It has been 30 years since the Nebraska volleyball team received a preseason ranking in the double digits. But with the team needing to replace five starters from a year ago, there was little surprise when the Huskers checked in at No. 10 in the first AVCA coaches’ poll Monday afternoon.
It marks the lowest ranking for Nebraska in the preseason or the first-released poll of the nation’s coaches since NU was ranked 15th to start the 1983 season. Since then, the Huskers have been ranked no lower than seventh to start the season. Nebraska had been ranked No. 7 in the season’s first poll five times, most recently in 2008.
The Huskers’ only other preseason ranking outside the top 10 came in the first-ever preseason poll in 1982 when NU started the year ranked 20th. Nebraska has been ranked in every weekly poll since the AVCA rankings began and has been ranked in the top 10 a nation-leading 410 times.
Nebraska coach John Cook said earlier this summer he wouldn’t be surprised by relatively low national expectations for a team that opened fall practices Saturday with 10 newcomers. The 2012 squad finished 26-7 and reached the NCAA Regional final.
“I asked our team, the players working our camp, ‘How many think we’re going to be preseason top 10?’” Cook told The World-Herald in June. “Nobody raised their hand. I said, ‘Yeah, you’re right. Nobody thinks we’re any good.’ We have very high expectations here.”
“I kind of like it because nobody thinks we’re going to be any good. It’s a completely different feel,” Cook said in the June interview.
It is hard to view the No. 10 ranking as off base considering the talent Nebraska lost from last year’s team. First-team All-American setter Lauren Cook and All-American outside hitters Gina Mancuso and Hannah Werth exhausted their eligibility last year. NU also received unexpected losses when two-year starting libero Lara Dykstra transferred to Pepperdine shortly after last season, and senior middle blocker Hayley Thramer, a two-year starter, injured her knee during Nebraska’s spring exhibition season. Thramer is expected to miss the entire 2013 season.
Eight freshmen and two transfers join six returning players on the 2013 roster.
That group will compete in a league that, at least as of Monday, will be considered the deepest in the country. The Big Ten placed a nation-high seven teams in the top 25 with three being ranked ahead of Nebraska. No. 2 Penn State will likely be a unanimous favorite to repeat as conference champions, while Minnesota (No. 6) and Michigan (No. 7) also earned rankings in the Top 10.
No. 14 Michigan State, No. 16 Purdue, and No. 23 Ohio State also earned preseason rankings.
Defending national champion Texas was ranked No. 1 by a wide margin, receiving 55 of 60 first-place votes. The Longhorns will host Nebraska in Austin on Sept. 22.
Nebraska also will play ranked nonconference foes No. 22 Dayton and No. 15 Iowa State.