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Huskers Begin Big Ten Play at No. 2 Penn State

Huskers Begin Big Ten Play at No. 2 Penn State
Freshman Jazz Sweet is hitting a team-high .354 this season. Photo by Josh Wenger/Nebraska Communications

The Nebraska volleyball team opens Big Ten play on Friday at No. 2 Penn State at 7 p.m. (CT) at Rec Hall in University Park, Pennsylvania. The match will be televised on BTN and streamed on The Huskers will then travel to New Brunswick, New Jersey to play Rutgers on Saturday at 6 p.m. (CT). That match will be streamed online with a BTN Plus subscription.

Husker Sports Network will broadcast all the action on HSN affiliates including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and 105.9 FM in Omaha. A live audio stream will be provided at and on the official Huskers app. John Baylor is in his 24th season doing play-by-play for the Husker volleyball program. Lauren Cook, a former All-America setter for the Huskers, will provide color commentary.

About the Huskers
• Nebraska finished non-conference play with a 7-3 record after a 2-1 weekend at the Omaha Challenge hosted by UNO at Baxter Arena. The Huskers swept Kansas State and Omaha but were upset by Northern Iowa, 3-1, which snapped the Big Red’s six-match win streak.
• Nebraska ranks 13th nationally in opponent hitting percentage after holding foes to .137 through non-conference play. The Huskers rank third in the Big Ten in that category.
• As a team, the Huskers are fourth in the Big Ten with 16.50 digs per set.
• Mikaela Foecke leads the Huskers with 3.29 kills per set and is averaging 2.71 digs per set. The junior has four double-doubles this season.
• Jazz Sweet adds 2.74 kills per set and is hitting a team-high .354. The freshman right-side hitter has at least five kills in every match this season and has hit over .300 in seven of 10 matches.
• Annika Albrecht was named the co-MVP of the Omaha Challenge last weekend. The senior outside hitter is averaging 2.68 kills and 2.97 digs per set. Albrecht has 114 career service aces, which ranks 10th in NU career history. With three more aces, she will move into a tie for ninth.
• Senior setter Kelly Hunter is putting up 10.04 assists per set and 2.48 digs per set. The only NCAA Division I setter who has set her team to both a national and conference championship, Hunter is the eighth Husker in school history to surpass 3,000 career assists. She now has 3,132 in her career and ranks seventh in school history. With 67 more assists she will pass Lauren Cook for sixth in NU history.
• Senior middle blocker Briana Holman averages 2.26 kills and 1.18 blocks per set.
• Junior libero Kenzie Maloney is averaging 4.62 digs per set, which ranks third in the Big Ten.
• Redshirt freshman middle blocker Lauren Stivrins chips in 2.18 kills and 0.88 blocks per set for the Huskers. Stivrins has at least six kills in every match this season and has improved her blocking of late with 1.40 blocks per set over Nebraska’s last three matches.

• John Cook, Nebraska: 18th year at Nebraska (506-68); 25th year overall (667-141)
• Russ Rose, Penn State: 39th year at Penn State (1,223-196)
• CJ Werneke, Rutgers: 10th year at Rutgers (76-208); 16th year overall (187-294)

Series History
• Nebraska holds a 19-10 lead in the series with Penn State. The Huskers have won five straight in the series and have not lost to the Nittany Lions since Nov. 29, 2014 in University Park. Nebraska won 3-2 (22-25, 25-17, 25-23, 23-25, 15-11) at Penn State and 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-22) in Lincoln in the regular season last year. The Huskers then came out on top in an epic regional semifinal match on Dec. 9 at the Devaney Center. Nebraska trailed the match 2-0 and faced elimination down 24-22 in set three. But the Huskers won the final four points of the third set and then won the fourth set, 25-19, before dominating the fifth set, 15-6.
• Nebraska is 3-1 all-time against Rutgers with all three wins coming in the Big Ten era. The Huskers swept the Scarlet Knights in 2014 and 2016 in New Brunswick, and in 2015 in Lincoln. This season marks the first in Rutgers’ four years in the Big Ten in which the Huskers will play Rutgers twice. Rutgers’ lone win was in 1978.

Scouting Penn State
• Penn State went 10-0 in non-conference action and has not lost a match since last year’s Dec. 9 regional semifinal match at Nebraska. The Nittany Lions have two neutral-site wins over No. 4 Stanford already this season. Penn State leads the Big Ten in hitting (.360) with first-team All-American Haleigh Washington leading the way with a conference-best .534 hitting percentage. Washington averages 2.54 kills and 1.49 blocks per set. Fellow first-team All-American Simone Lee contributes a team-high 3.94 kills per set on .334 hitting. Ali Frantti adds 2.53 kills and 1.79 digs per set. All three players were preseason All-Big Ten selections.

Scouting Rutgers
• At 5-7 entering Friday’s match against Iowa, Rutgers has already won its most matches since 2014. Rutgers has lost 31 straight Big Ten matches entering the weekend and is 1-59 all-time in Big Ten matches. Rutgers has served 72 aces this season, third-most in the Big Ten. Kamilla Cieslik averages 3.40 kills and has 19 aces this year. Sahbria McLetchie adds 2.83 kills and 1.75 digs per set.

Hunter Guides Young Husker Squad
• All-America setter Kelly Hunter is in her senior season after leading NU to a national championship and a Big Ten championship the past two seasons as team captain and starting setter.
• Hunter was a second-team AVCA All-American in 2016 and an All-Big Ten setter, becoming the first Husker setter since Lauren Cook in 2012 to make the All-Big Ten team. She is a preseason All-Big Ten selection.
• Hunter ranks eighth on NU’s career assists chart with 3,132. She was named the Big Ten Setter of the Week on Sept. 11 after a double-double of 31 assists and 14 digs against UCLA on Sept. 9.
• Hunter was named Big Ten Setter of the Week four times last season, giving her seven career awards. She set a career high with 61 assists at Penn State. She posted 11.24 assists per set to rank third in the Big Ten.

Foecke Poised for Bigger Role
• Junior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke is NU’s top hitter with 3.29 kills per set. She received All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2016 and was an AVCA All-Region honoree.
• Foecke worked hard to become a six-rotation player entering her junior season and has been effective in that role, adding 2.71 digs per set and a .980 reception percentage.
• Foecke was a unanimous preseason All-Big Ten selection and was one of just two players to earn a unanimous selection (Minnesota setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson).
• Foecke was the NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player in 2015 – becoming just the third freshman to earn the honor – after 19 kills on .385 hitting in the championship win against Texas. The other freshmen to win the award were Deja McClendon (Penn State, 2010) and Kerri Walsh (Stanford, 1996).

Holman Leads Husker Middle Blockers
• Senior Briana Holman guides a relatively inexperienced group of Husker middle blockers.
• Holman is averaging 2.26 kills and a team-best 1.18 blocks per set for the Huskers while hitting .295. She was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 5 and the MVP of the Ameritas Players Challenge after a dominating display over three matches with 25 kills and 18 blocks on .525 hitting.
• Holman earned AVCA All-Region honors for the third time in her career last season and received All-Big Ten honorable mention.
• Holman was a first-team AVCA All-American at LSU in 2014 with 3.94 kills and 1.47 blocks per set. She was a two-time All-SEC performer for the Tigers and represented the U.S. Collegiate National Team at the World University Games in South Korea in July 2015.

Huskers Turn to Freshmen for Instant Impact
• With five true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen on the roster, the Huskers needed some new talent to step up in a big way in 2017, and so far that has happened.
• Redshirt freshman middle blocker Lauren Stivrins is averaging 2.18 kills per set and has started every match.
• Freshman outside hitter Jazz Sweet had an outstanding debut with 14 kills on .375 hitting against Oregon and 16 kills on .323 hitting at Florida. Sweet is second on the team in kills at 2.74 per set and is hitting a team-high .354.
• Redshirt freshman setter Hunter Atherton has made two starts and played in seven matches with an average of 6.14 assists and 1.82 digs per set. Atherton also has five service aces, third-most on the team.
• Freshman outside hitter Anezka Szabo, who plays the same right-side hitter position as Sweet, tallied 10 kills on .400 hitting against Saint Mary’s and has played in seven matches.

Huskers Ranked No. 14 in AVCA Coaches Poll
• Nebraska is ranked No. 14 in this week’s AVCA Coaches Poll.
• The Huskers have been ranked No. 1 in 98 all-time polls, the most in NCAA history.
• The Huskers have been ranked in the top 10 a total of 459 times, which is also the most in NCAA history.
• Nebraska has appeared in all 515 AVCA Coaches Polls since it was established in 1982. Nebraska and Stanford are the only two programs to be ranked in every poll all-time.

Cook Adds to Legacy; Will Join AVCA Hall of Fame in December
• Nebraska head coach John Cook is in his 18th season as the Nebraska volleyball head coach in 2017. He has led the Huskers to three national championships, seven final fours, 11 conference championships and 15 top-10 final rankings since 2000. Cook has 667 career wins and is one of the all-time winningest coaches in NCAA history.
• Since taking over the program in 2000, Cook has led the Huskers to a nation-leading .882 win percentage in that time (506-68).
• Under Cook, the Huskers have achieved 49 AVCA All-Americans and 19 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, both among the best in the nation. He is a two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year, earning the prestigious honor in 2000 and 2005, and a six-time conference coach of the year, including Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2016, his first Big Ten honor with the Huskers in their Big Ten era (2011-present).
• Cook was named the AVCA North Region Coach of the Year this season, his fifth career regional coaching honor and fourth while at Nebraska.
• Cook is one of only four active coaches – and one of six all-time – to be a two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year and was honored in 2008 by USA Volleyball, receiving its All-Time Great Coach Award.
• Cook will be inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in December in Kansas City, Missouri. Cook will join former Husker volleyball coach Terry Pettit in the hall.

Husker Fans Set Attendance Standard Once Again
• Nebraska fans led the nation in attendance for a fourth straight season as their 8,210 average per match in 2016 established a new NCAA attendance record, topping its 2015 average of 8,206.
• The Huskers’ total attendance of 155,986 in 19 home matches also set a school record.
• In 2013, the Huskers led the nation in attendance (8,175) for the first time since 1992, ending Hawaii’s 21-year reign as the national leader.
• The Huskers repeated as attendance champions in 2014 with 8,083 fans per match, which included a school-record 8,585 fans at the Oct. 3 win against Penn State.
• Nebraska has ranked in the top three nationally in attendance every season since 1990 (27 straight seasons).
• The Huskers have sold out every regular-season match since 2001, a streak of 224 consecutive matches, the longest sellout streak in the history of NCAA women’s athletics.
• The Devaney Center has hosted the three largest regular-season crowds in NCAA history and seven of the 10 largest.

Huskers Get Depth From Former Husker Women’s Basketball Player Allie Havers
• The Huskers gained some depth at middle blocker when former Husker women’s basketball player Allie Havers joined the team in the spring.
• Havers, a 6-5 native of Mattawan, Michigan, has one season of eligibility to play volleyball, a sport she excelled at in high school. Havers was a first-team Class A all-state player in Michigan in 2012 and a finalist for Michigan’s Miss Volleyball in 2013.
• On the Nebraska women’s basketball team, Havers closed her career having played in 125 games with 50 starts. She ranked among the top 50 career scorers (720 points) and top 25 career rebounders (541) in Husker history.

Cook’s Coaching Tree Continues to Grow
• Nebraska head coach John Cook’s assistant coaches have a great track record of moving on to become head coaches.
• After the 2016 season, Nebraska assistants Chris Tamas and Dani Busboom Kelly both accepted high-level Division I head coaching jobs. Busboom Kelly became the head coach at Louisville, while Tamas accepted the head coaching job at Big Ten foe Illinois.
• Seven assistants under Cook have become head coaches following their time on Cook’s Nebraska staff: Craig Skinner (Kentucky), Lee Maes (Virginia), Lizzy Stemke (Georgia), Dan Conners (UC Davis), Dan Meske (Augustana, Associate Head Coach at Louisville), Busboom Kelly and Tamas.
• In the last seven years, five of Cook’s Husker assistants have become head coaches.

New Players, New Coaches
• Not only are six of the 15 Husker players new to the program, so are the two Husker assistant coaches. Former Husker and U.S. Olympic libero Kayla Banwarth, and former Long Beach State men’s associate head coach Tyler Hildebrand are on the Husker bench this year.
• Hildebrand joined the Nebraska coaching staff as an assistant in February of 2017. Hildebrand came to Nebraska after five seasons on the coaching staff of the Long Beach State men’s volleyball program, including two seasons as associate head coach. In 2017, he was the AVCA Division I-II Men’s National Assistant Coach of the Year. A former All-American at Long Beach State, Hildebrand was the top assistant there from 2013-15 after a decorated playing career on the U.S. Men’s National Team. He is a former setter who coordinated both the offense and the blocking defense at Long Beach State at one point in his career.
• Banwarth joined the Nebraska volleyball coaching staff as an assistant in January of 2017. Banwarth completed an illustrious playing career for the Huskers in 2010 before embarking on a professional playing career that saw her win an Olympic bronze medal with the U.S. National Team, as well as an FIVB World Championship. Banwarth is relatively new to the coaching profession after finishing her professional career with the U.S. National Team at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. A U.S. National Team libero since 2011, Banwarth spent two years as a volunteer assistant coach for the Pepperdine men’s volleyball team.

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