The No. 7 Nebraska volleyball team heads to Omaha to take on the No. 14 Creighton Bluejays in an in-state battle that Nebraska has dominated over the past two decades.
Since 1998, Nebraska has defeated the Bluejays in almost every matchup, except for a 2013 match. Similar to 2013, the Bluejays may have the strength to beat Nebraska again. Nebraska head coach John Cook said that while Nebraska has historically dominated this matchup, Creighton could prove a challenge for the Huskers.
“Creighton is the best team we have played up to this date, so we are going to have our hands full and have to put in effort in Omaha,” Cook said during his press conference Monday.
Cook said Creighton is more experienced this year, which poses a challenge for the young Huskers. Cook listed two juniors, Megan Ballenger and Brittany Witt, as players to watch in the upcoming game.
Ballenger leads the Bluejays in attack percentage, hitting .331 this season. She accounts for 77 of Creighton’s points this season and averages 3.5 points per set. Last year, Ballenger accounted for 327 of Creighton’s 2,084 points on the season.
Witt also helped the Bluejays last season by leading the team in digs and service aces. That trend appears to be continuing, as Witt leads the Bluejays in digs with 99 this season.
While Cook feels facing the experienced Creighton team may shake up the Huskers, he also has seen some of his own team start to transform into leaders. Cook highlighted sophomore Lauren Stivrins as one of those leaders.
“Physically she is at another level, mentally she is at another level,” Cook said. “I think she has the mindset that she is wanting this team to win.”
Stivrins has taken tremendous strides this season. In both the Ohio and Wake Forest games, she hit .500 and .700, respectively. Also during the Ohio game, Stivrins had a season high with four services aces.
Cook said the young Huskers’ team is in need of experience. Eight players have yet to travel with the team or play in anywhere other than the Bob Devaney Center, making this game a learning curve for newer players.
Along with the experience of road games, Cook said he feels Creighton will help the Huskers later in the season.
“The mindset for us is that this is what it is going to be like for regional finals and final four,” Cook said.
Game time is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday Sept. 6, at the CHI Health Center in Omaha. Coverage of the game will be featured on NET.