Lauren Cook’s senior season comes with excitement, but also a sense of urgency for the Nebraska setter.

She’s a co-captain of a volleyball program she’s been around since her dad became head coach in 2000. After a surprise end to the 2011 season that included a rare second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament, Nebraska could again be considered a national championship contender with six regular starters returning.

Her teammates motivate and support her every day, Lauren Cook said.

“It’s a new beginning and a new chance to achieve the goals you’ve set,” Lauren Cook said Friday during the team’s annual media day. “I still have some goals that I set for myself freshman year that I haven’t achieved, like a national championship. This year is the excitement of working toward those goals.”

After graduating from Lincoln Pius X, Lauren Cook first decided she’d set out on her own path and play at UCLA. After being named national freshman of the year, she decided to transfer to Nebraska.

Cook shared the setter position with Sydney Anderson as a sophomore, then took control last year.

Cook echoed the comments of the Huskers' other captains — seniors Hannah Werth and Paige Hubl — in praising the early play of NU's four freshmen, the disappointment of how last season ended and the significance of the final year playing at the NU Coliseum before the team moves to a renovated Devaney Sports Center in 2013.

“Last year, as you all know, we finished early in the tournament, and lost to K-State here at home,” Lauren Cook said. “That didn’t sit well with us. It wasn’t our goal to finish that early, and we were really disappointed. That’s kind of our unfinished business.”

She spoke extensively to the media for the first time since being suspended two matches last season after she sideswiped a motorcycle parked on the edge of the road, injuring the driver and a passenger.

She was admitted into pretrial diversion, and has been making visits to hospitals and speaking at schools.

“When I do go out and talk to schools, Coach always tells us about the three bones you have to have — your wishbone, your funnybone and your backbone,” Lauren Cook said. “I always look to give that talk. You have to have a backbone and stay strong through your life. And you have to have a funnybone so you can enjoy life. And you have to have your wishbone because you always have to dream big. I love giving that talk.”

Cook says she doesn't share the message of her personal setback last season.

“I don’t think that has to do with anything they have,” she said. “They’re more about staying in school and drug-free. In my situation, that was with me and a decision I made. I made a mistake, but that doesn’t have to do with the message that I try to get across to kids.”

Hubl said Cook’s leadership brings a spark to the team.

“You look to her to get the job done — in practice and in the game,” Hubl said. “You look to her to do things right and execute. She’s always calm and composed. In times of struggle, people look to her to get a sense of relief.”

Reach Brent C. Wagner at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com.