Heading into the final three weeks of the regular season, Nebraska head coach John Cook spoke about what his team needs to improve on to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
The Huskers sit at No. 6 in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll after defeating No. 7 Penn State and Rutgers over the weekend to improve to 18-6 this season. Nebraska is tied for fifth place with Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings, as both teams have a 9-5 conference record.
Cook discussed the areas where he hopes to see the team make the biggest strides in the closing part of the regular season. The adjustments are mainly focused on the younger players.
“Jazz [Sweet] and Lexi [Sun] have to hit for higher numbers and less errors,” he said. “We got to get Callie [Schwarzenbach] more than a kill a game. And, if we need to get Nicklin’s [Hames] decision and location a bit better.”
The team appeared to have finally gotten over a hump when they defeated top-10 foe Penn State over the weekend. It was the first time the Huskers defeated a top-10 opponent in six tries this season.
Cook said the match was special because it fell on the same night as Nebraska’s 250th-consecutive sellout, and his team showed heart throughout the contest.
“We’re used to battling,” Cook said. “I’m really proud of our team for not getting down after the first set. We played some good volleyball. Not much phases us.”
Cook said he believes the successful weekend gave the team some confidence they may have lost after recently losing five of their last seven matches.
He said that confidence will be needed as Nebraska is back on the road this week for the first two games in a stretch of four away matches. First up, Nebraska faces the Iowa Hawkeyes on Wednesday. The Huskers defeated the Hawkeyes 3-1 on Oct. 3, at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
The Hawkeyes are currently 13-12 with a 5-9 record in the Big Ten. Iowa has lost six of its last seven matches with the lone win coming on Friday against Rutgers.
Iowa does hold one win against a top-10 opponent in the form of a five-set victory over No. 6 Wisconsin on Oct. 6.
The Hawkeyes are led by senior outside hitter Taylor Louis, who averages 3.73 kills per set. Louis has played in all 25 matches while starting in 17. She also has Iowa’s third-highest hitting percentage among qualified players with a mark of .246.
Freshman middle blocker Amiya Jones has accumulated the teams highest hitting percentage at .296. She is one of just two players, along with sophomore setter Brie Orr, to start every single match for the Hawkeyes this season.
Statistically, the Hawkeyes are in the middle of the pack. They rank eighth in the conference in hitting percentage (.227), seventh in assists per set (12.35) and seventh in kills per set (12.89). They are 12th in the Big Ten in opponent hitting percentage by allowing foes to hit an average of .226 against them.
First serve for Wednesday’s match at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena is set for 7 p.m. The match will air on BTN.