Huskers last practice before sweet 16

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP)- The Husker volleyball team was in Minneapolis, Minn. on Thursday to prepare for their sweet 16 match-up against Kentucky on Friday.

This game is a rematch to last year's elite eight game, which the Huskers won 3-1 in Lexington.

The Wildcats have won 23 straight matches after starting the season 3-4, but the Huskers have won 15 regional semi-final games in coach John Cook's 19 seasons with the team, and have won their last six.

After today's practice, coach Cook, senior libero Kenzie Maloney, and senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke spoke with the media.

Coach Cook talked about the difficulty of eight of the 15 players on the roster being in their first year with the program.

"Mikaela and Kenzie have had more responsibility than any captain at Nebraska have ever had, in that we had so many new people. They did an amazing job of keeping this whole thing together," Cook said.

Both Cook and Maloney acknowledged being in the Big Ten has helped the team come tournament time because of the level of skill many of the conference's teams have.

"Going through the Big Ten, you have no choice but to get better, because the competition brings out the best in you," Cook said.

"The Big Ten's tough, it's brutal, it's a long season. there's a lot of talent, obviously, and the season can feel really long because of how hard we have to play every weekend, but i think it prepares us really well. When we come into the tournament, we're not surprised by playing big teams because we've been doing it for the whole season," Maloney said.

The team's game is being played at the University of Minnesota, who the Huskers have a chance to face if they beat Kentucky, and Foecke believes that will be beneficial to the team as well.

"Having played here already once this season is a big difference, especially for the younger players, it's not quite a shock then. So I think we'll be ready to play tomorrow," Foecke said.

Maloney and Cook had high praise for Kentucky coming into this game.

"Kentucky is a high energy team. I know last year they came out with a lot of energy and a lot of hype, but i think it brought out the best in us because we play well under pressure and we play well when it's a big stage. So, hopefully that will happen again this year," Maloney said.

"They're a very low error team, they've done a great job on that, and it's gonna be, i think, a great offensive team going against a great defensive team. It will be interesting to watch that," Cook said.