The Nebraska Cornhuskers volleyball team released their 2019 schedule a couple months back, but the season is drawing near so let’s look at it again and get excited. The schedule once again combines a few very tough non-conference games with the always challenging Big Ten slate.
Bottom line, Nebraska will have one of the most challenging schedules in the nation. It will go a long way toward preparing them to make a run through the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Nebraska plays 29 total matches against 22 total teams. Of those 22 teams, 13 qualified for the 2018 NCAA Tournament and most of those look set to do it again.
Volleyball generally has three to four weekends before conference schedules start when teams travel around the country to play non-conference opponents. This is usually referred to as pre-season. Most often, teams travel on weekends for tournaments and play matches against 3 other teams.
A couple opponents jump off the page and make you shout “this one is going to be great!” I, for one, am giddy thinking about the match against Creighton Aug 30th and can hardly contain my excitement about the match against Stanford Sep 18th. Both of these are home games.
After the Creighton game, the Big Red travels to San Diego Sep 6-7 for a headline matchup against Arizona University in San Diego. Along with high quality opponents, it is a great chance to showcase the program in Southern California, a recruiting hotbed.
The team comes back home Sep 13-14 for a lower profile tournament hosting Denver, Loyola, and High Point. While you never want to overlook anyone, look for Coach Cook to try out some different rotations and really challenge the team to grow.
They also have two high quality opponents outside of the typical pre-season tournament play in a Wednesday night matchup with Stanford and later that weekend hosting Wichita State. Now, Stanford… what are you going to say? A rematch of an all-time classic National Title game, the heaviest of the heavy weights in the sport, the clash of the titans. I could go on. Look, everyone in the country will be watching this game. Make sure you do, too.
Next, Wichita State the following Saturday. They won’t be a push over by any means, and we’ll have to be wary of a hangover after the Stanford game, regardless of the outcome.
After that it is on to B10 play. The conference will be the best in the nation, yet again. No weekend is easy, and each will deserve its own article as we get close. But for now let’s look at a few pivotal games on the schedule.
The B10 opener is against Illinois. They are really talented again this season. The Fighting Illini will have a new setter, losing Jordyn Poulter to graduation. Oh, by the way, she is currently training with the national team so it would be an understatement to say those are big shoes, and game time numbers, to fill.
Should be interesting to see if Illinois can replace her and get back to form as a top-flight national program this season. This is an important game because we need to look for how Coach Cook has focused his line up as they launch into the B10 meat grinder. This one is on the road, so it’ll be tough and will say a lot about our team’s grit.
Eight days later Wisconsin comes to town. I expect Wisconsin to be GREAT. It is hard for me to find a weakness on that team. After Stanford, this is the game will tell the tale about our team. High stakes, high quality of play, adversity; Wisconsin has tools no one else in the country has. Win or lose, watch the individual matchups to see if our players either gain confidence for the experience, or wilt like flowers.
Six days later Michigan State and Michigan are in the Devaney Center. MSU is yet to prove their young talent. They have a bunch of sophomores that played real minutes as freshman. They did not make it into the NCAA tournament last year, which is rare, but experience tells me the Spartans will be improved this season.
The Wolverines are strong again this year and I expect to be somewhere in the middle of the top 25 teams in the country. Tough to prepare for two teams and play them within 24 hours of each other that are hungry for an upset that would make their season.
Then the very next Wednesday Purdue comes to play. Here again, another Top 25 match in just a few days. This string of games is a challenge to mental and physical stamina and comes right before a bunch of road games.
The toughest road game weekend in the entire country awaits Big Red volleyball near the end of the season on Nov 22 and 23 when they travel to Minneapolis and then Madison the next night. Not only are they far away from each other, four hours, but both of these teams will be in the top ten. BOTH OF THEM.
I don’t think there is an equivalent weekend matchup anywhere else. Of course, every Big 10 team will have to navigate this upper Midwest swing, but Nebraska will bring out the very best. As a comparison, Nebraska will be in the top ten too, but when teams come to Lincoln for their weekend game, the other back-to-back opponent is Iowa. Now, Iowa is a good program, but, they may not be ranked this season.
Adding to the pressure, this Minnesota-Wisconsin road trip comes two weeks before the NCAA selection show. You can bank it now that all three teams will be vying for a #1 seed by then. High stakes!
There’s our highlights. Much to look forward to and most likely some ups and downs to come. Are you going to watch any games in person? I am!