Madi Kubik collects freshman of the year award; Huskers finish ranked in top five

LINCOLN — Madi Kubik added another honor to cap off her impressive first year for Nebraska.

On Monday, the 6-foot-3 outside hitter was named the Freshman of the Year by VolleyballMag.com. Kubik is the first Nebraska player to receive a national freshman honor since Sarah Pavan won the AVCA’s top freshman award in 2004.

Kubik was already tabbed as the best freshman in the Big Ten and was the AVCA North Region Freshman of the Year. She was also second-team All-Big Ten and honorable mention All-America.

Creighton outside hitter Keeley Davis was selected as a freshman All-American, while Nebraska libero Kenzie Knuckles and UNO setter Sami Clarkson were honorable mention for the publication’s All-Freshman team.

NU coach Jon Cook said Kubik was a reliable performer this season for the Huskers and became a crucial part of the team's success. Cook said Kubik reminded him of Annika Albrecht, who is one of three players under Cook to play every set during her career and was an All-American in 2017.

“Madi, as we will see over her career, is a really steady, efficient player,” Cook said. “At the end of the night, you’ll be like 'wow those are pretty good stats,' but you don’t notice her making any dramatic or big plays. She’s just solid.”

The native of West Des Moines, Iowa, averaged 2.73 kills and 2.52 digs per set with six double-doubles. She also anchored NU's serve defense with 647 receipts. Kubik also earned three weekly honors from the Big Ten, once as the top player in the league and two other times as the freshman of the week.

Kubik came to NU as the nation's No. 4 recruit. Her confidence grew as she emerged after early-season struggles as a go-to option. The highlight of Kubik’s season came in the fifth set against No. 7 Minnesota when she recorded seven kills and two blocks to power the Huskers to victory.

“She’s a great player and she works so hard,” sophomore setter Nicklin Hames said earlier this season. “For it to pay off and for her to go off like that it’s just awesome and I’m happy for her.”

Another top-five finish

Nebraska (28-5) finished the season ranked fifth in the final AVCA coaches poll, which was released Monday.

The Huskers moved up one spot from the pre-tournament rankings to give NU a top-five finish for the 21st time, the second-most of any school. The Huskers have finished ranked in the top eight in each of the past eight years and 29 of the past 32 seasons.

Creighton dropped one spot to end the season No. 16. The Bluejays finished ranked in the final poll for a fifth-straight year and the sixth time in program history.

Stanford, which won its NCAA-record ninth national championship, claimed all 64 first-place votes. Wisconsin, which was swept by the Cardinal in the title match, was No. 2 followed by Baylor and Minnesota, the other two Final Four participants.

Penn State and Purdue each rose one spot to No. 7 and No. 13, respectively. Colorado State had the biggest fall as it went from No. 10 to No. 23 after losing in the first round to South Carolina. Pitt, which was ranked No. 2 and seeded sixth, fell to No. 11 after being upset by Cincinnati in the second round.

Louisville, which is coached by former Husker player and assistant coach Dani Busboom Kelly, was unranked in early December but finished No. 14 after upsetting Western Kentucky and Texas en route to the Sweet Sixteen.

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