The Nebraska volleyball season now has a road map.
The Big Ten Conference distributed the league schedule to its volleyball programs Tuesday evening, and Nebraska released its schedule a short time later.
The season was postponed from its normal spot in the fall to the second semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nebraska will begin the season on the road playing back-to-back matches against Indiana on Jan. 22-23.
And while Nebraska won’t play every league team this season, the Huskers will play most of the Big Ten’s top programs, including Wisconsin, Penn State and Minnesota. Nebraska’s final two matches of the regular season will be against Penn State in Lincoln when both teams could be contending for a Big Ten title.
The format is close to what the league coaches had proposed after the season was postponed in August. Teams will play a 22-match schedule over 11 weeks beginning Jan. 22. That’s an increase from 20 league matches in previous years.
Each team has five two-match series at home, five two-match series on the road and one split week with a geographically relevant opponent (Iowa for the Huskers).
There will be no nonconference matches this season for Nebraska, with only a Big Ten slate prior to the NCAA Tournament in April.
The team will play the same opponent back-to-back in the same city. Most of the time it will be on consecutive days, while on a few occasions there will be one day between matches, which could allow for more matches to be on TV.
This format will cut down on the travel for this season, which will help with safety and expenses. Each team will play series against 11 of the other 13 league teams.
The back-to-back format is similar to college hockey.
“That eliminates the extra travel, and it gets matches,” Husker coach John Cook told the Journal Star in August. “You stay in the same hotel and have the same refs, so it’s just trying to minimize opportunities when you’re out of the bubble.”
Nebraska’s five home series will be against Minnesota, Penn State, Ohio State, Maryland and Northwestern.
Nebraska’s five road series will be against Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Rutgers.
The Huskers' matches against Iowa are split with one match in Lincoln and one in Iowa City.
Nebraska will play at Wisconsin Feb. 26-27. The Badgers accounted for three of Nebraska’s five losses last season, including in the NCAA Tournament.
The Huskers won’t play Michigan State and Purdue during the regular season.
Cook thinks playing the same team on back-to-back nights will bring out the best in the players and coaches. And that the Huskers have to be ready to play at a high level from the jump.
“There is no room for error or playing into the season,” said Cook in a statement. “This schedule is like riding a horse in the Kentucky Derby. Get out of the gate and hang on for a wild ride.”
The NCAA Tournament is scheduled to begin April 8. The Final Four is scheduled for April 22-24 in Omaha.
Jan. 22-23, at Indiana
Jan. 29-30, Northwestern
Feb. 5-6, Maryland
Feb. 12-13, at Rutgers
Feb. 19, Minnesota
Feb. 21, Minnesota
Feb. 26-27, at Wisconsin
March 5-6, at Illinois