Volleyball Championship vs. Wisconsin Photo No. 48

Nebraska coach John Cook speaks during a press conference following the championship match against Wisconsin at Nationwide Arena on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. 

Nebraska volleyball will start the season upon the loftiest of perches. 

When the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) preseason poll — the most attributed and referenced ranking in women’s college volleyball — released this afternoon, the Huskers were ranked No. 1. 

This does not come as a significant surprise after the Huskers finished No. 2 in last year’s final poll. Coach John Cook’s team graduated All-Americans Lauren Stivrins and Lexi Sun and lost another, Kayla Caffey, to Texas via the transfer portal. However, the Huskers bring back a heralded freshman class among several other key contributors from last year’s national runner-up squad. Nebraska was also ranked No. 1 in NCAA.com’s “way too early top 25” soon after last season concluded.

The team that topped the Huskers in last fall’s national championship game — conference foe Wisconsin — begins the season No. 3 in the AVCA poll after losing significantly more production than Nebraska. Still, it’s a ranking that contradicts the Badgers’ placement atop the Big Ten preseason poll

Texas, who the Huskers defeated in last year’s NCAA Regional Final, comes in at No. 2 nationally. In addition to senior middle blocker Caffey, the Longhorns added another former Husker contributor, sophomore libero Keonilei Akana. 

In total, nine of Nebraska’s 2022 opponents appear in the preseason top 25. The Huskers’ loaded schedule begins with preseason foes Creighton (No. 18), Stanford (No. 14) and Kentucky (No. 11) before conference play ramps up with Ohio State (No. 7), Penn State (No. 20), Purdue (No. 13), Illinois (No. 17), Wisconsin (No. 3) and Minnesota (No. 5). Nebraska faces the Buckeyes, Boilermakers and Badgers twice each. 

This is the first time since 2016 —  following Nebraska’s 2015 national title — that the Huskers begin the season atop AVCA’s poll. 

It will be a tough task to start and finish No. 1, but Cook’s contemporaries like the Huskers’ odds of reaching the Final Four, which will take place in Omaha beginning on December 15.