Nebraska volleyball head coach John Cook remained confident in his team when he spoke at his weekly press conference, despite the Huskers dropping their last three contests.
“I thought we got better,” Cook said. “And, we played some good volleyball, but we got to learn how to win those matches. We’re learning how to be more resilient. This experience is helping with that.”
In an eight-day span on the road, Nebraska faced three, top-10 teams in Penn State, Wisconsin and No. 3 Minnesota. The team lost the first two matches 3-2 and fell to the Gophers in four sets. The games against Wisconsin and Minnesota came on back-to-back nights as well.
The team arrived in Minnesota at 2 a.m. the day of its match against the Gophers after the 2 hour and 30-minute match against the Badgers ended at 10:30 p.m. the night before.
“We probably have the toughest schedule of any team in the country the last eight days and all on the road too,” Cook said. “You tell me what other college athletes are doing that right now. There’s none.”
Cook said the gauntlet of matches was similar to the final stages of the NCAA tournament.
“First of all, I think that was Final Four level volleyball,” he said. “I feel like we just got done with a Final Four, and there’s more to come.”
The stretch of games against top-10 opponents is just part of a brutal schedule for Nebraska. The Huskers are in the midst of a Big Ten schedule that includes seven matches against top-10 foes from Sept. 29, through Nov. 2.
Cook reflected on the tough opponents and what the results mean for the team moving forward.
“All those guys have been together a lot longer than we have,” he said, “and I think that’s their edge right now. We’ve got five weeks to try to catch them and finish out the Big Ten season strong, get to the NCAA tournament and see how far we can go.”
Although the Huskers lost all three games, the team did hold 2-1 set leads against the Nittany Lions and the Badgers before dropping the final two sets in each match. Across the three matches, Nebraska scored at least 20 points in a set it ended up losing five times.
“We can play really good volleyball for stretches,” Cook said. “We just have to put it together for a full match. It’s just consistency and making good plays and being good after 20 points. It’s hard to create that in practice.”
Nebraska’s recent slide left them with five losses in 2018 — the most for the Huskers in a season since 2014. With two of the team’s next three matches also against top-10 opponents, Cook said he was not worried about Nebraska’s ability to handle the pressure.
“I think they’re going to be great,” he said. “There’s no easy matches, and our players are learning that. You just gotta survive and win these matches the best you can, and if you don’t, you get another shot next week.”
The next matchup for Nebraska is a road contest against Ohio State on Wednesday. The Buckeyes are just 3-7 in Big Ten play this year, but one of those wins came against Penn State.
The match is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. and will air on BTN.