Lauren Stivrins

Lauren Stivrins (26) prepares to spike the ball in the match against Florida during the VERT Challenge on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

After starting the season 1-1, reigning NCAA Volleyball champions, the Huskers, are set to take on Wake Forest, Ohio and Santa Clara this weekend. Nebraska plays two games on Friday Aug. 31, against Ohio at noon and Wake Forest at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Sept. 1, the Huskers take on Santa Clara at 2 p.m. to close the weekend.

Last week, the Huskers were ranked No. 2, but after a tough loss to now-No. 4 Florida, the Huskers dropped down to the fifth spot. The next few games Nebraska plays are against unranked teams, giving the Huskers a break from tough teams. However, freshman Megan Miller said to never sleep on the unranked opponents.

“You can never overlook any team,” Miller said. “The coaches do a good job in practice. We don’t focus on one team, we focus on the plays we have to run.”

Ohio currently stands at a 1-3 record this season, having faced one ranked team so far. The Bobcats started the season with a three-game losing streak, defeated by No. 14 Pittsburgh, Texas A&M and Ohio State, but came back to win their most recent game against Albany.

Sophomore Tia Jimerson has helped the Bobcats offensively this year. She led the team in kills against Texas A&M and Albany, with 14 and 16 kills respectively. Jimerson is averaging 3.27 kills per set and had over 30 assists in both games.

As for Wake Forest, the team has yet to win a game this season, losing to Maryland, Air Force and University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Junior Caitlyn Della leads the Deacons with 24 kills overall this season in seven sets of action. She leads the team with three solo blocks, while Wake Forest is out-blocking its opponents 13.5-12.

Husker sophomore Lauren Stivrins should be a tough match for both Jimerson and Della. She leads the Huskers with eight blocks and added 16.5 points this season. She is averaging 2.36 points per set and one solo block.

Stivrins will be a challenge for all three teams, even for a Santa Clara team that averages 12.93 kills per set. Santa Clara started off its season 2-2 after losing to Idaho, but the team came back and defeated New Mexico to even their season record.

Defensively, Santa Clara is doing well, averaging 2.18 blocks per set against its opponents compared to Nebraska, which only averages 1.9 blocks per set. Comparing Nebraska to its opponents, the opponents are out-blocking the Huskers 15-13.5 and Nebraska is barely outscoring its opponents 166-164.

Nebraska played two ranked teams last weekend making that competition more difficult, but as Miller said earlier, the team should never have the mindset they will have an easy win.

Head coach John Cook tried to keep that mindset with the team as they head into unranked games. Anytime the thought of it comes up in team conversations, Cook said he loves to remind the team of the Northern Iowa game from last season. When the Huskers faced UNI, the team was on a six-game win streak before losing to the unranked Panthers. Cook said he feels the team can focus energy on improving for the games ahead.

“I think this team is young enough that they know they still need to keep improving,” Cook said. “We are still motivated to keep getting better.”

Cook said he saw a lot of good things in practice this week, but what the team needs to focus on is remaining consistent. After watching video this week, he saw the team becoming more consistent and getting rid of errors, but still needs improvement from the players.

“Usually when you watch video as a coach, you tend the see a lot of bad things you do,” Cook said. “But I saw a lot of really good things we do.”