LINCOLN — Usually when Nebraska and Stanford meet, it’s one of the biggest volleyball matches of the season.
The two programs have combined for 14 NCAA titles. They've faced off four times in their 16-match history as the nation's top two-ranked teams. They’ve also played during the final weekend of the season five times, and top almost all the year-end rankings and NCAA tournament records.
However, when the No. 6 Huskers face off against No. 16 Stanford on Tuesday in Maples Pavilion at 7 p.m., the matchup will feature two unusual occurrences — it won’t be a top-10 matchup and it will be on the Cardinal’s home court.
The only other time the Huskers visited Palo Alto, California, was in 1990 when No. 2 NU was swept by the sixth-ranked Cardinal. Current NU head coach John Cook was in his third year as an assistant that season.
This year’s meeting will be just the second time since the AVCA coaches poll started in 1981 that the two teams won’t both be in the top 10. The only other time came when No. 6 Nebraska defeated No. 11 Stanford in the 1986 NCAA semifinal.
Even though Stanford (4-2) isn’t as highly ranked as usual — and the Cardinal missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in program history — Cook is still ready for a big-time battle.
The match kicks off a four-year series between Nebraska (6-1 this season) and Stanford that also includes home-and-away matches with Kentucky and Louisville.
That group features teams that have won the last six national championships. Louisville — led by former Nebraska player and assistant coach Dani Busboom Kelly — is the highest-ranked of the bunch at No. 5 this week.
Last season Stanford finished 2-8 and had 12 matches canceled. After graduating seven players from the 2019 team, the Cardinal only had 10 players available, and just three appeared in all 10 matches. Two other players chose to sit out the spring season and another redshirted.
Stanford is closer to their long-term profile this season. So far the Cardinal earned wins over No. 14 Florida and No. 20 Penn State, but dropped matches to No. 1 Texas on the road and No. 11 Oregon.
Cook said he looks forward to competing in a road environment to help prepare for the Big Ten schedule, which starts next week. The only time Nebraska has played away from the Devaney Center this year was with a slightly favorable crowd against Creighton at the CHI Health Center.
The Huskers changed their normal travel routine and flew out to California on Sunday via commercial flight to ensure they could practice Monday.
Senior setter Nicklin Hames said she looks forward to the challenge, and also the chance to put Saturday's five-set loss to now-No. 10 Utah behind them.
“I don’t think it gives us time to really dwell on this loss. It doesn't give us a whole week to think about it,” Hames said. “We're leaving (Sunday) and we go on the road. We just have to be prepared for Stanford because they're a great team.”