This season, the Nebraska volleyball team will have a longer stay atop the college rankings.
The Huskers took over the No. 1 spot last week, and remained unbeaten with wins against Colgate and UC Irvine over the weekend. With a 5-0 record, Nebraska is still No. 1 in the poll released Monday.
Penn State (5-0) has two wins against top-10 teams and has moved up to No. 2 in the ratings.
Last year, Nebraska was ranked No. 1 for only one week before losing to Penn State.
Nebraska coach John Cook has kept his team grounded by reminding the players that the Huskers also had high hopes last season before losing early in the NCAA Tournament and finishing ranked 12th.
“(Being ranked No. 1) just means teams play harder against us, and we saw that Saturday,” Cook said Monday during his weekly news conference. “Colgate, who hasn’t won a match, played out of their minds against us. Irvine played very, very well. I think their coaches were very happy with their effort and how well they played against us. That’s what we’re always going to see, is everybody’s best shot, and our players understand that, and I think they’re up for the challenge.”
Nebraska should be tested more this week with three matches in the Ameritas Players Challenge. Nebraska hosts Oklahoma on Thursday, Duquesne on Friday and Kentucky on Saturday. The start time for Friday’s match has been moved up to 4 p.m.
Oklahoma has a 5-2 record. Kentucky is ranked No. 19 with a 5-2 record.
Former Husker assistant coach Craig Skinner coaches Kentucky. Last season, the Wildcats advanced to the NCAA regional semifinals, finished with a 28-6 record and were ranked 13th.
Feeling of home
The announced attendance for the Huskers’ match at UC Irvine on Saturday was 450, but there was plenty of support for Nebraska.
Three Nebraska players -- Lara Dykstra, Kelsey Fien and Alexa Strange -- are from California. Also, John Cook has family in the San Diego area.
“We probably had 10 to 1 Nebraska fans to Irvine fans, but they’re not in school yet,” Cook said. “(Former Husker football player) Roy Helu’s family had about 15 people there supporting Gina (Mancuso). Dani Mancuso married Roy Helu, so those guys were there all painted in red and having a good time.
“There were a lot of people that want to see Nebraska and have connections to Nebraska. A lot of my family was there. The Dykstras had a huge clan. It was pretty cool.”
Blocks still coming
Nebraska ranks fifth in the Big Ten in blocking, averaging 2.53 blocks per set.
Improvement should come with repetition, senior middle blocker Allison McNeal said, as the newcomers, and even some older players, get used to the Huskers’ swing-blocking technique.
“It’s two people together,” McNeal said. “You have to work as a unit. You can’t just go single block out there. It has to be together with a solid, fluid movement.”
Strange makes most of chance
Strange started in place of Morgan Broekhuis at right-side hitter against Colgate, and played all three sets.
The freshman had just one hitting error in 16 attempts, with seven kills. Broekhuis played the entire second match, against UC Irvine.
“Yes, (Strange played) because she was from California, but also we've got to find ways to get her on the court because we think she can help us this year,” Cook said. “That was a great opportunity to let her have a whole match instead of coming in part-time, which we been doing with her. She stepped up.”
Big Ten honors
Nebraska middle blocker Meghan Haggerty was chosen as the Big Ten freshman of the week.
Haggerty had seven kills on 11 attempts and four blocks to help NU to a sweep of UC Irvine.