Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook thinks All-America middle blocker Lauren Stivrins will play for the Huskers this season, but he doesn’t know when.
Stivrins hasn’t played in a match this season after having offseason back surgery. But she’s hitting during practice now, and if she doesn’t have any setbacks, she may be inching closer to returning.
Nebraska has nine weeks remaining in the regular season, and then the NCAA Tournament.
For part of the season, Stivrins attended practice but was not participating.
Last Friday, Stivrins was part of the entire practice, and this week the plan is for her to go through a normal week of practice.
“Physically I think it’s there,” Cook said. “Mentally she’s got to get confident to play. When that happens, I don’t know. Nobody knows. It’s going to be one day she feels like, ‘OK, I feel like I’m confident and can do this.’”
How soon Stivrins plays will be decided by Stivrins and athletic trainer Jolene Emricson.
“She’s not playing until she says she feels confident,” Cook said. “So that’s between her and (Emricson). But she will be in practice this week and we’ll see how that goes.”
Nebraska’s offense hasn’t been great this season, and that’s an area where Stivrins could make a difference.
“She’ll change our team dramatically,” Cook said.
Huskers stand pat in the rankings: Nebraska stayed at No. 12 in the new AVCA rankings released on Monday.
The Huskers went 2-0 during the opening week of the Big Ten season to improve to 8-3 overall.
Nebraska plays two unranked teams this week — Michigan on Friday and Michigan State on Sunday.
After three straight losses, Nebraska won twice last week. But Cook says Nebraska still needs to get more kills and hit for a higher percentage.
“We got a ways to go,” Cook said. “The message is going to be, we have not arrived yet.”
Texas stayed at No. 1 in the poll, but Wisconsin dropped from second to fifth after its first loss of the season against Maryland.
That means Pittsburgh moved up to No. 2 and Louisville to No. 3. Louisville, coached by former Husker player Dani Busboom Kelly, is 10-0 and has its highest ranking ever.
Upset alert: Among the upsets last week was unranked Maryland beating Wisconsin, and unranked Mississippi State beating then-No. 17 Florida.
But Cook isn’t surprised that more teams are capable of beating the top teams, because each year he sees more good volleyball players.
“I’ve noticed this in recruiting, there used to be just a few good players everybody was recruiting,” Cook said. “Now there are a lot of good players that everybody is recruiting. The depth and the quality of volleyball, I think it’s the most popular girls sport in America now. There is just a lot of really good volleyball players.”
Krause earns Big Ten award: After her best week as a Husker right-side hitter, Lindsay Krause was named the Big Ten freshman of the week. In a win against Northwestern, she had 15 kills and hit .500. While beating Iowa, Krause made only one hitting error over 22 attempts, finishing with 12 kills and a .500 hitting percentage.
Future Huskers win with USA: The United States junior national team, which includes four Nebraska commits, won again at the FIVB World Championships in Durango, Mexico. The Americans beat Argentina on Sunday in five sets, winning the fifth set 15-7, to improve to 5-0.
Bekka Allick, a Husker commit from Waverly, finished with 10 points on four kills, a team-high four blocks and two ace serves.
In the family business: Taylor Els, a 2016 graduate of Lincoln Southwest, is in her first season as a full-time assistant coach for the Montana State volleyball team.
Last season Els, who played in college at Northern Colorado, was a volunteer assistant coach at Michigan State. That year Els, her dad and brother all were coaches at Michigan State. Ross Els is the special teams coach and linebacker coach for the Spartan football team. Bo Els is a graduate assistant football coach.