s-bigtenvolleyball

Outside hitter Mikaela Foecke (2) spikes the ball over two Michigan State players on Oct. 4, 2017, at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Head coach John Cook said Nebraska will have to perform on another level as Big Ten play draws near for the volleyball team.

“There are no easy nights in the Big Ten,” Cook said. “The ante goes up.”

No. 3 Nebraska volleyball opens Big Ten Conference play this week with two matches at the Devaney Center. The Huskers take on No. 18 Michigan on Friday and Michigan State on Sunday.

Nebraska and Michigan are two of seven teams from the Big Ten that are ranked in this week’s top 25. The Huskers are the highest ranked at No. 3, followed by Penn State at No. 4. Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois are No. 6, 7 and 8, respectively. Purdue comes in this week at No. 16 and the Wolverines are at No. 18.

Michigan comes to Lincoln with an 11-0 record, ten of those victories being sweeps. Michigan will be playing just its third true road match and first against a ranked opponent this season when it visits the Devaney Center.

Nebraska has played three ranked opponents already this season. The Huskers lost to then-No.7 Florida to open the season, but rebounded and beat then-No. 18 Oregon in their next match. Nebraska’s lone-road match against a ranked foe this season came in Omaha, where Nebraska defeated Creighton 3-2 despite trailing after two sets.

As the Huskers open Big Ten play, Cook said the biggest test will be for the newcomers.

“We tell them flat out that it's another level now,” Cook said. “These teams are going to be prepared for us. They’re going to be dialed in and try to exploit our weaknesses, and we get to do the same.”

Michigan is led on the court by senior outside hitter Carly Skjodt. Skjodt leads the Wolverines with 124 kills this season. She has three double-doubles this season including one in Michigan’s last match against Notre Dame, where she recorded 13 kills and 16 digs.

Another dangerous player for the Wolverines is freshman outside hitter Paige Jones. The freshman has 112 kills so far this season and has recorded at least a dozen kills in each of her last three matches. Jones notched 16 service aces in 2018, including seven in the Wolverines match against Colorado State.

Michigan State visits the Huskers with a 12-1 record. The Spartans lost their first match of the season to Tennessee, but have been on a 12-match win streak since.

Nebraska will have to deal with sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Chronowski. She has double-digit kills in 10 of the Spartans’ 13 matches this season and leads the team in the category with 138. Chronowski totaled 20 service aces in 2018 as well.

The Huskers’ Friday night match against Michigan is set for an 8 p.m. That match will air on the Big Ten Network. First serve on Sunday against Michigan State is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU.

sports@dailynebraskan.com