LINCOLN — Kadie Rolfzen answered the question, posed following Saturday's win over Michigan, with the acknowledgment of the old and new realities of Nebraska volleyball.
Do the Huskers, who start three freshmen and regularly play two more, believe they can make a deep run in the postseason?
“We all kind of know our goals, but playing in the Big Ten, you can't really look that far ahead,” Rolfzen said. “You've got to look at the next game, the next week. We want to, of course, make the Final Four. That's our goal. But, we're playing two tough teams in Indiana and Purdue next week. So, that's what we're looking at right now.”
But, it's exactly Nebraska's performance in the Big Ten, which has surpassed preseason expectations, that drew the question in the first place.
Nebraska, which moved up to No. 6 in this week's AVCA coaches poll and the NCAA's RPI rankings, has won eight straight matches — four of them coming against ranked teams. It leaves the Huskers (21-4, 14-2 Big Ten) one game behind No. 2 Penn State in the league standings with two weekends of regular-season play left.
“Look at anybody else's schedule,” NU coach John Cook said Monday. “Who has played four ranked teams in a row outside the Big Ten? It's not happening.”
When the season started, Cook had a roster that featured 10 players who had never gone through a season in the Big Ten. But the realization of the potential in the lineup, and the Huskers' current success, isn't exactly shocking.
Senior Kelsey Robinson, who was named Big Ten player of the week for the third week in a row Monday and is the runaway favorite to be named the league's player of the year, was an All-American at Tennessee. Rolfzen, who very well could be named the Big Ten's freshman of the year, was the nation's No. 5 recruit, according to PrepVolleyball.com.
Freshmen Amber Rolfzen and Justine Wong-Orantes also are in the starting lineup at opposite hitter and libero, respectively.
When the team first gathered in the fall, Cook told players there would be no ratcheting down of expectations. He knew the Huskers would be young, but also talented. Monday, the coach dusted off a saying from former Texas football coach Darrell Royal about how it shouldn't take long to find out if a young player had the fight he was looking for.
“If a dog's going to bite, they're going to bite as a pup,” Cook said.
After going unbeaten for four straight weeks in the Big Ten, the Huskers are showing belief that they can reach all of their lofty goals, Cook said. With Robinson spending only one year displaying her spectacular game in Lincoln and the chance to play the first four rounds of the NCAA tournament at home, this season is a chance for the Huskers to reach their first Final Four since 2008.
Which, ultimately, is how the program measures itself, youth or no youth.
“This is Nebraska volleyball. This is the way it's always going to be,” Cook said. “If you don't set the sights high, you're never going to get there.”
Robinson, Pollmiller repeat weekly Big Ten honors
Robinson earned her third straight Big Ten player of the week honor — and her fourth overall this year — after picking up double-doubles in both of NU's wins last weekend. She had 14 kills and 11 digs Friday in the sweep of Michigan State and 21 kills and 12 digs Saturday against Michigan.
NU's Mary Pollmiller was named the conference's setter of the week Monday for the second consecutive week and fourth time overall this year. She averaged 12.1 assists per set last weekend and helped the Huskers hit a season-high .402 against Michigan State.
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Video: Nebraska coach John Cook