Huskers build chemistry in “bubble,” ready to end 13-month wait for season

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 1:24 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2021 at 8:27 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Nebraska volleyball players say they’re a close-knit group after spending the past 13 months together without a match.

“This team had no choice but to get close,” senior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins said. The Huskers trained, followed strict COVID-19 protocols, and even produced popular Tik Tok videos. They say they limited contact with people outside the program while remaining in a “bubble.” Stivrins says many sacrifices were made in order to play this semester.

Nebraska begins a shortened, conference-only schedule next Friday with the 5th-ranked Huskers play at Indiana. John Cook’s team brings back an experienced lineup featuring Stivrins and fellow All-Americans Lexi Sun and Madi Kubik. In fact, the Huskers return their entire starting lineup from a team that reached the NCAA Regional Finals in 2019.

Cook says his team is talented with a high ceiling. However, the Huskers are seeking consistency in practice, which Cook says is difficult due to routines changing during the pandemic. Cook is hopeful the 22-game schedule will happen in full during the spring semester. However, he knows matches could get postponed due to daily COVID-19 testing across the Big Ten.

Cook adds that he senses a “pent up demand” for college volleyball. The Final Four is scheduled to be held in Omaha in April. Nebraska’s long-time head coach hinted that the entire NCAA Tournament may be held in the Cornhusker State.

“Hopefully fans can go by then,” junior setter Nicklin Hames quipped. Hames, a 69-match starter and team captain, says the off-season was filled with ups and downs.

“You train every day and not know when you’re going to play,” Hames said.

Players are aware of the lofty expectations surrounding the team. They admit they think about the goal of reaching the Final Four. However, the current focus is to take it one day at a time.

“Getting back out there and winning some games would put a smile on my face,” Stivrins said.

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