sixth in the nation in opponent hitting percentage (.149). The Huskers are 14th in hitting percentage (.285).
• Nebraska ranks 22nd nationally in kills per set (14.22).
• Kelly Hunter, the Big Ten Setter of the Year and AVCA North Region Player of the Year, is putting up 10.79 assists per set and 2.62 digs per set. The only NCAA Division I setter who has set her team to both a national and conference championship (twice), Hunter ranks third in school history with 3,960 career assists at NU.
• Mikaela Foecke leads the team with 3.46 kills per set and adds 2.27 digs per set in her first season as a six-rotation player. Foecke was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection this year.
• Annika Albrecht provides 3.03 kills per set and 2.73 digs per set. Albrecht has 135 career service aces, which ranks sixth in NU career history. Albrecht was also named to the All-Big Ten team.
• Senior middle blocker Briana Holman averages 2.42 kills and 1.13 blocks per set with a team-best .352 hitting percentage.
• Jazz Sweet adds 2.20 kills per set as the right-side hitter, while Lauren Stivrins chips in 2.13 kills and 1.00 blocks per set at middle blocker. Both Sweet and Stivrins were named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
• Nebraska head coach John Cook has moved to fifth all-time in NCAA Division I career win percentage at .829, passing former Stanford coach John Dunning.
• John Cook, Nebraska: 18th year at Nebraska (527-69); 25th year overall (688-142)
• Jesse Mahoney, Colorado: 2nd year at Colorado (38-25); 6th year overall (126-66)
• Craig Skinner, Kentucky: 13th year at Kentucky (301-112)
• Heather Olmstead, BYU: 3rd year at BYU (87-10)
• The Huskers and Buffaloes will be meeting for the first time officially since 2010, when both schools were still members of the Big 12. The teams did play a spring exhibition match in Ogallala, Nebraska in 2016, which Nebraska won 3-0. The Huskers are 49-7 all-time against Colorado and have won the last four meetings.
• Nebraska is 7-2 all-time against Kentucky. The teams last met on Sept. 8, 2012, a 3-1 Husker win. NU has won the last six meetings, as Kentucky’s last win came on Oct. 7, 1983.
• Nebraska is 8-3 all-time against BYU. If the teams were to play in the regional final on Saturday, it would be the third regional meeting between the teams in the last four years. BYU swept NU in a regional final in 2014, while the Huskers returned the favor in a regional semifinal in 2015.
• Colorado has had one of the best turnarounds in Division I, going from 14-16 last year in Jesse Mahoney’s first year as head coach to 24-9 this season. The Buffaloes improved their Pac-12 record from 6-14 last year to 12-8 this year.
• The Buffaloes swept James Madison and then upset 12th-seeded Baylor to advance to regionals.
• Alexa Smith leads Colorado with 3.99 kills per set and 2.83 digs per set. Smith was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection.
• Frankie Shebby contributes 3.52 kills and 2.52 digs per set.
• Middle blocker Naghede Abu averages 1.22 blocks per set to go with 2.12 kills per set on .350 hitting.
• Colorado ranks third in the Pac-12 in opponent hitting (.194), and setter Brynna Deluzio leads all Pac-12 players in total assists with 1,388 (11.10 per set).
• Former Husker assistant coach Lee Maes is an associate head coach on Colorado’s staff. Maes worked under John Cook from 2005-07.
• Kentucky enters the weekend with a 28-3 overall record, and the Wildcats finished 17-1 in the SEC this season.
• Kentucky is seeded fourth in the NCAA Tournament and is ranked sixth in the AVCA Poll.
• The Wildcats have won nine straight matches and survived a scare against Western Kentucky in the second round, coming back from down 0-2 to win in five sets.
• Leah Edmond averages 4.53 kills per set on .318 hitting for the Wildcats. Edmond was the AVCA Southeast Region Player of the Year.
• Kentucky ranks third nationally in hitting percentage (.321).
• Kentucky is coached by former Husker assistant Craig Skinner, who coached under John Cook from 2000-04.
• BYU enters the week at 30-2 and won the West Coast Conference with a 17-1 record.
• The Cougars rank 11th in the nation in blocks per set at 2.92. Cosy Burnett (1.33 per set) and Kennedy Redding (1.27 per set) are the team leaders in that category.
• Veronica Jones-Perry ranks fifth in the nation with 4.82 kills per set. She also has a team-high 41 service aces.
• BYU is riding a nine-match win streak entering its match against Kentucky. The Cougars’ only losses this season are to San Diego (3-1) and Baylor (3-2).
Hunter Guides Young Husker Squad
• All-America setter Kelly Hunter is in her senior season after leading NU to a national championship and a Big Ten championship the past two seasons as team captain and starting setter.
• Hunter was a second-team AVCA All-American in 2016 and an All-Big Ten setter, becoming the first Husker setter since Lauren Cook in 2012 to make the All-Big Ten team. She was named the Big Ten Setter of the Year this season and repeated on the All-Big Ten team as a unanimous selection.
• Hunter was also named the AVCA North Region Player of the Year by the head coaches in the region.
• Hunter ranks third in school history with 3,960 career assists at NU. With 40 more, she will become just the second player in school history to reach 4,000 career assists at Nebraska (Fiona Nepo, 4,824).
• Hunter was named the Big Ten Setter of the Week on Sept. 11 after a double-double of 31 assists and 14 digs against UCLA on Sept. 9.
• She added another honor on Sept. 25 after averaging 12.33 assists in sweeps at Penn State and Rutgers. She has eight career weekly Big Ten awards.
• For the season, Hunter is averaging 10.79 assists per set and 2.65 digs per set. She has a team-best 13 double-doubles.
Albrecht Steps Up as Senior Captain
• Senior outside hitter Annika Albrecht was named a team captain along with Kelly Hunter prior to the season and has stepped into her new role as a six-rotation hitter for the Huskers. She received All-Big Ten honors this year for the first time in her career, as well as AVCA All-North Region accolades.
• Albrecht provides 3.03 kills and 2.73 digs per set along with 30 service aces. She is sixth in school history in career aces with 135.
• The North Aurora, Illinois native made national headlines this season when she tallied a career-high 19 kills on .400 hitting in a 3-0 sweep at Penn State on Sept. 22. For her performance, Albrecht was named the Big Ten Player of the Week, Sports Imports/AVCA Player of the Week and the espnW Player of the Week. The honors were all the first of her career.
Foecke Excelling in Six-Rotation Role
• Junior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke is averaging 3.46 kills per set to lead the Huskers. She was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection this year and repeated as an AVCA All-North Region honoree for the third time.
• Foecke worked hard to become a six-rotation player entering her junior season and has been effective in that role, adding 2.27 digs per set. Foecke has seven double-doubles this season and leads the team in aces with 35.
• Foecke was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Oct. 30 after 14 kills, five digs and three blocks at Michigan State and 13 kills, nine digs and five blocks at Michigan.
• Foecke was a unanimous preseason All-Big Ten selection and was one of just two players to earn a unanimous selection (Minnesota setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson).
• Foecke was the NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player in 2015 – becoming just the third freshman to earn the honor – after 19 kills on .385 hitting in the championship win against Texas. The other freshmen to win the award were Deja McClendon (Penn State, 2010) and Kerri Walsh (Stanford, 1996).
Holman Leads Husker Middle Blockers
• Senior Briana Holman guides a relatively young group of Husker middle blockers, as she teams with redshirt freshman Lauren Stivrins and is backed up by true freshman Chesney McClellan.
• Holman is averaging 2.42 kills and a team-high 1.13 blocks per set for the Huskers while hitting a team-best .352.
• Holman was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 5 and the MVP of the Ameritas Players Challenge after a dominating display over three matches with 25 kills and 18 blocks on .525 hitting.
• Holman earned AVCA All-Region honors for the fourth time in her career this season and received All-Big Ten honorable mention for a second straight year.
• Holman was a first-team AVCA All-American at LSU in 2014 with 3.94 kills and 1.47 blocks per set. She was a two-time All-SEC performer for the Tigers and represented the U.S. Collegiate National Team at the World University Games in South Korea in July 2015.
Huskers Turn to Freshmen for Instant Impact
• With five true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen on the roster, the Huskers needed some new talent to step up in a big way in 2017, and that has happened. All seven have seen playing time this season.
• Redshirt freshman middle blocker Lauren Stivrins is averaging 2.13 kills per set and 1.00 blocks per set.
• Freshman outside hitter Jazz Sweet is fourth on the team in kills at 2.20 per set and is hitting .274. Sweet had an outstanding debut with 14 kills on .375 hitting against Oregon and 16 kills on .323 hitting at Florida. Both Sweet and Stivrins were All-Big Ten Freshman honorees.
• Redshirt freshman setter Hunter Atherton has made two starts and played in 18 matches and has 137 set assists, 46 digs and 11 service aces.
• Freshman outside hitter Anezka Szabo, who plays the same right-side hitter position as Sweet, tallied 10 kills on .400 hitting against Saint Mary’s and has played in 14 matches.
• Freshman defensive specialist Hayley Densberger has earned a reputation as one of the Huskers’ best servers and has eight aces and 34 digs in 26 matches played.
• Freshman middle blocker Chesney McClellan has played in four matches and started the Rutgers match on Sept. 23, producing seven kills and four blocks on .462 hitting.
• Freshman outside hitter Sami Slaughter has played in six matches and had four kills in limited action against Rutgers on Nov. 12.
Huskers Ranked No. 5 in AVCA Coaches Poll
• Nebraska is ranked No. 5 in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll for the third straight week.
• The Huskers have been ranked No. 1 in 98 all-time polls, the most in NCAA history.
• The Huskers have been ranked in the top 10 a total of 469 times, which is also the most in NCAA history.
• Nebraska has appeared in all 524 AVCA Coaches Polls since it was established in 1982. Nebraska and Stanford are the only two programs to be ranked in every poll all-time.
Hunter, Townsend Earn CoSIDA Academic All-District Honors
• Senior setter Kelly Hunter received CoSIDA Academic All-District first-team honors in November, while Sydney Townsend was a second-team honoree. Hunter advanced to the national ballot for CoSIDA Academic All-America honors.
• Hunter, a Papillion-La Vista South graduate, carries a 3.45 cumulative GPA and is a graduate student in the Master of Business Administration program. Hunter received her bachelor’s degree in management/marketing last year.
• Townsend, a Lincoln Pius X graduate, carries a 3.83 GPA majoring in biochemistry. Townsend was the NCAA Elite 90 Award winner last year at the final four and is a two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and a four-time academic All-Big Ten selection.
Cook Adds to Legacy; Will Join AVCA Hall of Fame in December
• Nebraska head coach John Cook is in his 18th season as the Nebraska volleyball head coach in 2017. He has led the Huskers to three national championships, seven final fours, 12 conference championships and 15 top-10 final rankings since 2000. Cook has 688 career wins and is one of the all-time winningest coaches in NCAA history.
• Since taking over the program in 2000, Cook has led the Huskers to a nation-leading .884 win percentage in that time (527-69).
• Under Cook, the Huskers have achieved 49 AVCA All-Americans and 19 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, both among the best in the nation. He is a two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year, earning the prestigious honor in 2000 and 2005, and a seven-time conference coach of the year, including Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2016 and 2017, his first and second Big Ten honors with the Huskers in their Big Ten era (2011-present).
• Cook was named the AVCA North Region Coach of the Year in 2016, his fifth career regional coaching honor and fourth while at Nebraska.
• Cook is one of only four active coaches – and one of six all-time – to be a two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year and was honored in 2008 by USA Volleyball, receiving its All-Time Great Coach Award.
• Cook will be inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in December in Kansas City, Missouri. Cook will join former Husker volleyball coach Terry Pettit in the hall.
Husker Fans Set Attendance Standard Once Again
• Nebraska fans led the nation in attendance for a fourth straight season in 2016 as their 8,210 average per match established a new NCAA attendance record, topping its 2015 average of 8,206.
• The Huskers’ total attendance of 155,986 in 19 home matches also set a school record.
• In 2013, the Huskers led the nation in attendance (8,175) for the first time since 1992, ending Hawaii’s 21-year reign as the national leader.
• The Huskers repeated as attendance champions in 2014 with 8,083 fans per match, which included a school-record 8,585 fans at the Oct. 3 win against Penn State.
• Nebraska has ranked in the top three nationally in attendance every season since 1990 (27 straight seasons).
• The Huskers have sold out every regular-season match since 2001, a streak of 236 consecutive matches, the longest sellout streak in the history of NCAA women’s athletics.
• The Devaney Center has hosted three of the four largest regular-season crowds in NCAA history and six of the 10 largest.
• In 2017, Nebraska averaged 8,202 fans per match and is on pace to once again lead the nation in attendance for the fifth straight year.
Huskers Get Depth From Former Husker Women’s Basketball Player Allie Havers
• The Huskers gained some depth at middle blocker when former Husker women’s basketball player Allie Havers joined the team in the spring.
• Havers, a 6-5 native of Mattawan, Michigan, has one season of eligibility to play volleyball, a sport she excelled at in high school. Havers was a first-team Class A all-state player in Michigan in 2012 and a finalist for Michigan’s Miss Volleyball in 2013.
• On the Nebraska women’s basketball team, Havers closed her career having played in 125 games with 50 starts. She ranked among the top 50 career scorers (720 points) and top 25 career rebounders (541) in Husker history.
• Havers had a shining moment in the NCAA Tournament first-round match against Stony Brook. She entered the match late in the third set and pounded the first two kills of her career to bring the crowd to a standing ovation.
Cook’s Coaching Tree Continues to Grow
• Nebraska head coach John Cook’s assistant coaches have a great track record of moving on to become head coaches.
• After the 2016 season, Nebraska assistants Chris Tamas and Dani Busboom Kelly both accepted high-level Division I head coaching jobs. Busboom Kelly became the head coach at Louisville, while Tamas accepted the head coaching job at Big Ten foe Illinois. Tamas has his Fighting Illini squad in the Sweet 16 in his first year, while Busboom Kelly made the NCAA Tournament with Louisville and was named the AVCA East Region Coach of the Year.
• Seven assistants under Cook have become head coaches following their time on Cook’s Nebraska staff: Craig Skinner (Kentucky), Lee Maes (Virginia), Lizzy Stemke (Georgia), Dan Conners (UC Davis), Dan Meske (Augustana, Associate Head Coach at Louisville), Busboom Kelly and Tamas.
• In the last seven years, five of Cook’s Husker assistants have become head coaches.
New Players, New Coaches
• Not only are six of the 15 Husker players new to the program, so are the two Husker assistant coaches. Former Husker and U.S. Olympic libero Kayla Banwarth, and former Long Beach State men’s associate head coach Tyler Hildebrand are on the Husker bench this year.
• Hildebrand joined the Nebraska coaching staff as an assistant in February of 2017. Hildebrand came to Nebraska after five seasons on the coaching staff of the Long Beach State men’s volleyball program, including two seasons as associate head coach. In 2017, he was the AVCA Division I-II Men’s National Assistant Coach of the Year. A former All-American at Long Beach State, Hildebrand was the top assistant there from 2013-15 after a decorated playing career on the U.S. Men’s National Team. He is a former setter who coordinated both the offense and the blocking defense at Long Beach State at one point in his career.
• Banwarth joined the Nebraska volleyball coaching staff as an assistant in January of 2017. Banwarth completed an illustrious playing career for the Huskers in 2010 before embarking on a professional playing career that saw her win an Olympic bronze medal with the U.S. National Team, as well as an FIVB World Championship. Banwarth is relatively new to the coaching profession after finishing her professional career with the U.S. National Team at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. A U.S. National Team libero since 2011, Banwarth spent two years as a volunteer assistant coach for the Pepperdine men’s volleyball team.