The Husker volleyball started practice this week. The Huskers have been picked to win the Big 12. for the eleventh consecutive season, with Texas in second and Missouri in third. When national preseason polls are released, there should be little doubt that they're ranked number one after going 33-1 last season and winning the national title.
Nebraska returns to 2007 with an enormous amount of talent and experience. Besides superstar student and athlete Sarah Pavan, Nebraska returns four other All-Americans. These include setter Rachel Holloway, middle blocker Tracy Stalls, and outside hitters Christina Houghtelling and Jordan Larson. Houghtelling was the 2005 AVCA Player of the year, but sat out last season due to shoulder surgery. Only libero Dani Busboom and Dani Mancuso are gone from last year's team.
The Huskers set a record by getting five preseason All-Big 12 players with Pavan, Houghtelling, Larson, Stalls, and Holloway all selected to the preseason team. Texas had three players selected, while Missouri had two.
Nebraska's team runs much deeper than the Husker five already mentioned. Junior Rachel Schwartz is returning, most likely to move to libero to replace Busboom. She had three aces against Stanford in the national title match, and was a digging machine last season. Maggie Griffin is a senior setter who would probably start at any other team in the nation. Kari Cooper is a sophomore middle blocker who saw plenty of playing time last season as a backup to Tracy Stalls, leading all Big 12 freshmen in hitting percentage. Amanda gates is a junior middle blocker who will push Cooper for playing time.
Newcomers include 6' 5" Lindsey Licht, a right-side hitter from Aurora, Colorado, Brooke Delano from Bellevue, Jordan Wilberger of Scottsblugg, Tara Mueller of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Kayla Banwarth of Dubuque, Iowa.
Nebraska's run to the national title last season marked the first time the team had advanced to the Final Four by winning a regional outside of Nebraska. If they're to repeat this season, they'll have to do it again. They certainly seem to have a team to do it.
The 2007 Final Four Regionals are set as follows:
- Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida (Florida Gators)
- Rec Hall in University Park, Pennsylvania (Penn State Nittany Lions)
- Maples Pavilion in Stanford, California (Stanford Cardinal)
- University of Wisconsin Field House in Madison, Wisconsin. (Wisconsin Badgers)
Corn Nation covered Nebraska volleyball last season, and this season we hope to expand our coverage. I'd like to hear any ideas you have, any articles you'd like to see. Thanks - JJ.