LINCOLN — The rivalry between Nebraska and Creighton might be intense on the court and between the fans, but Nebraska coach John Cook has nothing but appreciation for the program that Kirsten Bernthal Booth has built.
During Monday’s press conference, Cook was complimentary of Booth after the Bluejays knocked off defending national champion Kentucky over the weekend.
“It just shows you the level of volleyball in this state,” he said. “Kirsten has done a great job of building that program. They're a national contender.”
Nebraska and Creighton have met 17 times in the past 23 years with gaps in 1999, 2003, 2012-13 and last year when the Huskers didn’t play any nonconference matches. Cook said when NU first started playing the Bluejays, it was to help them raise their profile.
Even though the Bluejays have not defeated NU in the 19 meetings, they’ve pushed the Huskers to the limit in recent years including a five-set match in 2018 and four close sets in 2019. The two teams will meet again on Wednesday in front of more than 14,000 fans at CHI Health Center.
“It's a celebration for these volleyball programs to be able to play in front of that on a national stage,” Cook said.
Cook also gave a shoutout to the third other Division I program in the state, Omaha. The Mavericks went 1-2 last weekend, losing in five sets to Nebraska and Arizona State before topping Georgia. He said the level of volleyball success from the youth level up to Division I makes him proud.
“I think Nebraska is the heartbeat of volleyball in this country,” Cook said.
Senior middle blocker Kayla Caffey was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.
The award is the first league honors for the Chicago native, who played her first two seasons at Missouri. She was also named to the Ameritas Players Challenge all-tournament team.
For the weekend, Caffey averaged 1.56 blocks and 2.44 kills at a .405 clip. Her best match last week was also the shortest appearance as she had six kills on 10 errorless swings and seven blocks in the final two sets against Omaha on Friday.
The last defensive league honors Nebraska received was from Kenzie Knuckles in November 2019.
BEHIND THE CURVE
Cook isn’t pleased with where the Huskers are in their development so far this season. Much of that has to do with NU being without senior setter Nicklin Hames for more than a week with an ankle injury before their first regular-season matches.
NU failed to crack .300 hitting for a match during its first four matches of the season before posting a .446 hitting percentage against Arizona State on Saturday.
The next two weeks will help the third-ranked Huskers figure out their identity as they play four rated teams during that stretch. While NU has played well for stretches, Cook said they haven't played at a high level for a sustained period, which they’ll need as the schedule gets tougher.