TAMPA, Fla. — For the third time in his illustrious career, John Cook is the AVCA Division I Women’s Coach of the Year.
Cook previously won the award in 2000, his first season as Nebraska’s head coach, and in 2005. The Huskers went on to win the national championship in 2000 and finished as runner-up in 2005.
A win in Thursday’s national semifinals would be the 850th of Cook’s career. He has an .832 career winning percentage including .874 (688-99) at Nebraska, placing him fifth among active coaches in wins.
A year ago, Nebraska saw its season end in the regional semifinals. The Huskers lost their top two points leaders, their top blocker and both of their setters from that team and reloaded with a group of freshmen and one transfer. Four of those freshmen earned starting jobs from day one including setter Bergen Reilly, the second true freshman to earn the starting setter job at Nebraska under Cook.
Nebraska, with no seniors on its roster, entered the season in a tie for fifth in the preseason AVCA Coaches Poll (alongside Thursday’s semifinal opponent Pittsburgh). The young Huskers went on to climb to No. 1 in the poll in week nine and remained there the rest of the year, entering the tournament as the overall No. 1 seed with a 28-1 record, the program’s best regular season record since Cook’s last national coach of the year award. Nebraska ended multi-year losing streaks to volleyball powers Stanford and Wisconsin along the way and went undefeated at home.
In addition to all of the success on the court, Cook and Nebraska’s administration also pulled off the Volleyball Day in Nebraska event that saw a world-record 92,003 fans fill Memorial Stadium to watch the Huskers play Omaha in August, which helped trigger record-setting attendance and TV viewership numbers throughout the season as interest in volleyball continues to rise.
The Huskers swept Long Island, Missouri and Georgia Tech before taking down Arkansas in four at the Devaney Center to punch their ticket to the Final Four, the 11th national semifinal appearance for Nebraska under Cook’s leadership.
“The hardest match to win is that regional final, and I’ve always believed that,” Cook said on Wednesday ahead of the Final Four. “There’s a lot of pressure. You’re so close to this unbelievable goal of going to the Final Four. But this group has really blossomed and played their best in the biggest moments and in the biggest points. And it’s not anything we’re doing different, it’s just the belief in the relationships that they have and the trust that they have. And it’s a group of people all working together to try to get it done. And they’re very competitive. Like Lexi told me Stadium night, ‘Just try to soak it all in, Coach.’ So I’m trying to soak it all in.”
Cook, a 2017 AVCA Hall of Fame inductee, also won the Big Ten and AVCA North Region coach of the year awards this season. He’s now won eight conference and six AVCA Region coach of the year awards. He’s second in NCAA history in postseason victories and will look to add to his 88-19 NCAA Tournament record at Nebraska as the Huskers take on Pitt Thursday night.