Category Archives: Huskers News

Arizona assistant Donté Williams expected to join Husker staff as replacement for Bruce Read

LINCOLN — Nebraska would be adding an assistant coach who could bolster its California recruiting efforts if Donté Williams joined the staff.

A source close to the situation confirmed to The World-Herald on Friday that Williams was offered a position with the Huskers and is expected to accept.

Williams emerged Friday as a candidate to replace Bruce Read, who was dismissed last Sunday after two seasons as special teams coordinator.

Williams just finished his first season at Arizona after three years as secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at San Jose State. According to his Wildcats bio, his recruiting areas are Los Angeles and Houston, and the cornerbacks coach is behind several of Arizona’s commits for the 2017 signing class.

NU coach Mike Riley did not respond Friday to a request for comment. reported that Williams was the Huskers’ target and that an agreement could already be in place. According to the Arizona Daily Star, sources within the Wildcat program were unaware of his intentions as of Friday afternoon.

Also according to the Daily Star, the Los Angeles native had a $215,000 salary in 2016 and was among the Arizona assistants, aside from its offensive and defensive coordinators, working on one-year contracts. The Wildcats went 3-9 overall and 1-8 in the Pac-12 this season.

Read was paid $450,000 last season by NU. The lowest-paid Husker assistant in 2016 was John Parrella at $250,000 in his first season on staff, and all others were making at least $300,000.

Because Nebraska already has Brian Stewart coaching cornerbacks and defensive coordinator Mark Banker working with safeties, it is not clear what role Williams would fill on the staff.

His recruiting impact would be of note.

After signing day in 2015, Sports Illustrated named Williams one of the 10 best recruiters nationally, and 247Sports twice named him the top recruiter in the Mountain West Conference during his time at San Jose State.

Among his current recruits at Arizona are four-star athlete Greg Johnson and four-star running back Nathan Tilford, both from California and both Nebraska targets.

After hiring Williams last winter, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said: “He is a bright, young coach that is an outstanding evaluator of talent and someone who has shown he can develop players. He will bring an energy on and off the field that will have an immediate impact on our program.”

Donté Williams bio

Hometown: Los Angeles

Playing career: Syracuse, 2003; Idaho State, 2004-05

Current job: Cornerbacks coach at Arizona

Recruiting areas: Los Angeles, Houston

Defending national champion Huskers happy to refocus after Big Ten grind

LINCOLN — You could see it start in the dulling details of the game in which the Nebraska volleyball team usually hones to a sharp advantage.

The Huskers’ serving became a little erratic. What had been pinpoint passing was becoming an adventure. NU would race to a lead only to see opponents climb back with strings of points.

Nebraska (27-2) captured the Big Ten championship, but the Huskers survived just as much as they thrived at the close of the regular season.

“It feels like a new season,” coach John Cook said. “For us, I feel like we survived the Big Ten. We accomplished that goal. That was weighing very heavily on our whole program, our team, trying to get that done.”

On the eve of top-seeded Nebraska’s NCAA tournament opener against New Hampshire (21-10), the Huskers said they were content to set aside the grueling chase of the Big Ten season and focus on a new challenge.

A four-match sprint to the final four followed by two more victories to win a second straight national championship. The Huskers say there’s no time over the next three weeks to think about the big picture. It’s time to dial back in to the details.

“I think, especially this year, the Big Ten was kind of exhausting, playing great teams every single weekend,” setter Kelly Hunter said. “I think we kind of need to reset. In the tournament, obviously, if you don’t give it your best, you’re going to go home.”

Said middle blocker Amber Rolfzen: “It’s almost like we know we’re good. We know if we play well, we can make it really far. We could even win (the NCAA title) again. But I don’t think there’s a whole bunch of, ‘We have to win, we need to win,’ because that’s just going to make you play really tense and really uptight.”

Loose and fun is how these Huskers flourish. It was a formula Nebraska found during last year’s run to the NCAA title, and to Cook, it’s a sure sign when he sees smiles in practice.

He saw them come back this week as Nebraska prepared for its fifth straight opening-round opponent from the East Coast. New Hampshire brings a 10-match winning streak to Lincoln after winning the America East tournament for the fourth year a in row. The Wildcats have been swept by Florida, Washington and USC in the first round the previous three seasons and have been swept in the first round in five of their six NCAA appearances.

Cook — always eager to illustrate his points with a metaphor — compared winning the Big Ten title to climbing a mountain, the Huskers gasping the final few steps to the summit while looking over their shoulder.

The NCAA tournament? The coach says that’s a sprint, and if Nebraska breaks the tape first with six more wins, it’ll be the first team in school history to repeat as national champion.

He knows these Huskers run faster when they’re chasing something rather than being chased.

“This now feels like we’ve got to go for it and try to do something nobody else has ever done,” Cook said. “It’s a whole different feel and mindset to me. I feel like our players have a light bounce in our step now.”

Added libero Justine Wong-Orantes: “We won the Big Ten, but that doesn’t matter anymore. Now, everyone’s going for the national championship.”

Instant replay at final four

This year is the first that instant replay will be used in the NCAA tournament, but only at the final four. NU has used instant replay at the Devaney Center for the last two seasons.

The NCAA has left it up to individual conferences to decide if schools had the option to use replay, and it still isn’t standard nationwide.

The decision not to use video review at host sites with the capability left Cook frustrated. He said all four of the head coaches coming to Lincoln agreed to petition the NCAA Championship Committee to use replay in the first- and second-round matches at the Devaney Center with their unanimous consent.

Cook said an NCAA official denied the request because replay would not be used at every site.

“We saw last year there were some major calls in the NCAA tournament that probably cost some teams a chance to win a national championship,” he said. “To me, it’s mind-boggling why we haven’t mandated this in. It’s not that expensive.”

Cook offers students tickets

In Nebraska’s ongoing attempt to bolster its student section at volleyball matches, Cook said Thursday he personally bought 175 tickets for NU students to use as a free allotment.

On its Twitter account, “The Iron N” volleyball student section group posted that the tickets will go to the first 175 students who show up when the Devaney Center doors open at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

“My goal is to have the best student section in the country at some point. We have to build it,” Cook said. “Our students are new to this still, relatively knew, because we really didn’t have a student section in the Coliseum.”

Cook said that other schools like Penn State and Texas foot the bill for student tickets in the postseason.

“I really appreciate our students, and we’re trying to build a great student section here,” Cook said. “I want our students to feel like they can come here. They already had to buy season tickets to be in here, so I don’t want money to be an option to buy a ticket.”



Coach: John Cook (17th season)

Conference (finish): Big Ten (1st)

AVCA rank and NCAA seed: No. 2 and No. 1

NCAA appearance: 35th

Big hitters: Kadie Rolfzen (3.14 kills per set), Mikaela Foecke (2.89), Andie Malloy (2.59)

Top blockers: Amber Rolfzen (1.43 per set), Briana Holman (1.2)

Top diggers: Justine Wong-Orantes (4.14 per set), Kadie Rolfzen (2.51)

The setter: Kelly Hunter (11.24 assists per set)

Honor roll: Nebraska placed a league-best four players on the All-Big Ten team, highlighted by Wong-Orantes being named the conference’s defensive player of the year for the second season in a row. Kadie Rolfzen became just the third player in school history to be a first-team all-conference pick four straight seasons, joining Greichaly Cepero and Sarah Pavan.

Fast fact: The defending NCAA champions are trying to win two straight national titles for the first time in program history. Each of the first three times Nebraska has won the national title, the team has reached at least the regional final the following year. NU reached the final four the season after winning the 1995 and 2000 championships and made the regional final in 2007.


Coach: Jill Hirschinger (21st season)

Conference (finish): America East (1st)

AVCA rank and NCAA seed: unranked and unseeded

NCAA appearance: 7th

Big hitters: Demi Muses (3.57), Emily Tanski (2.74), Kennedi Smith (2.34)

Top blockers: Gabri Olhava (0.86), Muses (0.81)

Top diggers: Muses (3.56), Sara Carlson (3.24)

The setter: Keelin Severtson (10.93)

Honor roll: Muses earned the America East player of the year honor for the second straight season after leading the Wildcats in kills and digs while ranking second in blocks. Severtson is the two-time America East setter of the year. A New Hampshire player has been the conference player of the year four seasons in a row.

Fast fact: New Hampshire has earned the America East’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament four years in a row. The Wildcats clinched this year’s berth by sweeping Albany on Nov. 19 in the final of the conference tournament.


Coach: Chris Lamb (17th season)

Conference (finish): Missouri Valley (2nd)

AVCA rank and NCAA seed: unranked and unseeded

NCAA appearance: 10th

Big hitters: Jody Larson (3.12), Mikaela Raudsepp (2.95), Tabitha Brown (2.87)

Top blockers: Abbie Lehman (1.23), Emily Hiebert (0.58)

Top diggers: Dani Mostrom (4.12), Larson (3.41)

The setter: Hiebert (10.68)

Honor roll: Larson, a senior outside hitter, was named the MVP of the Missouri Valley tournament, while Brown and Hiebert were named to the all-tournament team.

Fast fact: The Shockers have three freshmen from Nebraska on their roster: defensive specialist Kara Bown (Lincoln East) and outside hitters Allie Davis (Lincoln Southwest) and Lauren Hinrichs (Doniphan-Trumbull).

TCU (14-12)

Coach: Jill Kramer (2nd season)

Conference (finish): Big 12 (6th)

AVCA rank and NCAA seed: unranked and unseeded

NCAA appearance: 3rd

Big hitters: Ashleigh Martin (2.16), Sarita Mikals (2.10), Anna Walsh (1.96)

Top blockers: Natalie Gower (1.26), Regan McGuire (1.0)

Top diggers: Jillian Bergeson (3.69), Mikals (3.06)

The setters: Lamprini Konstantinidou (5.29), Kaylee Smith (5.15)

Honor roll: Natalie Gower, a senior middle blocker from St. Louis, was the lone Horned Frog named first-team All-Big 12. Her .366 attack percentage leads the team, and her 15 blocks against Oklahoma on Oct. 1 were a single-match school record.

Fast fact: TCU’s 14-12 record isn’t dazzling, but the selection committee gave deference to the Horned Frogs having the nation’s toughest schedule according to the RPI. To get eligible for postseason play, TCU had to win three straight five-set matches to end the regular season.

Mistake-prone Husker women fall at Virginia Tech in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Nebraska women’s basketball team shot almost 53 percent against undefeated Virginia Tech and won the rebounding battle, but big disadvantages in turnovers and offensive rebounds sent the Huskers to a 76-67 defeat Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

A hot-shooting first half helped Nebraska (3-4) build a 39-23 lead with 2:16 left in the half. But Virginia Tech (7-0) outscored the Huskers by 25 points the rest of the way.

The quicker Hokies finished with a 17-7 advantage in offensive rebounds and committed just nine turnovers while forcing 25. That helped them outscore the Huskers 24-10 off turnovers and 21-4 in second-chance points.

“That’s tough to swallow,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said on her postgame radio show on the Husker Sports Network. “We did see some signs of some really good basketball, which is encouraging. But you never like to come out of this game knowing you kind of shot yourself in the foot.”

Sophomore forward Jess Shepard led the Huskers with 25 points and 14 rebounds, hitting 12 of 17 shots from the floor. But the Hokies’ harassing defense also helped force her into eight turnovers. The Huskers shot 59 percent in the first half, including 4 of 10 from 3-point range.

Nebraska returns home to face California at 3 p.m. Sunday at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Golden Bears (6-0) have guard Mi’Cole Cayton, who signed with Nebraska before transferring after the resignation of former coach Connie Yori. Cayton is averaging five points and two assists in 19 minutes a game.

Nebraska (3-4) ……………. 18 21 17 11—67

At Virginia Tech (7-0) ….. 14 15 26 21—76

NU: Eliely 3-5 2-2 9, Ramacieri 2-4 0-0 5, Havers 1-2 2-2 4, Shepard 12-17 0-2 25, Cincore 3-8 1-2 9, Whitish 2-6 0-0 5, Wood 3-5 0-0 8, Washington 1-3 0-0 2, Simon 0-1 0-0. Totals 27-51 5-8 67.

VT: Cook 6-15 2-4 14, Panousis 6-14 1-3 17, Magarity 9-13 3-6 25, Hicks 3-13 0-1 6, Hill 2-9 1-2 6, Brooks 1-4 0-0 3, Kinder 2-6 1-1 5. Totals 29-74 8-17 76.

3-point goals: NU 8-17 (Eliely 1-1, Ramacieri 1-2, Havers 0-0, Shepard 1-1, Cincore 2-4, Whitish 1-5, Wood 2-3, Simon 0-1), VT 10-29 (Cook 0-2, Panousis 4-10, Magarity 4-5, Hicks 0-2, Hill 1-6, Brooks 1-4). Rebounds: NU 41 (Shepard 14), VT 35 (Cook 13). Assists: NU 17 (Ramacieri 8), VT 15 (Hicks 6). Total fouls: NU 22, VT 9. Fouled out: none. A: 2,292.

After miscues, Husker hoops can’t connect at buzzer, falls to Clemson on the road in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

CLEMSON, S.C. — For the second straight game, Nebraska men’s basketball took a halftime lead away from home but couldn’t hold on.

The result was a 60-58 loss to Clemson on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, despite NU leads of nine points in the first half and five points in the second.

Husker guard Tai Webster appeared ready to tie the game with one second left when he darted into the lane. But his 8-foot floater rimmed out.

That capped a heart-breaking final 20 seconds for NU. Guard Glynn Watson had two shots to take the lead, but one was blocked and he missed the other. Then with 6.9 seconds to play, guard Anton Gill traveled while all alone. Gill also missed a jumper in the final minute.

Clemson got one of two free throws from guard Avry Holmes with 5.7 seconds left for a 60-58 lead before Webster’s final shot.

“We tried to get Tai or Glynn loose,” NU coach Tim Miles said on the Husker Radio Network. “Tai got a bit of an awkward shot, laid it on the rim, and it fell off.”

The loss was the third straight for Nebraska (4-3), which led almost the entire first half and was up 31-27 at halftime and 44-39 with 14:30 to play after Watson hit an NBA-range 3-pointer to beat the shot clock.

Clemson (4-2) finally took the lead at 45-44 on a floater in the lane from All-ACC forward Jaron Blossomgame, who led the Tigers with 15 points. That was Clemson’s first lead since the score was 5-4 less than five minutes into the game.

The hosts continued on a 12-2 run to build a five-point lead, though Nebraska got back even at 58-58 on a Watson 3-pointer with 1:27 to play.

“It boiled down to one element of the game in the second half,” Miles said. “We played pretty good defense for a long time, but there were three offensive rebounds they kicked out for 3s, and one loose ball that they hit a 3 late.

“That’s the difference. Those were the back-breakers.”

Free throws didn’t help Nebraska. The Huskers made 4 of 7, while Clemson hit 17 of 22. But Miles didn’t dwell on that discrepancy.

“We controlled every aspect of the game,” he said, “except for loose balls and offensive rebounds.”

Besides Watson’s 20 points, the Huskers got 12 points from Webster, a season-high 11 from forward Michael Jacobson and 10 points and 12 rebounds from forward Ed Morrow.

It was Nebraska’s fourth road game in seven days. Clemson came in with four full days between games with no travel.

In the first half, Nebraska broke an 8-8 tie with an 8-0 run, with Webster producing five of those points. The Husker lead grew to nine at 24-15 with 5:57 to play after consecutive baskets from Watson and a short jumper from Evan Taylor.

NU still led by nine entering the final three minutes of the half. But guard Gabe DeVoe sparked a late Clemson surge, scoring five of his nine first-half points toward the end as the Tigers closed to 31-27.

Nebraska’s next game is Saturday at home at 1 p.m., against South Dakota, coached by former Miles assistant Craig Smith.

NU’s Jordan Westerkamp, Nick Gates named to All-Big Ten teams

LINCOLN — Nebraska receiver Jordan Westerkamp and offensive tackle Nick Gates were named third-team All-Big Ten selections Wednesday as the league released its offensive units.

Westerkamp had his senior year interrupted by a back injury that forced him to miss two midseason games but still led the Huskers with 38 receptions for 526 yards and five touchdowns.

Westerkamp will head into the bowl game with 167 receptions in 49 career games, which ranks No. 2 on the NU all-time list behind Kenny Bell at 181. The 6-foot, 200-pound receiver from Lombard, Illinois, was a second-team All-Big Ten selection a year ago when he had a career-high 65 catches.

Westerkamp was a third-team pick by Big Ten coaches. Gates was a third-team pick according to league news media.

Gates is only a sophomore but already has made 22 career starts and moved from right tackle to left tackle after last season to replace Alex Lewis. The 6-5, 290-pound lineman from Las Vegas a year ago was named to Big Ten all-freshman teams by BTN.comand

Westerkamp and Gates joined safety Nate Gerry as the Huskers’ only All-Big Ten honorees. Gerry on Tuesday was named a second-team pick (media) and third-team selection (coaches).

NU offensive players receiving honorable mention Wednesday were quarterback Tommy Armstrong, tight end Cethan Carter and I-back Terrell Newby.

Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley was named the Big Ten offensive player of the year. The Nittany Lions will play Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday night.

The offensive lineman of the year was Ohio State center Pat Elflein. The senior is among three finalists for the Outland Trophy, which will be awarded next month in Omaha.

Seniors lead New Hampshire to its 4th straight tournament, matchup with Nebraska

With an appearance in the NCAA tournament assured for the fourth straight season, Demi Muses gathered with her New Hampshire volleyball teammates together Sunday night to watch the unveiling of the bracket.

Unlike many tournament hopefuls, the Wildcats weren’t waiting on if their name would show up, but where they would be placed. And Muses, a senior middle blocker from Orangevale, California, had her fingers crossed that New Hampshire might be heading to a postseason destination farther west or south than Lincoln.

“I was hoping we were going somewhere warm, if I were to be honest,” Muses said. “But it’s incredible to be able to say you’re playing the defending national champion. It’s also incredible we get to play in their arena with so many fans.”

The Wildcats will face Nebraska (27-2) at 7 p.m. Friday in the NCAA first round at the Devaney Center. It’s the fourth year in a row New Hampshire (21-10) has made the postseason by winning the America East tournament, but after an early-season injury sidelined Muses, she isn’t taking any success for granted.

“Nothing is ever an expectation because every year it’s a new team,” said Muses, the back-to-back America East player of the year. “I don’t like to look that we’ve won the past three years. It’s a new group of girls, it’s a new team.”

New indeed. Setter Keelin Severtson, the two-time conference setter of the year, joined Muses as the only seniors who have played four years of volleyball for the Wildcats. The team got a surprise addition from one more senior this fall when Sara Carlson returned to the sport after playing four years on the New Hampshire women’s hockey team.

Carlson started the year as a front-row player, but coach Jill Hirschinger eventually moved Carlson to libero, where she averages 3.24 digs per set.

“Just the transition from skating to volleyball was too much stress on her knees (to play front row),” Hirschinger said.

Added Severtson: “She said diving on the floor hurts less than getting hit by a puck.”

No matter where the Wildcats were sent for postseason play, they figured to have at least a few players’ families in attendance. The Wildcats’ roster has players from 12 states, including many from warmer climates than the team’s Durham campus.

Hirschinger, now in her 21st season as the New Hampshire coach, recalled her first recruiting call to Severtson, asking what the player’s priorities were in a school. From her home in Delray Beach, Florida, Severtson listed “playing someplace warm” and “being close to home.”

“She would just hang up now?” Hirschinger asked her.

That meet-cute was the start of the best run in New Hampshire volleyball history. The Wildcats are the first team ever to win four straight America East tournaments, and they’re no stranger to being matched up against college volleyball’s biggest names. In Severtson and Muses’ college careers, New Hampshire has lost to Florida, Washington and USC in the last three opening rounds.

“It’s been a wild four years at UNH,” Severtson said. “Honestly, I was really thinking if Demi and I got one NCAA tournament, we would be so incredibly blessed.”

Severtson was a constant this year as the Wildcats endured some early trials. The team juggled lineups before eventually working in three freshmen starters. Another obstacle came when Muses injured her back working a preseason volleyball camp. She missed the first several weeks of the season with a bulging disc, but returned to lead the Wildcats in kills (3.57 per set) and digs (3.56) and rank second in blocks (0.81).

“Demi is a very courageous player,” Hirschinger said. “She’s competitive, plays hard. If we need a point, she’ll do anything.”

After back-to-back losses to Binghamton and Albany in mid-October, the Wildcats were 11-10. Then, as Severtson says, “it clicked all of a sudden.”

New Hampshire hasn’t lost since, winning 10 straight coming into the NCAA tournament. That included sweeping rematches against Binghamton and Albany to win the America East tournament title.

“This whole year, we haven’t even looked at winning, even in our conference championship,” Hirschinger said. “We’ve worked on working. The only place ‘win’ comes before ‘work’ is in the dictionary alphabetically.”

NOTE: News Channel Nebraska will not carry the first round match with New Hampshire due to high school basketball on Friday night. However, if the Huskers win, we will have their match Saturday night on 1600 AM, 105.5 FM.

Husker safety Nate Gerry named second-team All-Big Ten, four other Blackshirts picked as honorable mentions

LINCOLN — One of the most productive defensive backs in Nebraska football history continued to do the same with postseason recognition.

NU senior safety Nate Gerry on Tuesday was named a second-team All-Big Ten pick by league news media, marking his third straight year on all-conference lists.

Gerry also was a third-team pick in voting by Big Ten coaches.

The native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, heads into his final game tied for the No. 2 spot on the Huskers’ all-time list with 13 interceptions. He also is tied for sixth in career tackles with 273, which is second most among all Husker defensive backs.

Gerry was a third-team All-Big Ten selection a year ago (media) after being a second-team pick in 2014 (media). The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder moved to safety before his sophomore season after playing as a true freshman at linebacker.

Four other Blackshirts were named All-Big Ten honorable mention on both the media and coaches’ teams, including defensive end Ross Dzuris, defensive tackle Kevin Maurice, linebacker Josh Banderas and cornerback Chris Jones.

Kicker Drew Brown was an honorable mention pick by the media and De’Mornay Pierson-El was named an honorable mention as a return specialist on both teams.

The All-Big Ten offensive teams will be announced Wednesday.

Huskers drop out of College Football Playoff rankings following loss to Iowa

The Huskers dropped out of the latest College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday, following NU’s 40-10 loss to Iowa last weekend.

The Big Ten has four teams in the playoff rankings, including four teams in the top 10 — No. 2 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan, No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 7 Penn State.

Nebraska also dropped in both college football polls Sunday. The Huskers dropped seven spots in the Coaches Top 25 Poll to 22nd and six spots in the AP Top 25 Poll to 23rd.

The Huskers were ranked No. 10 in the initial playoff rankings on Nov. 1, the team’s highest ranking since the playoff system debuted in 2014. NU then dropped to 19th following the 62-3 loss to Ohio State, rose to 18th following a 24-17 win over Minnesota and then rose to No. 16 last week in the season’s fourth set of rankings.

The final rankings will be released Dec. 4, with the top four teams moving on to the College Football Playoff semifinals on Dec. 31 at the Fiesta and Peach bowls. The winners advance to the National Championship on Jan. 9.

John Cook named Big Ten coach of the year; Four Huskers receive all-conference honors

Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook was named the Big Ten coach of the year, and libero Justine Wong-Orantes is the conference’s defensive player of the year.

The Huskers also had four players selected to the All-Big Ten team. Wong-Orantes joins Kadie Rolfzen as unanimous selections, while Kelly Hunter and Amber Rolfzen were also named to the 18-member team by league coaches.

The four All-Big Ten selections were the most by any team in the conference and are Nebraska’s most since 2008, when the Huskers were members of the Big 12.

Wong-Orantes, who also won defensive player of the year last year, is the Big Ten’s first repeat winner since Michigan State’s Kori Moster in 2012 and ’13. Wong-Orantes set the Nebraska school record this season for career digs and ranked second in the conference with 4.22 digs per set.

Kadie Rolfzen is now the third Husker all-time to receive four first-team all-conference selections — Sarah Pavan and Greichaly Cepero are the others. Rolfzen currently sits seventh in school history in career kills and digs.

This is the second All-Big Ten selection for her sister, Amber Rolfzen. She ranked third in the Big Ten in blocks this season.

Hunter received her first all-conference selection after placing third in the Big Ten with an average of 11.24 assists per set.

Mikaela Foecke and Briana Holman also received honorable mention.

For Cook, this is his first Big Ten coach of the year award since 1997, when he won it while at Wisconsin. He was a four-time Big 12 coach of the year prior to Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten in 2011.

Cook leads the No. 1 national seed Huskers into the NCAA tournament with a first-round match Friday against New Hampshire.

Nebraska cornerback Chris Jones announces he’ll return for his senior season

LINCOLN — A key piece of Nebraska’s 2016 pass defense will return for his senior season, as cornerback Chris Jones announced Tuesday on Twitter he would coming back to play for the Huskers.

“Coming back next year and (giving) this team all I got,” Jones wrote on Twitter. “We have a lot of unfinished business.”

Jones posted a picture of himself looking at an Iowa jersey for former Husker punter Sam Foltz, who died this summer in a car crash.

After starting seven games in 2015, Jones had a breakout year in 2016, finishing with three interceptions and nine pass breakups. Jones returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown against Indiana. Presuming junior Joshua Kalu also returns — Kalu rarely gives interviews to the media — NU would have one of the Big Ten’s best and most experienced secondary tandems.

In late September, defensive coordinator Mark Banker had high praise for both.

“I think Chris Jones should shut everybody out that he plays against,” Banker said. “I think Kalu should. I think both of those guys are quality corners, that if they just absolutely get everything out of their fiber, they should be able to cover anybody.”

They often did in 2016, as NU’s pass defense experienced a renaissance. Nebraska gave up 209.6 yards passing this season after giving up 290.6 last season. The Huskers’ 16 interceptions is tied for 10th nationally. Coach Mike Riley cited the improvement of the pass defense as a major factor in Nebraska winning nine games this season.

Defensive backs coach Brian Stewart said in September that Jones had a strong focus in 2016. In the offseason, Stewart and the corners adopted a “Lockdown U” mantra that Jones particularly liked.

“I think the main thing that I see from him is just a different focus,” Stewart said. “I think once he knew he was going to be the starter and once he knew he was going to be on the island at times — knowing our defense — that it was important to him to do things right, footwork-wise, alignment-wise, stance-wise. And he’s been doing those things.”

In several interviews during the season, Stewart and Banker said they hoped the 6-foot, 185-pound Jones would return.

Presuming Kalu comes back, NU could have four returning starters. Junior Kieron Williams started at safety this season, and sophomore Aaron Williams, a Banker favorite, started at nickel and sometimes safety.

Only safety Nathan Gerry has exhausted his eligibility. With Gerry’s departure — he figures to be drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft — NU could move Aaron Williams to safety and pair him with Kieron Williams, leaving the nickel spot open for either Kalu or another defensive back. Nebraska’s No. 3 corner this season appeared to be Lamar Jackson, who played behind Kalu, but he might give Nebraska the lanky, long-striding boundary corner it wants. Kalu could then move to nickel, where he has played often in the past.

Other returnees include: cornerback Boaz Joseph; safety Antonio Reed; cornerback Eric Lee; safety Avery Anderson; safety JoJo Domann; and three players who redshirted this season in DiCaprio Bootle, Marquel Dismuke and Tony Butler. Seward native and walk-on Reid Karel is also in the mix at safety.