March 24, 2023

Q&A with Nebraska coach John Cook as Huskers transition into spring

Lincoln Arneal lives in Lincoln and covers Nebraska volleyball for Huskers Illustrated. Comply with him on Twitter at @lincoln_VB 

By Lincoln Arneal for

Nebraska’s 2022 period arrived to an abrupt early conclude on a Thursday afternoon in December in Louisville, Kentucky. For the initial time in a decade, the Huskers failed to progress to an NCAA Match regional remaining after failing to convert various match points against Oregon.

What is extra, the Huskers dropped three of their remaining five matches to cap off an unpredictable time, ending up 26-6. They began the 12 months as the preseason No. 1, but stumbled down the stretch, finishing second to Wisconsin in the Large 10. In the end, Nebraska struggled to rebound from losing its psychological leader, Kenzie Knuckles, to a knee damage prior to the past week of the regular season. All period extensive, coach John Prepare dinner shuffled by a lot more than a dozen lineups as they dealt with accidents and toggled concerning a 1-setter and two-setter program.

We caught up with Cook dinner, who just completed his 23rd 12 months at the helm in Lincoln, a 7 days into the next semester at Nebraska. Cook welcomed 6 new gamers to the roster and experienced just commenced beach front volleyball tactics. We talked about previous time, what lies ahead, the Whitney Lauenstein-Merritt Beason situation, his views on the ever-transforming college volleyball world, and his horse, Bud.

John Prepare dinner/Nebraska picture

It’s been a thirty day period and a 50 percent considering the fact that the season finished, what is been ruminating in your mind about how factors ended? What variety of things are still sticking in your craw?

Nicely, there is not genuinely a total great deal to ruminate about for the reason that we graduated four gamers, and Whitney’s gone, so we truly lost five starters. So the rumination is, “Hey, fifty percent our team’s model new and we acquired a great core coming back again. Let’s get to function. We greater arrive in and condition and they did.” We experienced a genuinely good first 7 days. We really are progressing more rapidly than we considered we would. (Strength and conditioning mentor) Brian (Kmitta) is pushing them more difficult than he imagined he could. We started seaside and our initial match is (February 24).

When I glance again on the time, we experienced a whole lot of worries and points we had to function by way of. I believe we, as coaching staff and as a team, did a seriously excellent occupation with it. We were being the number a single defensive crew in the nation, and we have under no circumstances accomplished that ahead of. We got down in the final 7 days and we were being participating in to get the Major 10 championship. Most people seems, of system, at how you end, which for us was shedding in the regional 3rd round, everybody feels like it’s a failure, but we just had 10 straight decades in the regional ultimate or last four. It came down to a pair factors, and we did not execute. We had our likelihood and didn’t. I considered we ended up a fantastic matchup for Louisville, but Oregon designed the plays and we did not.

Did you observe the ultimate 4 at all?

I have watched a little little bit of it, but today’s our first day. We’re continue to likely by way of all of our stories that I experienced our stats male do. We’ll begin looking at online video and evaluating. We obtained time in this article until eventually we started indoor. We’ll start off generating a system and what we want to do and see what we can discover from that. What we’re studying is we did a good deal of actually great points statistically.

Do you come to feel like you have misplaced a lot with what you experienced or you return a good deal coming back?

We missing a sizeable part of it. I also wonder what would have took place. We had to make a huge adjustment in the course of the past week, right prior to we’re playing for the Large 10 championship. I imagine Ally (Batenhorst) came in and did a rather very good job and our staff altered. We flipped outsides. We have never manufactured that several alterations. I assumed our crew did a really great work of managing that but dropping (senior defensive expert) Kenzie (Knuckles) was a major loss at that point. Now we have nine months, an international vacation and the simple fact that all those 5 freshmen are in this article and Merritt (Beason) is below. It provides us nine months to prepare for the period. I feel genuinely excellent about that. So I feel extra like here’s what we got coming back. Now, if none of all those guys had been in this article and we had 7 gamers here, we’d be sitting there hunting like, “Holy crap, we just misplaced the most important group we’ve ever dropped.” So which is how we’re wanting at it since they came right here and strike the ground running.

When (sophomore appropriate aspect) Whitney Lauenstein came to you and reported she was stepping absent, were you astonished to listen to that? 

Yeah, we had no idea.

Did she appear to you with her decision designed, or was it a discussion? How did that unfold?

She educated us that she no longer required to engage in volleyball.

That took place appropriate immediately after the time, and you moved really immediately on (Florida proper aspect) Merritt Beason. Was that the intention to do that realizing how tumultuous the transfer portal can be?

We all canceled our programs. (Assistant coach) Jaylen (Reyes) had a flight to Hawaii. I experienced a flight to Wyoming. We canceled almost everything and stayed right here longer than we predicted. When Merritt arrived in the portal, which was a 7 days later on, we had to move since she fits what we were looking for in striving to fill Whitney’s position.

She performed with a couple of present-day gamers as element of the junior national group. Did you get enter from them?

Yeah, They arrived to me and mentioned, “‘Coach, she’s in the portal. We received to get her.”

Were being you stunned by how promptly that all went? 

I was prepared to go to Wyoming and then we talked to Merritt on Thursday. She went into the portal at midday. We had been on the phone with her at 1 for the reason that Jaylen just occurred to be sitting in there, he saw it and we identified as her appropriate absent. Then she was right here at 8:30 the next morning. She was striving to transfer quick mainly because she wanted to start out in January. Some universities start off January 2nd or 3rd, proper soon after New Year’s. We just materialize to begin later. She was moving fast.

I bet that built a fantastic Xmas current for everyone. 

She desired to get it out of the way right before Christmas. It was just a whole probability how that worked out. But we had been not anticipating even seeking at the portal.

The next 7 days in December was the Less than Armour All-The us match with the five girls who were being committed. What had been your impressions of that activity in which practically all of them have been on the same facet of the web? 

It was awesome to look at them engage in. I thought it was very high stage for an all-star video game. I imagine all of our players at times played seriously effectively and stepped up and received to participate in a whole lot. It was a great expertise. They had entertaining and Less than Armour does a actually nice task with that. They had been telling me all the points that they do — they in essence go all working day. They definitely expose them to likely what it could be like in a area like Nebraska with a whole lot of media and NIL stuff. They had reporters about all the time doing interviews, all these points. So I feel it is a wonderful knowledge to established them up for what packages like Nebraska and what they’re heading to be in for.

Is it getting to be the norm now to enroll early? All 5 are right here on campus and they are starting off a semester early. Is that a little something that you converse to them about after they commit? Or are they building the conclusion that they want to get a leg up and have those seven, 8 months to train?

It’s so variable with exactly where they’re likely to superior university. Are they taking part in a different sport? Do they want to keep on to engage in club? Are they prepared to go absent to faculty? So it is pretty hit-and-miss out on. What I’m looking at take place is that these gamers, they played a great deal of club volleyball, so they’re kind of around it. You can only go to Orlando so quite a few times. “OK, I’ve been there, completed that.” I feel they know, at minimum this team realizes, they all have a possibility to perform as freshmen. A whole lot of them want to be four-yr starters. So if I can get there early, it gives me a much better opportunity. Then we have an intercontinental vacation, which wouldn’t issue. But, as a substitute of just graduating and coming right here and heading on an international vacation, we now have all spring to prepare for that and just get them a small a lot more acclimated instead of just getting right here, using off and heading on a excursion. So it just transpired that for these fellas that labored out.

The only kinds that haven’t in the last couple years ended up Maggie Mendelson, who graduated a 12 months early and Whitney Lauenstein, who didn’t mainly because she was competing in keep track of. I really don’t know the proportion, but it sounded like a great deal of the players in the Underneath Armour activity sounded like they ended up heading to university correct following that recreation. 

I marvel what the share was. I feel it’s a pattern. I have no thought if our recruits up coming 12 months are heading to do it. They know about it, but we have not talked about it. We just notify them, if you’re gonna think about it, you bought to start off making ready with your counselor to make confident you are suitable. At some position, they send out their things to us so we double-check out it, but it has to be pushed by them and their school. What I observed this yr for the initial time, the two Caroline (Jurevicius) and Bergen (Reilly) came from Catholic schools, and typically, the Catholic colleges say no way. So that was the first. I just think occasions are changing now. They’re gonna have to regulate. I know my daughter (Lauren, who went to UCLA in 2009) desired to go early and (Lincoln) Pius would not let her.

Some of these fellas will have a opportunity to go back and go by graduation and prom if they want to or go to a senior issue. So we’re heading to test to get the job done with them to be able to do that if they want to.

How have you observed NIL evolve in the previous year, 12 months and a 50 %? Have you viewed the college student-athletes start to figure it out? 

It is evolving all the time. It’s been all about the put, from ABM (Athlete Branding & Promoting) to 1890 (Initiative). Other collectives are striving to kind. I believe it was a wild wild west a 12 months ago. Everybody’s off executing their possess point. I just believe it was pretty random. Now, what 1890 is seeking to do is have it be more organized and prepared out. I assume most people understands NIL a minimal little bit greater. I believe donors understand it much better. I sense like it is a tiny much more structured and they have a system. 1 of the only points I explained is I want all people on our team included in it. We’re not just going to have these 3 gamers accomplishing it. Everybody’s acquired to have prospects in this – that was my ask for. Just simply because I want to preserve a near crew. I don’t want the haves and have-nots. It is by no means heading to be equal, but everybody’s likely to have an opportunity to be associated in NIL things.

How will possessing Kenzie Knuckles on the inside performing for the 1890 Initiative enable with the NIL for volleyball?

Let us be truthful. The main factor these collectives are begun for is football. But what’s occurred is donors who are likely to donate to soccer, say, hey, we want to donate to volleyball as nicely. So this is a bundle offer. So they’ve form of been pressured to drag us into that, which has been wonderful. With Kenzie there now, Kenzie is likely to be the liaison between our program, among the donors and 1890. So she’s going to aid coordinate that. While ABM did a fantastic work with us and Gerrod Lambrecht did a excellent career of such as us, but now there is going to be anyone overseeing that. Now it is way more assumed out. This is her aspiration work. This is what she would like to do. She would like to get the job done with groups. She didn’t want to perform anymore and she’s accomplishing a excellent task.

I visualize it will be a fantastic way to have an ambassador for the application. The other aspect of the activity that has been chaotic is the transfer portal. It would seem like Major 10 teams are yet again loading up with some of the prime players in the portal. Are you prepared to deal with Kylie Murr with Minnesota and the revamped Penn Point out lineup? 

It is like NFL no cost company now. I indicate, it’s nuts. Individually, I never like to see gamers transfer in just the meeting. It is gonna be really uncomfortable for them and for their previous groups. I mean, that is gonna be truly tough since we aren’t not the NFL. I don’t know if I like that aspect of it.

The portion I do like is (setter) Anni Evans is graduating in this article. She’s not likely to go be a professional participant, but she can parlay her practical experience below and her COVID yr to go get a master’s diploma and get it paid out for likely. To me, that’s a really great reward … So she’s using this opportunity for education and learning and to proceed to use volleyball to help make that take place.

I’m surprised gamers like Mac (Podraza of Ohio Condition) or some of these fellas are not heading professional like Madi (Kubik) did. We’d really like to have Madi back again. But I believe Madi has viewed that the fifth-yr detail is type of difficult, and with this sort of a huge team coming in,  I just assume she feels like it’s time for new leaders to stage up. I regard that. I’m happy you know, these fellas can see by that and not just what is very best for me, or “Oh, I’m just gonna go somewhere else and transfer to an additional school.” But I’ll be glad when the COVID thing is around and I’ll be curious what the portal does. I also assume it sends a concept at some place exactly where do you check out to function through points and make it operate instead of jumping so rapidly? But you can rebuild the workforce more rapidly now.

You are finished with the COVID (added eligibility) years. So you don’t have to get worried about that anymore.

Appropriate. We have no seniors.

John Cook dinner and Kelly Hunter/Nebraska image

Another rule alter this year, the NCAA is finding rid of volunteer coaches and incorporating a complete-time assistant. You did not have 1 this last year. Do you have any designs to deliver somebody on in hopes of primary to an eventual assistant place?

I have 3 unique tips that I threw at Trev (Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts), but it is up to him on if we’re going to aid it fiscally. And what are we executing with the other athletics? So it is in his courtroom appropriate now. How are we likely to deal with this? I will meet up with with him once again, and I’ll deliver it up again.

It is really hard to find very good volunteers simply because you cannot do everything for them. We have experienced a challenging time. I’m not just going to acquire someone to just be a volunteer to have a volunteer. Previous yr, we didn’t have a volunteer. The calendar year before, it was fantastic for Kelly (Hunter) and Kelly used that and parlayed that into a coaching career. So contact into Trev’s (radio) present and see what he is thinking. I really do not know.

For a lot of educational institutions, it is a question of means. Will a whole lot of colleges insert a third assistant mentor just simply because they can or will it be extra of a resource decision?

I imagine it is likely to be an individual final decision for every school. If you do volleyball, do you do every single other activity? Basketball currently has an added coach above us. They have a secretary, they have participant improvement, so they truly have a few additional individuals than we have. So I think we have a really fantastic circumstance. Everybody’s calling me like what are you fellas executing? I never know, but some universities are heading in. I read anything that the Pac-12 may just say as a conference, “We’re not heading to insert it for volleyball.” I’ve listened to that from a single of the coaches, but I do not know legally how you can do that. So I consider it is gonna be all around the place. You wonder about the mid-majors and what are they heading to do.


Did Bud get the news really hard that he wasn’t heading to get the entire-time job?

Which is a fantastic one particular. Bud is attempting to stay warm proper now. He’s in Wyoming, in which it was 14 below this early morning. We have experienced enjoyment with that. As of right now, he’s our volunteer mentor. Perhaps we can keep him and Trev can throw in a semi-load of hay.