LINCOLN — It was John Cook's biggest fear about moving from the NU Coliseum, which provided his Nebraska volleyball program one of the nation's best home-court environments.
At the team's new home in the Devaney Center, Cook knew the bells would be loud and the whistles would be plenty. The crowd would be twice the size. But could the Devaney be as loud and intimidating to opponents at the level of the Coliseum, where NU posted 15 undefeated home seasons?
The coach got his answer last weekend when Nebraska, which moved up to No. 9 in this week's AVCA coaches poll, treated more than 8,000 fans to a pair of wins over ranked, Big Ten Conference opponents to open home league play.
“One of the big tests for me as a coach was could the Devaney make a difference in a home-court advantage, and I think we saw the impact the crowd could have Saturday night against Wisconsin,” Cook said Monday. “They caused (Wisconsin) to miss three or four serves, I'm not sure, in Game 4, and I think wore them down. The Devaney answered the question can we have a home-court advantage like we did in the Coliseum.”
Friday night, Nebraska swept three tight sets from Minnesota, which dropped from No. 8 to No. 11 this week, in the Huskers' first Devaney Center match as a member of the Big Ten. But Saturday's five-set tussle with the Badgers may have been the building's true coming out party, Cook said.
The Huskers won the first two sets, only to see Wisconsin rally for tight wins in the third and fourth sets. Senior outside hitter Kelsey Robinson, who on Monday was named the Big Ten co-player of the week, said Nebraska may have lost focus after winning 10 straight sets against conference foes dating back to last weekend.
“We expected to win in three. I don't think we were mentally in it going into that third game,” Robinson said. “I think we just can't let teams hang around and then expect to win and sweep teams, especially in the Big Ten. They'll come back and fight for every point.”
But, as point by point went to the Huskers in the fifth set, the decibel level grew, proving Nebraska's home-court advantage didn't get lost in the move a few blocks north. Against a fresh Wisconsin team that had the advantage of playing its previous match Wednesday, the Huskers rolled in the decisive set 15-6.
“We had a very emotional … we sold out against Minnesota,” Cook said. “So mentally and emotionally, it was tough for us to rebound. We were a little bit sluggish. These kids work hard in the summer. They're really well conditioned, and I think that was the difference. That and the crowd.”
Huskers nab three Big Ten weekly honors
Nebraska players grabbed three of five weekly honors handed out by the Big Ten, highlighted by Kelsey Robinson being named co-player of the week.
Robinson, who shared the honor with Michigan State's Lauren Wicinski, collected her first Big Ten award by averaging 6.3 kills per set against Minnesota and Wisconsin, while hitting .417. Her 29 kills against the Badgers Saturday were a career high, and she added 22 digs in the match.
Sophomore middle blocker Meghan Haggerty was named the Big Ten's defensive player of the week after posting 12 blocks over the weekend. She had a season-high 13 kills in the win over the Badgers and continued a stretch of rapid improvement since the start of conference play.
To cap the honors, Amber Rolfzen was named the league's freshman of the week for the second time this year. Rolfzen tied Haggerty's total of 12 blocks for the weekend, including a team-high eight stuffs against Wisconsin.
This marks the first time three Huskers have earned conference honors in the same week since Jordan Larson, Amanda Gates and Sydney Anderson took home Big 12 Conference awards in October 2008.
Southern California back to top spot in poll
Top-ranked Washington's loss at Colorado last weekend cleared the way for Southern California to climb back into the No. 1 spot in this week's AVCA rankings. The Women of Troy were followed by Florida, Texas, Penn State and Hawaii.
The poll again contains eight Big Ten teams, including both Nebraska opponents this weekend. NU will play at No. 17 Michigan Friday and at No. 7 Michigan State Saturday.
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Video: Nebraska coach John cook at Monday's press conference