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Shatel: This feels like the biggest Nebraska-Creighton volleyball match yet

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Nebraska volleyball is 19-0 all-time against Creighton, but is this the year Kirsten Bernthal Booth's Bluejays get a win?

John Cook discusses the undefeated showdown between the Huskers and Jays this week.

First downs and second guesses:

It’s not like Kirsten Bernthal Booth’s Creighton team needs validation. It doesn't.

The Jays arrived a long time ago. Been to the NCAA Sweet 16 twice, knocked on the door of the final four once (2016). Dominate the Big East. Get top recruits and big crowds.

And, goodness, Booth was included last year in an NET “State of Volleyball” special with Nebraska coach John Cook.

“We feel like we have something special here,” Booth said Monday. “I have the utmost respect for the Nebraska program, players and coaches. But I can’t say I have an inferiority complex.”

None is needed.

But it feels like this showcase series between the two schools needs something.

It’s very respectful. It’s about promoting the sport. It’s top-rated volleyball athletes and skill level.

It’s two of the nation’s top coaches, coaching hard and then shaking hands at the end. It’s two NCAA tournament programs, looking for résumé juice and then moving on.

And the atmosphere at the CHI Health Center on Wednesday night should be electric.

But imagine what the intensity levels in this series would be like if Creighton won.

This series could use some spice. A little heat.

Nebraska is 19-0 against the Jays. It’s not a rivalry if one team wins all the time.

As Booth built her program, there couldn’t help but be Husker influence. Booth’s mentor is Terry Pettit, the legendary NU coach. Her longtime assistant, Angie Oxley Behrens, was a four-year starter at Nebraska and played her senior year for Cook.

CU has ridden the wave of volleyball in the state, recruiting its share of local talent. And building an impressive volleyball-only practice facility.

Meanwhile, Booth has done it her way, with her own system and with different types of athletes from NU's.

Over the years, as Booth’s program has stepped up, the Jays have crept closer and closer to NU. In the teams’ last meeting (Aug. 30, 2019) the Huskers beat the Jays 3-1.

But the year before that, their last meeting in Omaha, the match went five sets before NU prevailed, 15-10 in the fifth.

Is this the year? Creighton (6-0) has its best start in program history and last Saturday knocked off defending national champion and third-ranked Kentucky on its home court. In straight sets.

Nebraska, meanwhile, is 5-0 while easing setter Nicklin Hames back from an injury and working in talented newcomers.

“It’s going to be a fun night,” Booth said. “It’s a showcase. But for most of our players, like the Kentucky game, it’s a chance to play a phenomenal team.

“We’ve never beat them. What it would mean is a great, great win on the résumé as we try to make the NCAA tournament and get a seed.”

I suspect it would mean a little more than that.

But Creighton’s résumé apparently still needs believers. The Jays’ 6-0 start would seem to deserve more than a No. 19 ranking.

Opportunity will be across the net from Creighton again Wednesday in what feels like the biggest match between the two schools.

Can it possibly get bigger? That’s up to the Jays.

» Cook is glad to see Creighton doing well. Why? It benefits Nebraska. That was his thought when he began playing the Jays back in 2000.

“My original intention was, Creighton was so bad, and we wanted good teams to play that are close,” Cook said. “So by helping them it helped us.

“There’s a lot of good players in the state. Let’s keep them here. It builds interest in volleyball. It makes our region strong. It helps everyone, including (UNO).”

Cook says he will play Creighton only in the CHI Health Center when the game is in Omaha. He says the players deserve the atmosphere. Hard to argue. In 2018 more than 14,000 attended the game in Omaha.

He even said he would consider playing the match in Pinnacle Bank Arena when it comes to Lincoln.

» I probably listen to too much classic rock, but I had an idea for a Borsheims promotion with Lexi Sun:

“Lexi at the Net with Diamonds.”

Just look for the girl with the Sun in her eyes.

And I promise not to make any Smothers Brothers references with Logan Smothers. You mean I just did?

» How did Adrian Martinez become so proficient in the option game? The Fresno, California, quarterback didn’t practice it in high school.

Oh, yeah. He’s gotten lessons from his head coach, who knows a thing or two about it.

“(Scott) Frost is the pro, right?” Martinez said. “I’ve got a lot of practice at it and I feel good about it.”

A couple of those Martinez pitches seem a little far away from the running back, a la Thomas Lott.

Oh, sorry. That’s next week.

» Here are a few thoughts as the NFL gets ready to dominate our national sports landscape.

Andy Dalton will play one week.

Trey Lance will be rookie of the year.

Tampa Bay will not go undefeated. Neither will Kansas City.

San Francisco, Green Bay, Tampa and Dallas win NFC divisions. The Bears, Seahawks and Rams are the wild cards.

Kansas City, Cleveland, Tennessee and Buffalo win the AFC divisions. Wild cards are Patriots, Ravens and Chargers.

Super Bowl?

The Bills and Browns are coming on — fast. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you don’t pick against Patrick Mahomes. A revamped offensive line will make sure he has time to do his thing. Which is win.

Aaron Rodgers feels the urgency and Lance will get a lot figured out. But if I’ve learned anything else, it’s that you don’t pick against Tom Brady. Not when he’s surrounded by all that defense and talent.

Unless, he's playing Mahomes again.

Chiefs over Bucs. Pass the chalk.

» One more and I’m outta here: I can’t stop thinking about the father and son lost in that horrible crash last Saturday on the way to the son’s first Husker football game.

Hug your kids. Take 'em to a game. Spend time with them. Love 'em.


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