By Randy York
You’re a devout volleyball fan who watches Nebraska on television or follows the Huskers on radio. You’ve always wanted to experience the action live, but 200 consecutive home sellouts block your entrance. What do you do? Well, why not be among the first to see the fully renovated Devaney Center Saturday night in Nebraska volleyball’s annual Red-White scrimmage? Don’t discard the idea. Unite Tonight is the team’s theme and if you’ve been tracking John Cook’s comments, even a Saturday Night Live scrimmage will push this team to the highest level of intensity.
See the speed train at the top of this blog with Huskers waiting to board? That’s how they traveled in China, and they haven’t taken their feet off the accelerator since their return. “We’ve upped the intensity and the pace of it all because of our experience in China,” said Cook, beginning his 15th year as Nebraska’s head coach. “They’ve seen how hard the Chinese and Japanese train, and our expectations for how we train have been raised a lot.”
Senior Pollmiller NU’s Speed Conductor
Setter Mary Pollmiller is the only senior on Nebraska’s roster, and she’s the most persuasive conductor on the Huskers speed train. “The attitude and mindset of our team is really good,” Cook said. “Even in the dog days of summer, they really get after it in two-a-days. They’ve been upping the ante every day. They look at it and say ‘Let’s bring it on and get it done.’ That’s why they call themselves The Redshirts.” For the Huskers, Unite Tonight applies to a preseason scrimmage every bit as much as it relates to Florida State and Stanford next weekend or to Penn State, Wisconsin and Texas down the line.
Yes, John Cook is a master motivator who wants competitive fire and chemistry in the same fireworks package. He’s told his players that the Red-White Scrimmage should feel like a regional final for them. Unite Tonight not only will determine who gets on the court next weekend, but what system will prevail when the real fireworks begins.
The Huskers may be competing against their own teammates, but one thing is guaranteed. Their effort will be fast and the action will be formidable, so join more than 5,000 Big Red fans who can’t wait to see a team launch the 2014 season after bonding in sand volleyball, becoming a family in Asia, hitting the weight room, and making every day in the off-season count for measurable improvement.
Team Applies Lessons Learned in China
A couple days ago, after practice was over, the entire team did a drill that took an hour to complete. “I feel like this group really loves challenges and I feel I can put them in situations to be challenged,” Cook said. “They can handle the big workload. They’re always flexible. Their retention from China has been great. We debrief every day about one of the five things we learned there. They want to apply the lessons learned. They get it and they embrace it.”
Cook admits a couple have “hit the wall big time”, but teammates pick ‘em up and find a seat back on the fast train. “Our older kids get it; they understand it, and I think they really enjoy it,” he said. “We tell them that the only easy day was yesterday, so they know it’s going to get tougher.”
Kelsey Robinson Will Be in the House
Pollmiller, Kadie Rolfzen and Cecilia Hall help Cook gauge when to back off, agree on a place to eat dinner and find the right movie, so everyone can hit the reset button. This is a team that thinks every competitive night is the night that sets the tone for the rest of the season. That makes Saturday night a good time to get a legitimate preview of the nation’s seventh-ranked volleyball team, even if it is “just a scrimmage”.
Kelsey Robinson, the 2013 Big Ten Conference Player of the Year and Pollmiller’s former teammate at both Tennessee and Nebraska, will not be in uniform. But she will be in the house, watching every player on the floor seek her level of intensity. It’s a meaningful benchmark, and just to make sure this team understands Nebraska’s high standards, nearly two dozen volleyball alumni will be woven into the welcome mat. The Devaney Center’s new, dazzling street-level south entrance is lined with their trophies, jerseys and sweat equity. Unite Tonight is on the launch pad with a team ready to carve its own niche in Husker history.
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