Stanford vs. Nebraska, 12.15

Stanford's Jenna Gray sets the ball against Nebraska during the NCAA volleyball national championship match in Minneapolis. Gray and the champion Cardinal take on the Huskers at the Devaney Sports Center on Wednesday.

The Stanford volleyball team may come to Lincoln next week as the No. 1-ranked team in the country, but they should be challenged before that while playing two top-10 teams this weekend.

Stanford plays two matches in State College, Pennsylvania, this week as part of the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge. Stanford plays No. 4 Penn State on Friday, and No. 8 Minnesota on Saturday.

Nebraska is ranked No. 2, and has matches this weekend against High Point, Denver and Loyola Marymount.

Regardless, Wednesday’s Stanford-Nebraska match at the Devaney Sports Center will be a rematch of the national championship match from last season, won by Stanford in five sets. The match begins at 7 p.m. and will be on TV on the Big Ten Network.

Either Nebraska or Stanford has won the national championship each of the past four years, with Stanford winning in 2016 and ’18.

When the Stanford team is in Nebraska for the match, the players are scheduled to do a community service activity.

The Stanford volleyball program was criticized after the national championship match last season as result of an insensitive drawing that was in the Stanford locker room.

A photo of the drawing was posted on an NCAA social media account shortly after the match. A whiteboard drawing appeared to show the Stanford tree mascot pointing a gun and making a crude gesture toward the Nebraska mascot.

When Stanford coach Kevin Hambly apologized to the Nebraska volleyball program he indicated that the team would be performing community service when it came to Lincoln this year for a scheduled match.

Hambly confirmed to the Journal Star on Thursday that community service is on the schedule for next week. He wouldn’t say what community service the team will be doing, but that the activity won’t be publicized prior to doing so.

“We’re going to do it, and we’re excited to do it,” Hambly said. “It’s something we want to do in communities because we’re doing it in three other communities while we're traveling. We’re looking at doing one in Seattle. We thought it would be a nice gesture, but also it’s something that we typically do. We like the thing we’re going to do and it’s going to be really cool and we’re excited about it and there are a lot of good people in the community that need it, and that’s what this stuff should be about.”

The day after the NCAA final, Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir apologized in a statement. Hambly contacted Nebraska coach John Cook to apologize.

“We apologized because it was offensive to the Nebraska team and coaches, and we totally felt bad about that,” Hambly said.

Stanford (4-0) already has wins against No. 3 Texas and No. 7 Florida.

Eight of the nine Stanford players who played in the championship match last season are still on the team, including national player of the year Kathryn Plummer.

Unlike in some college sports, the coaches for several of the top volleyball programs aren’t afraid to schedule tough matches for the nonconference season.

“I enjoy it, and I think our team enjoys it,” Hambly said. “We’re playing three of the top Big Ten teams here in a row with Minnesota, Penn State and Nebraska. And even if we dropped a couple of these, that’s not going to hurt us from an RPI standpoint.

“(If we lose) it hurts from an AVCA ranking standpoint, but we don’t care about any of that stuff. We care about what the (NCAA selection) committee sees and what they think, and more importantly we’re concerned about getting better and being challenged and trying to be the best team we can be in December. I think it’s great.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.


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