By Lincoln Arneal
Jordan Larson hasn’t revolutionized the coaching world or dramatically altered the trajectory of the top-ranked Nebraska volleyball team.
That isn’t to say she hasn’t had an impact during her first month as an assistant coach for the Huskers. The former All-American and Olympic gold medalist has brought new drills, offered insights and added to the culture since arriving on Sept. 26.
“It just feels right having her here,” NU coach John Cook said. “It just feels so great to have another coach, and I think it takes some pressure off of me a little bit. I can see the big picture. She’s been awesome.”
For example, while Cook talked to the media Tuesday morning, Larson was having coffee with a player.
Cook said his days get filled up quickly, but having Larson as an additional assistant coach has allowed the NU staff to have better coverage with the players and connect with them during the day and after practice and make sure everyone is good.
In her time with the program, Larson has kept a low profile for the most part. She isn’t taking over huddles or barking out orders in practice. She’s more likely to stand back, observe and then pull a player to the side to give her a tip on how to improve her play or how to fix an issue plaguing the team.
While she primarily works with outside hitters, Larson offers lessons in passing, attacking and blocking to the entire team. Through these observations, she builds rapport with all the players.
Cook said Larson has an excellent feel for how to deal with players based on her time serving as a captain at Nebraska and the U.S. national team, along with her lengthy professional career.
“She just has a way and has a feel of what’s going on or what players need or what the team needs at that time,” Cook said. “That’s not stuff you really teach. She’s probably not going to learn that around me because I’m not wired that way.”
Following the Olympic qualifiers in September, Larson shut down her training to allow herself to recover. Slowly, she’s starting to get back in shape with the hopes to play professionally next spring and participate in the Paris Games.
Larson has begun to work out in the weight room but hasn’t jumped into too many drills on the practice court. For now, she’s helping with passing drills and served for the first time this week.
Cook said he doesn’t know if she will eventually work her way into playing six-on-six with the B side. He hasn’t talked to her about when she’ll be ready to be more active on the court, but she doesn’t need the reps right now.
“I don’t think she’s ready for that. She took a long break,” he said. “I think when you’re that old, you got to pace yourself.”
Even though Larson will take a sabbatical after the season to continue playing through the summer, Cook said he has been impressed with her work ethic and dedication to becoming a coach in her first month with the program.
“I feel like it’s very natural for her,” he said. “I feel like she loves it. She’s just probably born to be a coach. With somebody like that, you think, ‘OK, I’m sick of it,’ I think she really really enjoys it.”
Reilly Racks Up More Awards
Bergen Reilly was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday, the second time she’s earned the honor. She’s also been the league’s top setter for three weeks this season.
The NU setter averaged 11.3 assists per set while leading the Huskers to hitting .366 in wins over Maryland and Rutgers. Reilly also tallied five kills, 12 digs and three blocks last week.
Big Broadcast Numbers
Another week, another record for college volleyball.
Eight days ago, Nebraska and Wisconsin set a regular season record for viewership with 612,000 people watching their match on BTN on Oct. 21.
On Sunday, FOX showed a pair of volleyball matches for the first time opposite its single NFL window and drew 1,659,000 viewers for Michigan-Ohio State and Minnesota-Wisconsin. A large portion of that watched the latter matchup, which followed the early slate of football games, including one between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers.
“It takes it up another notch,” Cook said. “That’s great to see. I know they put it on after the Packer game, which is good timing. That’s awesome for the Big Ten and awesome for volleyball. We got another record to go after.”
The previous high for any college volleyball number was 1.188 million for the 2021 NCAA championship match between Nebraska and Wisconsin on ESPN2.
While Nebraska has played four matches this season on Sunday, only two were televised by BTN in the evening. Cook said he’s open to playing more games then, but it’s not up to him.
“I never have the opportunity to push for that. That’s all done through the Big Ten,” he said. “We have no say in that or opportunity to give feedback. I know the more viewers, the better.”