Nebraska coach John Cook ready for return of ‘a great celebration of volleyball in the state’

John Cook said the Nebraska-Creighton series started as one of convenience between what were then the two Division I schools in the state, but became more intense as the Jays became more successful. “I would call it a great celebration of volleyball in the state,” Cook said.

LINCOLN — When Nebraska and Creighton open their seasons Friday night, the matchup will feature the top two volleyball programs in the state and two ranked teams. But is it a rivalry?

Maybe for the fans, but Nebraska coach John Cook defused any talk of a grudge match.

“I wouldn’t call it a rivalry for us,” he said. “I would call it a great celebration of volleyball in the state.”

The latest chapter of the series pits the second-ranked Huskers against the No. 18 Bluejays at 7 p.m. Friday at the Devaney Center. No. 20 Baylor and UCLA play the first match Friday at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, Creighton takes on Baylor at 4:30 p.m. then Nebraska play UCLA at 7.

Cook said the series started as one of convenience between what were then the two Division I schools in the state, but became more intense as Creighton became more successful. The Jays have made the past seven NCAA tournaments.

That success hasn’t translated to the series, though. The Huskers are 18-0 against CU. Last year was the Jays’ best shot at a win, when they took the first two sets before NU escaped with a five-set victory.

Sophomore defensive specialist Megan Miller said last year’s scare has Nebraska focused on starting its season strong. She said they don’t talk up the match with Creighton as a rivalry game, but the Huskers are taking it seriously — like they would any other talented opponent.

“We’re expecting it to be tough again,” Miller said. “We’re not gonna take anything for granted at all. I think that we’re just looking for a good fight.”

The opening weekend will answer several lineup questions for NU. While Cook said he won’t announce the starters until just before the match, several players have emerged to fill the vacancies left by All-Americans Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney.

Freshman Kenzie Knuckles has the inside track on the starting libero role while Miller should serve as defensive specialist. After a standout performance in the scrimmage, Capri Davis could earn playing time in the front row alongside outside hitters Lexi Sun and Madi Kubik.

Even with several new faces in the lineup, Cook doesn’t expect nerves to be a factor opening night.

“Saturday night (during the scrimmage) is where the nerves were,” Cook said. “Now there is a big sigh of relief. I can just see it in our players in getting through that. There was more pressure on Saturday night than there will be this weekend.”

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