Husker VB to Take on Purdue Saturday

The Husker volleyball team opens its spring season this weekend, as the defending NCAA runner-up hosts Purdue this Saturday, April 8, at 7 p.m. at the NU Coliseum. Tickets for Saturday's match are $6 for adults and $3 for youths and senior citizens.

The Huskers return four starters, including 2005 AVCA National Player of the Year Christina Houghtelling and two-time first-team All-American Sarah Pavan, from a team that finished with a 33-2 mark, the school's eighth Big 12 title in 10 years, and an NCAA runner-up finish.

In addition to the two All-Americans, NU returns six of its top eight players from its 6-2 offense a year ago, as the Huskers also return starting setters Maggie Griffin and Dani Busboom, middle blocker Tracy Stalls and outside hitter Jordan Larson, the Big 12 and AVCA Central Region Freshman of the Year in 2005.

While the Huskers are returning a veteran lineup for the 2006 season, Nebraska Head Coach John Cook sees the spring as a chance to determine where the team is at with the new lineup they will be facing. The abbreviated spring schedule also includes a contest against Creighton on Saturday, April 15, at 3:30 p.m.

The Boilermakers will provide a good test for NU, as Purdue returns six starters from a team that finished with a 25-9 record and reached the NCAA Sweet 16. Purdue, which finished 12-8 in the Big Ten, posted a pair of wins over top-10 teams and was ranked in the AVCA/CSTV poll for 13 straight weeks.

"We are thrilled that Purdue wanted the opportunity to come here and play us," Cook said. "We'll treat this like any fall match we would face, and look at it as a great opportunity to gauge where we are at this point in the spring as a team."

The Boilermakers are additionally looking to see action from a handful of players who have recovered from injury, including redshirt sophomore middle blocker Emily Williams, returning from a knee injury, as well as junior middle blocker Lizzie Jacques and sophomore Danita Merlau, who look to see time on the court following struggles in the close of the 2005 season.

The Huskers have been hard at work inside the Nebraska Coliseum for spring drills over the past month, as they look replace All-Americans Melissa Elmer and Jennifer Saleaumua, who both finished their careers in 2005 ranking among the school leaders in numerous categories.

"The team is working hard and embracing the opportunity to develop and train for the 2006 season," Cook said. "Our focuses this spring have been to find a libero, a replacement for (former middle-blocker Melissa Elmer) and getting (senior outside hitter) Dani Mancuso more involved in the offense."

Two of NU's newcomers will see their first competitive action as Huskers, as setter Rachel Holloway and middle blocker Kori Cooper are looking to earn extensive playing time. Holloway, a two-year member of the U.S. Youth National Team, was redshirted last season, but could see extensive action during the spring.

Cooper, who enrolled at NU in time for the spring semester, brings a plethora of experience to the volleyball program. She joined Holloway as a co-captain for the U.S. Youth National Team, leading Team USA to a fourth-place finish at the 2005 Under-18 World Championships in Macau, China.

2006 Nebraska Spring Volleyball Schedule
Date Opponent Time
April 8 vs. Purdue 7 p.m.
April 15 vs. Creighton 3:30 p.m.

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