John Cook

Nebraska volleyball head coach John Cook lifts up the NCAA National Volleyball Championship trophy at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, on Dec. 16, 2017.

When the fifth-ranked Nebraska Huskers volleyball team takes on No. 9 Penn State, it will be a meeting between two of the most successful teams in the sports’ history.

Since 1995, the year the Huskers won their first title in the sport, the teams have combined to finish at the top of the college volleyball world 12 out of 23 times, including four out of the last five. The Nittany Lions have seven titles while the Huskers have five.

A big reason why the programs have been so successful are the coaches leading them.

Penn State head coach Russ Rose has been at the helm for all of Penn State’s national championships. Seven national titles is the most for any program or coach in women’s volleyball. Rose, who entered 2018 in his 40th season as the Nittany Lions’ head coach, is also the winningest coach in Division 1 NCAA volleyball history with an .863 win percentage.  

Rose also provides another connection between the Husker and Nittany Lion volleyball programs. He was a defensive assistant coach for Nebraska in the 1978 season a year before he took the job at Penn State.

Nebraska head coach John Cook has led Nebraska to four of its five national championships, and is in his 19th year at the school. Overall, Cook is in his 26th year as a head coach. He spent seven seasons as the head coach of Wisconsin before coming to the school. Cook is the third most winningest active coach with a .830 win percentage. He trails only Rose and Mary Wise from Florida.  

While Penn State holds the lead in titles, Nebraska has had the edge in head-to-head matchups recently. In the 31 meetings of the teams, the Huskers hold a 21-10 advantage and have won the last seven matches against the Nittany Lions. Penn State last beat Nebraska on Nov. 29, 2014. SInce joining the Big Ten conference in 2011, the Huskers are 10-4 against Penn State, including 2-0 in postseason play.

In 30 of the 31 meetings between the Huskers and Nittany Lions, both teams were ranked in the top-25. The lone exception came on Dec. 4, 1982 when the No. 15 Huskers swept Penn State.

For 21 of the 31 matches, both squads were ranked in the top-10 including in 19 contests in a row from 1994 to 2015. Saturday will be the 22nd out of 32 matches with both teams in the top-10 as Nebraska enters at No. 5 and Penn States comes in at No. 9.

Penn State and Nebraska have met in the NCAA tournament 11 times. The Huskers have come out on top eight times, including last year’s Final Four. Eight of those matches have been in regionals hosted in Lincoln.

The Nittany Lions took the first two of the three meetings between the teams in the Final Four in 1998 and 2008. Penn State went on to win the title in 2008. Nebraska won the next time the programs met in the NCAA Semifinals last season en route to their fifth national championship.

This weekend marks another chapter in a storied rivalry. Penn State will look to defend its home court where Nebraska has won three straight contests. Nebraska hopes to not only keep its winning streak alive, but also keep pace with No. 3 Minnesota in the race for a third consecutive Big Ten championship.

First serve from State College, Pennsylvania is scheduled for 7 p.m. CDT. The match will air on the Big Ten Network.