For the third time in 12 months, Nebraska faces Wisconsin with a championship on the line

For the third time in 12 months, Nebraska faces Wisconsin with a championship on the line
For the third time in 12 months, Nebraska faces Wisconsin with a championship on the line

Nebraska’s Madi Kubik talks about her team controlling its own destiny and her decision to leave after her senior year.

Despite all of their successes — including being part of teams that have won 123 games in five seasons — none of the players on the Nebraska volleyball team have had a championship ring since their time here. .

And the main reason why – Wisconsin – will be back on the other side of the net on Friday, again trying to keep the Huskers from winning a championship.

Wisconsin’s No. 3 and Nebraska’s No. 5 play at 7 p.m. at Devaney Sports Center. The match is on Big Ten Network.

It’s the third time in 12 months that the programs will play in some sort of championship game. Last year, Nebraska and Wisconsin also played in the final week of the regular season with the Big Ten title on the line. Wisconsin won in four sets and finished one game better than Nebraska to claim their third straight Big Ten title.

Then three weeks later, the Badgers again defeated Nebraska in five sets in the 2021 National Championship.

Now Nebraska is back with another shot at a championship. The Huskers control their own destiny but must beat Wisconsin for a chance at a Big Ten title. Next, Nebraska takes on No. 9 Minnesota on Saturday.

“We’ve been working since January where we would get to this point to have this opportunity to compete for a Big Ten championship,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “The team worked hard and the staff worked very hard. We have to go. It will be fun for our fans.

In a league with six seeded teams, the Big Ten title almost always comes down to the final weekend, and Nebraska avoided any major upsets to give themselves a shot at a final weekend title.

Nebraska’s losses are each to the top 10 teams — Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Nebraska had a tough time during the Big Ten season when seven of nine games were on the road. But the win now comes with three straight home games to end the Big Ten season.

“We gave ourselves the opportunity to play for the Big Ten Championship this weekend, which is really cool,” Husker senior Madi Kubik said.

The final list of matches ended well, with the top 10 teams head-to-head. Cook said the Big Ten Network had a role in the big timeline to end the season.

Last season, the Wisconsin-Nebraska game set a record with 375,000 viewers on BTN.

Nebraska’s Kenzie Knuckles reflects on the relationships she built throughout her volleyball career in Nebraska and has no regrets in her final season.

“It’s all Big Ten, and Big Ten (Network) came up with that,” Cook said. “That’s one of the reasons they’re taking so long to get the calendar out because I think they’re trying to figure out how to do all of this and trying to make it a great weekend.”

Nebraska’s senior group — Nicklin Hames, Kenzie Knuckles and Kubik — have been able to win championships and go short multiple times, including twice in the national championship game for Hames.

“These guys need a ring, whether it’s a Big Ten or a national championship ring,” Cook said. “It’s kind of the only thing left on the table that they have to pursue.”

To do that, Nebraska will need to make a big turnaround since the Badgers beat Nebraska 25-23, 25-23, 25-18 on Oct. 26.

“We have to find a way to win close games against the top teams. That’s what it’s all about,” Cook said.

Overall, Wisconsin has won nine straight games against Nebraska, in five seasons.

One of the areas that held Nebraska back in Game 1 was serving-receiving, which was quite unusual for the Huskers.

“We didn’t handle it very well so we’ll have to be better if we’re going to have a chance,” Cook said.

Nebraska’s main serving-receiving players are Lexi Rodriguze, Knuckles and Kubik. Knuckles is confident Nebraska’s passing can be better this time.

“We know exactly what they’re going to do, so it’s honestly just to have a mentality of going in and doing it and being aggressive with what we’re doing,” Knuckles said.

The Badgers come to Lincoln on a 16-game winning streak. Wisconsin’s only loss in the Big Ten came in its second Big Ten game, a sweep by Minnesota.

Cook says Nebraska needs to be better on offense and not allow so many long runs.

But players — and Nebraska fans — know the Badgers roster well.

In Game 1 against the Huskers, Wisconsin outside hitter Sarah Franklin had 21 kills with a .385 hit percentage. Devyn Robinson added nine kills.

“We can’t let Franklin get 21 kills, so that’s a good start,” Cook said. “And they know it. And we can’t let Robinson hit us. We don’t even need to talk about names. They know.”

Contact the writer at 402-473-7435 or [email protected] On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.

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