Pre-Season Vote for Caution: Why Nebraska Could Win it All

When asked by Bill Landis of Penn State’s Daily Collegian about the Women’s Volleyball team’s concensus #1 preseason ranking, Head Coach Russ Rose answered with a simple “People don’t really know. . . . I think the people that vote voted for the same teams that were in the top 25 last year.”

Faced with a similar question about his team’s #3 ranking in the pre-season AVCA Coaches Poll (Rich Kern’s Poll has them at #4), Nebraska Head Coach John Cook gave a more dramatic response:

“My vote is for No. 103,” Cook told “I think (No. 3) is way too high. Maybe that’s a reflection of how much respect we have as a program, but we’re nowhere near the third-best team in the country right now.”

Number 103? Really?

We suspect John was just having his little joke. He may not want his team to be overconfident, but he certainly was more upbeat when he met the press a week earlier for Nebraska’s Media Day.

At that press conference, Cook raved about the 2009 Huskers athleticism, calling them “the most athletic team” he’s had at Nebraska. Eight members of the team scored 2000 or better on Nebraska’s athletic performance index, compared to zero — yes zero — for last year’s team in the preseason.

He also revealed that at the beginning of the summer, each player had written a personal volleyball goal on each of three rocks, which they carried with them throughout the summer. At the opening of training camp, they placed all these rocks in a big bucket filled with sand.

Why sand? Because, Cook explained to the assembled press, the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four will be held in Tampa, Florida this year. And Tampa has beaches. With sand.

And #103 Nebraska intends to be in Tampa for the Final Four.

The truth is, Cook knows Nebraska is loaded with talent and experience, and has a fabulous incoming freshman class. The #3 (or #4) ranking is well-deserved. Nebraska is definitely one of those teams that could win it all.


Last year, Nebraska went 31-3, including a heartbreaking (for Nebraska; we have to admit that as Nittany Lion fans, we had a different reaction) 3-2 loss to eventual National Champion Penn State in the NCAA Semi Finals.

Among the key returnees are Second Team AVCA All American Sydney Anderson (6-0 Jr. Setter), Second Team AVCA All American Tara Mueller (6-0 Jr. Outside Hitter), Lindsey Licht (6-5 Jr. Right Side), Kori Cooper (6-2 Sr. Middle Blocker), and Libero Kayla Banwarth (5-10 Jr., who ranked third in the Big 12 in digs per set).

“I think we have some good competition at every position,” Cook said in his press conference. No kidding, John. Not only is Nebraska blessed with a Roster filled with experienced and talented returning players, the incoming freshman class — Gina Mancuso (6-1 OH, named 2008 Gatorade National Player of the Year), Hannah Werth (6-1 OH rated #4 high school senior by, Hayley Thramer (6-2 MB, ranked No. 64 nationally by ) and Megan Pendergast (5-7 L, rated the No. 42 senior in the country by — was rated #2 in the country by

Russ Rose thinks there are “a lot” of teams whose experience puts them “way ahead” of Penn State at the start of the season, and who are serious contenders for the National Title. Nebraska looks like one of those teams. Don’t be surprised to see the Huskers in the NCAA Finals in Tampa. Where they have beaches. With sand.

Oh, one more thing. It seems as though the Huskers may have dropped last year’s camo jacket look for t-shirts (and perhaps other clothing items) with the slogan “Kia Kaha” — which Coach Cook explains means “Forever Strong,” and which Wikipedia describes as “a Māori phrase used by both the Māori and Pakeha (European) people of New Zealand.”