The race to finish renovations at the Devaney Center will prevent the Huskers from practicing on their new court likely until the Aug. 24 Red-White scrimmage, coach John Cook said Thursday.
Work began in March on a $20 million renovation to reconfigure the former home of Nebraska men's and women's basketball into a volleyball-specific facility that will seat 7,900, nearly doubling the 4,125-seat capacity of NU Coliseum.
Cook said Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman toured the Devaney Center earlier in the week and gave his stamp of approval.
“He said 'I'm not sure it'll be ready, but man, it looks unbelievable,' ” Cook said.
Nebraska officially opens the home season Sept. 6 against Villanova, where the playing floor will be dedicated as “Terry Pettit Court” in honor of the longtime Husker coach. Pettit's daughter Emma is a setter for Villanova.
Kadie Rolfzen's return not set
Cook said Thursday he had not set a timetable for freshman outside hitter Kadie Rolfzen's return from an injured right shoulder. Rolfzen, who hurt her shoulder this summer, has begun taking swings in drills while standing on a box, but has not taken full, live swings.
“It's like a pitcher coming off the (disabled list), you've got to work them into it,” Cook said. “She's had two good days off the box. She's in most drills in practice, so we're making progress.”
Rolfzen, a high-school All-American from Papillion-La Vista South, was the 2012 World-Herald girls athlete of the year and the No. 5-ranked recruit in the country by PrepVolleyball.com.
Thramer like another coach
After injuring her knee during a spring exhibition match, senior middle blocker Hayley Thramer could have understandably wanted to step away from the volleyball court. The Ewing, Neb., native earned her degree this summer and could have left Lincoln, but instead is assisting Husker coaches in working with the middle blockers this fall.
“She got delivered a big thunderbolt, and the way she's handled it reveals her character and what she's about,” Cook said. “She's the boss. She's in practice every day and she's had a great influence, especially on our middle blockers. She's talking to them, helping them. She's another coach on the floor, a player-coach if you want to call it that.”
Nebraska's current crop of middle blockers features no player older than a redshirt sophomore.
Passing an early strength
Nebraska lost all of its primary passers from the 2012 team with the graduation of outside hitters Gina Mancuso and Hannah Werth and the transfer of libero Lara Dykstra to Pepperdine. So it was a surprise Thursday when Cook highlighted the team's passing and floor defense as strengths early in workouts.
“Our passing and our floor defense, I think we're a level above right now where we were last year right now,” Cook said.
Freshmen Justine Wong-Orantes, Alexa Ethridge and Brenna Lyles are competing with sophomore Sheridan Zarda to be the team's starting libero. But Cook has singled out senior Kelsey Robinson and outside hitters Amber and Kadie Rolfzen as high-level passers in the past. Robinson trained as a libero with the U.S. National Team program this summer.
>> Video: NU coach John Cook:
>> Video: Kelsey Robinson:
>> Video: Kelly Hunter: