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A Big Ten title has eluded the current Huskers, but a new 10-week race begins this week

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For all of the individual and team successes for the players on the Nebraska volleyball team — six players on the team right now have played in a national championship match, and Nicklin Hames has twice — something is missing for this group.

A championship.

Not since Mikaela Foecke was still crushing kills for the Huskers in 2017 has Nebraska hoisted a championship trophy, winning both the Big Ten and national championships that season.

But the 10-week chase for a Big Ten title begins this week, representing the first chance this year to hang a banner on the north wall at the Devaney Sports Center.

Wisconsin has won the Big Ten title the past three years. Nebraska finished second last season with A 15-4 record, one of several times Nebraska has come up just short of the Big Ten title. The past four years in the Big Ten standings, Nebraska has finished second, third, second and third.

The Big Ten season starts on Friday with all 14 teams in action. Nebraska starts the conference season at home, hosting Michigan State on Friday and No. 7 Ohio State on Saturday.

Now things really crank up for the Huskers.

“Twenty matches, 10 weeks, here we go, home and away. I’m excited,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “I told the team (Tuesday) that some of the teams in the other conferences may not have to play another top-10 ranked team for the next 10 weeks. We’re going to be playing a top-10 team every week, pretty much. It’s a great challenge and a great conference and we got to go from good to great.”

Nebraska probably won’t be full strength to begin the season. Outside hitter Ally Batenhorst may be available to return following an abdominal muscle injury, but Hames didn’t practice on Tuesday and may not be ready to play this weekend.

Big Ten volleyball fans have had it really good the past few year, getting to watch outstanding players like All-Americans Lauren Stivrins (Nebraska) Stephanie Samedy (Minnesota), Dana Rettke (Wisconsin) and Sydney Hilley (Wisconsin).

In may take a little time to get familiar with the next wave of players, but Cook says there are plenty of them across the Big Ten.

“Ohio State has got great players,” Cook said. “(Setter) Mac Podraza, the Big Ten (Network) people said she’s the best player in the conference. (Rylee) Radar has lit us up, and (Emily) Londot is a great player. … We’re playing against great players every week.”

Nebraska sophomore outside hitter Lindsay Krause is excited — and better prepared to make her second swing through a Big Ten season.

“I feel like we all know that the Big Ten season is a grind, and the Big Ten conference for volleyball is by far the best conference in volleyball,” Krause said. “So I think we know we got to show up every game no matter who you’re playing on the other side of the net. We got 20 matches over the next 10 weeks to prove the kind of team we can be when it comes time for the NCAA Tournament.”

A remarkable six of the top 11 teams in the rankings this week play in the Big Ten: No. 3 Nebraska, No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 7 Ohio State, No. 8 Minnesota, No. 9 Penn State and No. 11 Purdue.

To win a title Nebraska will most likely have to avoid a loss against one of the unranked teams, while also winning most of its matches against the ranked teams. And that includes ending an eight-match losing streak against the Badgers.

In the Big Ten there are no easy matches, Krause said, and that means you can’t take it easy in practice either.

“There may be some teams that you think are going to be easier matches, but those teams come out and play their best match against you they have all year,” Krause said.

Jordan Larson joining Midland University volleyball staff

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