LINCOLN — Thanks to a quirk in the calendar, a more inclusive trip to Asia and a returning setter, the Nebraska volleyball team is further along in its team development than years past.
Because of how the schedule fell this year, the Huskers’ preseason was three days longer than previous years. Also, an NCAA rule allowed freshmen to participate in foreign trips, which meant everyone got extra training equal to a third of a season.
However, the most important part of the equation is the return of sophomore setter Nicklin Hames, who has developed relationships with hitters and emerged as a leader.
“Instead of building the race car, we were driving the race car from day one,” Cook said. “The level (of play) is way higher in the gym. How that transfers to matches, I don’t know.”
The calendar also worked in the Huskers’ favor to give them more time in the preseason. Last year, the Red-White match was on Aug. 18 and their first match on Aug. 24.
Because the same group was together for the Asia trip, those practices could be more focused. Cook said they didn’t have to spend as much time on install and could instead work on skill development. They even spent time on Friday going over how practices would be different once classes started.
“I feel like we got a lot more accomplished” in the preseason, Cook said. “We’ve had more time and we are so much further ahead.”
Some of that early-season development showed up Saturday night in the Red-White scrimmage. Normally, the event is error-filled, but Hames guided the Red team to a .345 hitting percentage.
Cook said the only time he can remember a team hitting above .300 in the scrimmage was 2016, when the Huskers returned most of their national championship team.
Even though Cook said he is pleased with the progress made during the preseason, he is still pushing for a higher level to prepare the team for a tough road ahead.
“We talk about a sense of urgency on every second we can get better,” Cook said. “It’s a race for reps. We have to be even more efficient with our time.”
Medical redshirt granted
Anezka Szabo is now listed as a redshirt sophomore on the Husker roster. The 6-foot-3 outside hitter was granted a medical redshirt this summer after she suffered a high-ankle sprain that sidelined her for the final three months of last season.
After the Red-White scrimmage, NU players and coaches hung around for two hours signing posters and taking pictures with fans. The Huskers stayed until everyone got through even though the line wrapped all the way around the Devaney Center concourse. Cook said it was a record length for an autograph session.
“What I noticed Saturday night is I saw more young kids and young families from all over the state,” Cook said. “It reinforces one of the reasons we moved to Devaney — to open up a whole new generation to Nebraska volleyball. That was pretty special to see that.”