The Nebraska Cornhuskers volleyball team came in to the Big Ten Conference as the new kids on the block. In the Big 12, the Huskers were conference champions nearly every year and an elite programs in the nation. They are still elite, but found out this season the Big Ten's challenges are not quite the same of their old conference.
Regular Season Overview:
The season started great as the Huskers would win the Lobo Classic. Despite a loss to the No. 15 Colorado State Rams, Nebraska would beat Albany University to take home the title. Even with a tournament win, the voters were not convinced after the loss to CSU, and the Huskers would drop from No. 5 to No. 11 in the rankings. Nebraska would pick up another tournament win, The Ameritas Players Challenge.
After the loss the Huskers would rally off 16 straight wins before eventually losing to No. 8 Penn State. During the win streak Nebraska would beat, No. 12 Iowa State, No. 5 Penn State, No. 24 Ohio State, No. 17 Michigan, No. 11 Purdue, No. 14 Minnesota, No. 23 Ohio State, and the big one, a win against the top ranked Illinois Fighting Illini. After the win against the No. 1 Illini, the Huskers would bolt from No. 4 to No. 1 in the rankings, the first time that Nebraska had been No. 1 since the 2007 season.
It wouldn't last, the Huskers would lose the second of a back-to-back at Penn State. John Cook's squad would only drop to No. 2 in the rankings.
On Tuesday November 22, 2011, Nebraska would clinch the outright Big Ten Championship after beating the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City. With the conference title the Huskers would end the 2011 season No. 2 in the nation and with a top seed in the NCAA tournament.
The NCAA Tourney
The Huskers first round match up against the Jackson State Tigers was no challenge as they would sweep the match, 3-0.
A great season would come crashing down in the second round against the Kansas State Wildcats.
From the beginning of the match the Wildcats came out with more intensity, and despite the match going five sets, it never felt like it was going to go the Huskers way. The Wildcats would win the final set, 15-11, sending Kansas State to Hawaii and the Huskers home.
“Great match by Kansas State. They did everything the needed to do to win. They played great. They never let up on the gas,” said Nebraska head coach John Cook. “They won all the big points. The coaches did a great job and those players did a great job.”
Also after the game Gina Mancuso was asked if it was numbing the season was over.
“Yeah, very. I promise you that we’re going to come out fighting next year and I promise you that our season won’t end like this. But like these people have said, Kansas State played great tonight and obviously they wanted it more than we did.”
Next season the Huskers will return All-Conference performers: Hannah Werth, Gina Mancuso, and Lauren Cook. Starters Morgan Broekhuis and Lara Dykstra will also be on next year's squad. Nebraska will also bring in three of the top 100 high school volleyball players in the nation, the most dominant being Alexa Strange from California.
Next years season will begin late August/early September and during the first home match will raise the Conference Championship banner.
***Edited by Josh Harvey***