Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook is in the preseason training phase, including twice-a-day practices.
So front and center for him — more than a preseason national ranking of No. 1 – preparing new players to go fast.
Cook says he was a little surprised when the Huskers received the No. 1 in the AVCA poll on Monday.
“Everybody says we get everybody back,” Cook said Tuesday during the Nebraska volleyball radio show. “Let’s see, we’re replacing two middles, we’re replacing the setter, we lost (Keonilei Akana to defensive specialist). A third of our team is brand new.”
Texas is No. 2 in the poll, and defending champion Wisconsin is No. 3.
Nebraska’s new players are transfer Kaitlyn Hord and freshmen Bekka Allick, Maggie Mendelson, Hayden Kubik and Maisie Boesiger.
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With four-year starter Nicklin Hames returning, Kennedy Orr could take over at setter and Hames move to defensive specialist.
Cook said you can make a case for several teams at the top, including Wisconsin, Texas and Louisville.
“There are a lot of good teams and nobody is going to go through this,” he said.
Cook is focused on building a strong team.
“We’re just trying to get better every day and figure out what our best lineup is so we can try to win the Big Ten and peak in December,” he said.
Swing link: Cook said a friend joked with him, asking how Team Waverly was doing. The Huskers are up to three Waverly ranks with right fielder Whitney Lauenstein, reserve setter Anni Evans and Allick.
“Waverly has nailed it,” Cook said of the town of about 4,000 outside Lincoln.
Lauenstein played some as a freshman at right tackle and had a good offseason.
“All summer I’m like, ‘Boy, that girl is on a mission,'” Cook said. “She is very determined. She worked really hard. She has earned a lot of respect from our team.”
Lauenstein will probably always have a lot of competition to play at outside hitter or right wing, but Cook sees a lot of potential, especially with her hitting.
“We just have to let it go,” he said. “I talked about some other (players) like Christina Houghtelling. Her first year she was average and barely played, and two years later she is the national player of the year. We were able to get it out of her. (Lauenstein’s) job is to work hard and be coachable, and our job is to teach him and coach him.”
Photos: Nebraska volleyball opens 2022-23 season with first practice