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Huskers Set for Three Matches at Omaha Challenge

Huskers Set for Three Matches at Omaha Challenge
Photo by Stephanie Carpenter/Nebraska Communications

The 10th-ranked Nebraska volleyball team heads to Omaha this weekend for three matches at the Omaha Challenge, hosted by UNO at Baxter Arena. Nebraska will play Kansas State on Friday at 4:30 p.m., followed by matches on Saturday against Northern Iowa at Noon and Omaha at 7:30 p.m. The Huskers will be playing at UNO’s Baxter Arena for the first time. The facility opened in 2015 and has a capacity of 7,898. Single-day tickets are for sale at

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. An online video stream (subscription necessary) will be available at for the Nebraska-UNO match on Saturday night.

The tournament schedule has Omaha opening against Kansas State on Thursday at 7 p.m. On Friday, NU and KSU will start the day at 4:30 p.m. followed by Omaha/UNI at 7 p.m. Three matches will take place on Saturdaywith the Huskers and UNI playing first at Noon, Kansas State/UNI at 5:30 p.m., and Nebraska/UNO finishing the tournament at 7:30 p.m.

About the Huskers

  • Nebraska (5-2) has won five straight matches after dropping a pair of matches to now top-11 opponents (Oregon and Florida) to begin the season. The Huskers swept then-No. 11 UCLA at the Devaney Center twice last weekend, extending their regular-season non-conference home win streak to 16 straight matches. Overall, Nebraska has won its last 23 matches at the Devaney Center against non-Big Ten teams.
    • Against the three teams in the tournament this weekend, NU is a combined 103-5-1 all-time (.950).
    • The trip to Omaha will be a homecoming of sorts for Kelly Hunter. The senior setter grew up in Papillion, just a few minutes down the road from the UNO campus.
    • Hunter returned to the lineup full-time last weekend and performed well enough to earn Big Ten Setter of the Week for the first time this season and seventh time in her career. Hunter recorded a double-double of 31 assists and 14 digs against the Bruins on Saturday night while leading the team to a .301 hitting percentage. That followedFridaynight’s sweep in which Hunter had a season-high 44 assists, the second-highest assist total of her career in a three-set match.
    • Hunter became the eighth setter in school history to surpass 3,000 career assists. She now has 3,011.
    • Not only has Nebraska won five straight matches, but all five have been sweeps. The Huskers’ longest streak of sweeps last year was seven fromAug. 27-Sept. 16. Prior to that, the last time Nebraska swept more consecutive matches was in 2010 when it won 10 straight sweeps to close out Big 12 play and begin the NCAA Tournament.
    • Nebraska’s first seven opponents this season are hitting just .127 against the Huskers, which is the third-best percentage in the Big Ten.
    • As a team, the Huskers are third in the Big Ten with 16.42 digs per set.
    • Libero Kenzie Maloney is averaging 4.42 digs per set, which ranks fifth in the Big Ten.
    • Middle blocker Briana Holman is sixth in the Big Ten with 1.38 blocks per set.
    • Senior outside hitter Annika Albrecht is two service aces away from moving into Nebraska’s all-time career top 10. Albrecht has 111 career aces, while Jaime Krondak is currently No. 10 all-time with 113 aces.


  • John Cook, Nebraska: 18th year at Nebraska (504-67); 25th year overall (665-140)
    • Suzie Fritz, Kansas State: 17th year at Kansas State (320-183)
    • Bobbi Petersen, Northern Iowa: 18th year at Northern Iowa (442-135)
    • Rose Shires, Omaha: 28th year at Omaha (486-372)

Series History

  • Nebraska is 82-4 all-time against Kansas State. The last meeting was a 3-2 Kansas State victory on Dec. 2, 2011, which eliminated the Huskers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
    • NU is 6-0-1 against Northern Iowa. The Huskers won the last matchup, 3-0, on Nov. 30, 2012 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
    • The Huskers are 15-1 against Omaha, though this matchup will be the first against the Mavs since their transition to Division I began in 2011. The teams last met in 1990, a 3-0 Husker win. UNO’s only win was on Sept. 2, 1986.

Scouting Kansas State

  • Kansas State is 5-5 overall after a 3-1 win over UMKCon Tuesdaymight. The Wildcats lost four straight matches to Oregon State, Arkansas, Syracuse and No. 5 Wisconsin before snapping their skid against North Florida last weekend. KSU suffered a five-set loss at Georgia Tech last week. Kylee Zumach leads the Wildcats with 3.16 kills per set and adds 1.84 digs per set. The Wildcats rank 48th in the nation in hitting percentage (.256) but are 279th in opponent hitting percentage (.237).

Scouting Northern Iowa

  • Northern Iowa is receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches Poll with an 8-3 overall record. Two of the Panthers’ three losses are to top-15 teams (No. 8 Creighton and No. 12 Kentucky). UNI has impressive wins over No. 18 USC, No. 19 Iowa State and Missouri. Setter Heather Hook puts up 11.12 assists per set, while Karlie Taylor leads the team with 4.02 kills per set. Piper Thomas adds 3.58 kills per set and is hitting .320. Junior Bri Weber was a first-team All-MVC pick last year and is averaging 2.95 kills per set and 3.42 digs per set. The Panthers rank in the top 20 nationally in kills per set (14.63, 12th), assists per set (13.53, 17th) and digs per set (17.65, 19th).

Scouting Omaha

  • Omaha is 3-7 with two wins over Indiana State and one over Southeast Missouri. The Mavericks are led by Mackenzie Horkey’s 2.69 kills and 2.90 digs per set. Horkey, a junior outside hitter, missed most of last season with an injury but was averaging 3.35 kills and 3.55 digs before her injury. Five different Mavericks average more than two kills per set. Setter Sydney O’Shaughnessy averages 9.89 assists per set and has 13 aces on the season. O’Shaughnessy was an all-Summit League performer in 2015.

Hunter Guides Young Husker Squad

  • All-America setter Kelly Hunter is set for 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 was named Big Ten Setter of the Week four times last season, giving her six 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.
    • Hunter is eighth on NU’s career assists chart with 3,011.

Foecke Poised for Bigger Role

  • Junior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke is NU’s top hitter with 3.54 kills per set on .263 hitting. 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 3.00 digs per set and a .975 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 2.12 kills and a team-best 1.38 blocks per set for the Huskers while hitting .288. 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 2.08 kills per set.
    • Redshirt freshman setter Hunter Atherton has made two starts and played in six matches with an average of 6.43 assists and 1.90 digs per set. Atherton also has five service aces, third-most on the team.
    • 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 2.75 per set and is hitting a team-high .352. She is also second in blocks at 0.88 per set.
    • 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.

Huskers Ranked No. 10 in AVCA Coaches Poll

  • Nebraska is ranked No. 10 in this week’s AVCA Coaches Poll. The Huskers moved back into the top 10 with a sweep of then-No. 11 UCLA after two weeks spent at No. 12.
    • 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 514 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 665 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 .883 win percentage in that time (504-67).
    • 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 theOct. 3win 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.
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