LINCOLN — Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook said he's glad his team won't be on the road during a distraction-filled holiday week.
There are no classes after Tuesday. The 10th-ranked Huskers will host last-place Iowa (10-21, 2-16) Wednesday. A day later is Thanksgiving, and Senior Day is set for Saturday, when NU plays Northwestern (16-13, 5-13).
Staying mentally locked in won't be easy. But it seems that Cook believes his players are better equipped to handle the challenge when they're at home.
“Watch some of the scores you'll see this week,” Cook said. “It's such a difficult week for teams to stay focused. ... When you've got to go on the road, it multiplies it.”
But the fact that these next two matches could be the final contests at the NU Coliseum feeds into the players' motivation during the week, Cook said.
“They're looking at this as these are the last two,” Cook said.
Cook did say that there's a good chance Nebraska would host its first two games in the NCAA tournament next week.
Coach or father?
Cook said Monday he hasn't yet talked to his daughter Lauren, a senior setter for NU, about how they'll handle the Senior Day ceremony after Saturday's Northwestern game.
Does John Cook play the role of the coach or the father?
“We'll see,” Cook said. “She's an amazing kid. She's worked hard here. It's not easy having your dad be the coach.”
Cook told reporters to ask him next week about the emotions associated with Senior Day. He hasn't allowed himself to think about the class' legacy during the season.
Nebraska delivered a solid defensive effort in Sunday's three-game sweep against Wisconsin, one of the best overall efforts of the year, Cook said.
Defense was the key, though. Wisconsin finished the match with a .145 hitting percentage. (NU was at .351.)
“We finally played some defense,” Cook said. “We were really flying around.”
With Maryland officially joining the Big Ten on Monday and the league's expected addition of Rutgers coming Tuesday, Cook expects the conference to alter its scheduling format for future volleyball seasons.
Teams can't play everyone twice anymore, Cook said.
Perhaps that creates the possibility of adding a conference tournament at the end of the year. Cook doesn't like that idea, though.
Assuming two divisions are formed, he'd prefer a championship match between the top teams.
Bottom line, Cook says there's plenty to carefully examine going forward.
“I hope it doesn't diminish and reduce our schedule down,” Cook said.
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>> Video: Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook at Monday's press conference