Creighton Visits Devaney Center for Rivalry Match on Wednesday

By Lincoln Arneal

As if Nebraska needed more motivation for its midweek matchup against instate rival Creighton, Husker coach John Cook declared the winner would be the state champion. 

NU beat Nebraska-Omaha on Wednesday as part of the Volleyball Day in Nebraska event. Now the Huskers play the Bluejays, the only other Division I programs in the state, Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Devaney Center. If NU wins, they wear the state crown. No. 16 Creighton plays the Mavericks on Friday to complete the unofficial round-robin tournament. 

“Coach (Cook) is describing this as a state championship,” sophomore middle blocker Bekka Allick said. “I’m excited to play against girls that I’ve either played with before, or have always played against growing up. It will be a really fun game because it’s on our home court.”

Freshman Harper Murray said she’s learned a little about the rivalry during the last few months and compared it to the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. 

“As the game has gotten closer, I’ve realized how big of a deal it is,” Murray said. “It’s great to be back in ‘The Bob.’ This feels like nothing for us now and we’re prepared. I think it’s great because our fan base is always here to support us, and especially against Creighton, they’ll be extra excited.”

This will be a new experience for nearly every volleyball player in the match. Thanks to some scheduling quirks, Creighton will play in the Devaney Center for the first time since 2019. 

None of the Nebraska players have hosted the Bluejays, and only fifth-year Creighton senior Kiana Schmitt was on the roster in 2019, but she did not appear in the match. 

The matchup for the 2020 season – played in spring 2021 – was canceled as both teams played conference-only schedules. The rivalry resumed in the fall of 2021 at CHI Health Center in Omaha. The location switched in 2022 because Omaha hosted the final four. 

“We like playing in Deveney as much as we can,” Cook said. “I think they’re scheduled to come back next year too. It’ll be nice to have them on our home court.”

While the fourth-ranked Huskers own a 21-0 record against Creighton, only one of the past five matches have been sweeps. Last year’s match went the distance after the Bluejays fought off a match point in the third set. 

Creighton (5-1) owns a win over then-No. 16 Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana, on Aug. 26 but suffered a five-set loss the following day against Duke. 

Norah Sis, the Big East preseason player of the year, is putting up big numbers with 4.13 kills per set. The Bluejays have also gotten a boost from sophomore Ava Martin, who leads the team with 4.48 kills per set on a .297 hitting percentage. 

“It has become a rivalry and it’s a great in-state (rivalry),” Cook said. “It’s great for our fans and for all the high school kids to see that these are two great teams here in Nebraska.”

Possible Redshirts?

So far this season, only freshman Caroline Jurevicius and junior setter Kennedi Orr have yet to play a match. 

While Cook said he hasn’t ruled them out for the year – especially in the case of an injury – they’ve had discussions with both players about the best path forward for playing time.

“We think long-term for them, but you can’t make plans because everybody’s got to be ready to go,” Cook said. “We’re just going to make sure we manage their seasons as best we can for them, for us and if we need them they’re going.”

Jurevicious sits behind junior Merritt Beason on the depth chart at opposite. The Husker captain is averaging 2.73 kills per set, second-best on the team. 

Orr was battling freshman Bergen Reilly for the starting setter position. After the first match of the year, Cook said Reilly was a few points better. Orr played in 54 sets over 18 matches last season and averaged 5.02 assists per set. During her freshman year, the Eagan, Minnesota, native appeared in just two matches during the opening weekend after Nicklin Hames sprained her ankle in the Red-White scrimmage. 

Unlike football, where players can participate in as many as four games and still preserve a year of eligibility, volleyball players burn a season after appearing in just one rally. While Cook said he’d like a more liberal redshirting rule, that’s not a possibility now so they will continue to monitor the situation going forward on what is best for the player and the team. 

“Do you want to blow a year if you’re not going to play that much?” he said. “Those are some of the things we’re obviously thinking about.”

Bekka the Setter

One of the highlights from Sunday’s win over Kansas State was Allick’s assist to Lindsay Krause for a kill late in the first set. After Reilly, the setter, dug a Wildcat attack, Allick stepped up and backset the ball to the left pin, where Krause ended a long rally. 

Even though she got the assist to Krause, she criticized herself for setting Beason, the opposite, too close to the net. Allick said she takes pride in her setting and likes to step in whenever possible. Her twin sister, Hannah, is a setter at Missouri Southern and gave her tips growing up. 

“I love it. Oh, my goodness. I love it all,” Allick said glowingly when asked about her setting. “I love the sport. It brings me a lot of joy and when I get to set the ball, it’s like a fun way for me to serve the team. Especially as a middle (blocker), the stereotype is that we just can’t do anything other than hit and block, and so the fact that I get to do it and do it well, it’s really fun.”

Articles You Might Like

Share This Article

More Stories