While Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook is always considering how he can sub players in to rest his primary attackers, one player who is tough to take out of the match is senior outside hitter Hannah Werth.

She’s one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten Conference, and also brings a lot to the team.

“(Hannah) brings such an energy and intensity to our team, which I think is really important,” Cook said. “I loved it (last week against Purdue) — I haven’t asked (Meghan Haggerty) about it — a ball got served over and Meghan just kind of looked at it and Hannah was right in her face. I’m just like, ‘I love this.’ That’s what you want. You want that fire, passion and sense of urgency.”

One thing Cook says he’s learned since moving from the Big 12 to the Big Ten is that Nebraska will need more depth to go against the talented league teams and a conference schedule that often includes matches on back-to-back nights.

The 2012 recruiting class included Sheridan Zarda as a walk-on defensive specialist. The 2013 class that signed letters of intent last week includes libero Justine Wong-Orantes. Last week, Nebraska picked up a commitment from Lincoln Pius X libero Sydney Townsend for the 2014 class.

“We want to start trying to bring in a great back-row kid every year,” Cook said. “If you have four of them, one is probably not going to pan out, one may not be as good as you think, and then you try to have two that can help you.”

Teams such as Penn State and Purdue often sub in players.

“You've got to have some back-row depth to rest those kids,” Cook said. “But you've got to have good ones, and they have to be able to come in and perform at a high level to help you. They’re hard to find. Really hard to find.”

Following Friday’s five-set loss to No. 14 Minnesota, the Huskers travel to Madison, Wis., on Sunday for a 1 p.m. match against Wisconsin.

Wisconsin (17-13, 5-12) swept Iowa on Friday to end a five-match losing streak and move into a tie for eighth place in the Big Ten.

Nebraska swept Wisconsin in Lincoln on Oct. 12.

Delano back with program

Brooke Delano has rejoined the Husker program as a volunteer assistant coach one season after her college career ended.

Delano earned first-team All-America honors as a middle blocker in 2010. She   had been playing professionally, but has decided to get into coaching instead and asked to rejoin the program.

Delano will help assistant coach Dan Meske in training the Husker middle blockers. She was on the bench for last week’s matches.

“That’s part of our mission, is to develop young coaches,” Cook said. “I think Brooke can be exceptional, and the fact that she wants to go into (coaching). My job now is to mentor her on how to get that done.”

Mancuso, Broekhuis earn academic honors

Nebraska had two players named to the Academic All-District 7 team, as chosen by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Gina Mancuso was honored as a first-team selection and advances to the national ballot, where she will be eligible for the Academic All-America Team. Morgan Broekhuis earned second-team honors. Mancuso is a repeat academic all-district choice, while Broekhuis earned all-district honors for the first time.

Mancuso has a 3.67 grade-point average in marketing, while Broekhuis has a 3.45 GPA and is a nutrition, exercise and health science major.

Nebraska has a nation-leading 299 Academic All-Americans across all sports, including 36 in volleyball, the most of any school in the country.

Penn State clinches conference title

The results of two Big Ten matches Friday allowed Penn State to clinch the conference championship before the final week of the regular season.

Penn State swept Indiana, and that, along with Minnesota beating Nebraska in five sets, gave the second-ranked Nittany Lions the league title. Penn State won the league for the ninth time in the last 10 years and the 15th time overall, and earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Entering Saturday’s match against Purdue, the Nittany Lions’ only conference loss came at Nebraska in a five-setter Oct. 28.

Last year, Nebraska won the Big Ten during its first season in the league with a 17-3 conference record.

Penn State has home matches this week against Ohio State and Michigan State.

The NCAA Tournament selection show will be Nov. 25 at 3 p.m. and broadcast on ESPNU (Time Warner Channel 303).

Big Ten statistical leader and Nebraska ranking

(Conference-only matches through Friday)

Hitting percentage

1. Penn State, .294

2. Nebraska, .277

Opponent hitting percentage

1. Penn State, .143

4. Nebraska, .219

Assists (per set)

1. Penn State, 13.51

6. Nebraska, 12.57

Kills (per set)

1. Penn State, 14.70

6. Nebraska, 13.46

Blocks (per set)

1. Penn State, 3.04

2. Nebraska, 2.58

Service aces (per set)

1. Minnesota, 1.56

7. Nebraska, 1.01

Digs (per set)

1. Wisconsin, 15.67

8. Nebraska, 13.78

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