LINCOLN — Last summer, John Cook thought the Nebraska volleyball team had no business being ranked among the preseason top five.
In 2010, Cook believes his players are better suited to deal with such lofty expectations. And the Huskers definitely will have every team’s attention as they begin the season ranked No. 2 in the country.
Boasting a roster with plenty of proven veterans, not to mention some touted newcomers, Nebraska came in second in the AVCA preseason coaches poll released Tuesday.
The Huskers sit behind only top-ranked Penn State, which earned 40 of a possible 60 first-place votes. Nebraska received 16 first-place votes, while No. 3 Texas earned the remaining four. Rounding out the top five are No. 4 Stanford and fifth-rated Hawaii.
“I think this group is ready to handle it,” said Cook, whose team also was picked as the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 last week. “I think there is some merit for us to be highly ranked. This team can be special, but the bottom line is that now we have to go out there and prove it.”
Penn State captured its third straight national championship in December, and the Nittany Lions will take an NCAA-record 102-match winning streak into the new season. But Penn State’s rotation will have a different look after the graduation of standouts Megan Hodge and Alisha Glass.
In all, three Big 12 teams earned spots in the preseason top 10, with Iowa State coming in at No. 9. Texas is the defending Big 12 champion, but the Longhorns said goodbye to stars Ashley Engle and Destinee Hooker.
Nebraska opens the season playing in the AVCA Showcase on Aug. 28 and 29 at Qwest Center Omaha. That weekend, the Huskers will face both 14th-ranked Kentucky and No. 13 Florida. The Cyclones will participate in the AVCA Showcase, but NU and ISU won’t face off until the Big 12 season.
The Huskers also will play No. 21 Dayton and sixth-ranked Illinois. The Illini will be NU’s opponent on Sept. 11 at the Devaney Center.
From the Big 12, Baylor, Texas A&M and Oklahoma all received votes but didn’t crack the Top 25.
Northern Iowa, which came in at No. 24, is the only Missouri Valley team in the preseason rankings. Wichita State and Missouri State both received votes.
Fans get their first chance to watch Nebraska take the court at 7 p.m. Saturday, when the Huskers hold their annual red-white scrimmage at the Coliseum. Tickets remain available at Huskers.com or by calling 1-800-8-BIGRED.
Tickets also can still be purchased for the AVCA Showcase. Those are available through all Ticketmaster outlets and the Qwest Center box office.
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