The 2024 college volleyball season will now both start and end in Louisville.

The AVCA announced Monday that Kentucky, Louisville, Wisconsin and Nebraska will participate in its First Serve Showcase on Tuesday, August 27, at the KFC Yum! Center, also the site of NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship in December.

The First Serve Showcase will start with Nebraska of the Big Ten playing Kentucky of the SEC at 7 p.m. Eastern, followed by Wisconsin of the Big Ten versus Louisville of the ACC. The matches will be broadcast on ESPN2.

“Louisville is the place to be for women’s college volleyball this year!” Louisville coach Dani Busboom Kelly said in a release. “We are looking forward to the new season, and this marquee event will be a great way to start it off.”

The event also builds upon a season in which television and attendance records seemed to fall every week. Nebraska played a match in its Memorial Stadium last August and drew a crowd of 92,003 while the NCAA title match drew an average audience of 1.7 million viewers.

“The AVCA is very excited to bring together four teams of this caliber to get the new season started,” AVCA CEO Dr. Jaime Gordon said. “AVCA First Serve offers another way to showcase the sport and continue the momentum from the record-setting 2023 season.”

After a three-day presale, tickets become available to the public on June 14.

The four participating teams all finished the 2023 season ranked in the top 10 of the final AVCA poll and are some of the best programs in the past five years.

Wisconsin has made the season’s final week in four of the past five years, including winning the 2021 NCAA title. The Huskers finished as the national runners-up in 2021 and 2023. Louisville reached the national semifinals in 2021 and 2022, while Kentucky won the 2020 national championship.

They also all have ties to coach John Cook, as they are his current school (Nebraska), his former school (Wisconsin) and programs led by two of his former assistants (Craig Skinner at Kentucky and Busboom Kelly at Louisville).

The NCAA granted a waiver because the event will happen before the allowed start date of August 30. The teams will also likely seek another waiver to move up their first practice date, which might overlap with the Big Ten Media Days from August 5-6 in Chicago.

The First Serve Showcase will be the second high-profile early-season event for the Badgers. Wisconsin also plays in the two-day Women’s College Volleyball Showcase at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum. The Badgers and Minnesota will each play matches against Stanford and Texas over Labor Day weekend with the matches appearing on FOX and FS1.

Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said adding another event and pushing the envelope is good for everyone in the sport.

“We are very locked in as far as we need to be doing more of these types of events – getting elite teams playing elite teams with national television coverage and in big arenas where we can pack them,” he said. “I’m really excited. There’s been a lot of hoops to jump through on this from NCAA legislation. Jaime Gordon and his group, credit to them because they were able to get it done on very short notice.”

Cook, no horsing around, gets contract extension

Although his reign as the top-paid college coach was interrupted for just a few months, Nebraska coach John Cook regained the title after receiving a new contract last week.

Cook agreed to a five-year extension that will keep him with the Huskers through the 2028 season and pay him a base rate of $825,000 annually. His previous agreement, which capped out at a salary of $750,000 and was set to expire in January 2025, was set to expire at that time.

Texas coach Jerritt Elliott briefly held the title after signing a new deal for $800,000, including a base pay of $500,000 and $300,000 in 2024 for professional services payments. Those payments will increase annually, and he could pass Cook again for the 2026 season.

Cook said he worked on the new deal with Nebraska athletic director Troy Dannen, who was hired in March. Cook said he initially wanted the athletic department to purchase him a new horse as part of his compensation. However, when they said that wasn’t possible, Nebraska added a $70,000 retention bonus to be paid on July 1. Cook said he plans to use that money to purchase a horse from a prominent ranch in Nebraska.

“We are fortunate to have John Cook leading our volleyball program,” Dannen said. “He is the most accomplished coach in the nation and one of the top coaches in the history of American volleyball. John’s expectations are for nothing less than excellence in each and every endeavor, and his record reflects that.

The contract also includes a deferred compensation agreement. The investment account will be set up with a $1 million initial deposit attributed to Cook’s services in 2024. It will be managed by an investment manager as selected by NU. The funds will become fully vested by Dec. 31, 2024. If Cook leaves to coach at another school or is fired for cause before the contract expires, he forfeits the account.

News from around the Big Ten

Wisconsin adds new floor

The UW Field House has gone soft. At least, the court has.

Wisconsin unveiled pictures of its new Taraflex court on social media last week. The court looks similar to the old floor, with a wood-grain print surrounded by a red border. Previously, the Badgers played directly on the wooden court in the Field House.

In recent years, many programs have added a soft surface on top of a wooden court to help limit the physical impact on the players. In addition, the courts make it easier to slide and save wear and tear on players’ bodies.

Schedules coming soon

As the Big Ten football schedule is finalized and released in portions, the volleyball teams should soon know when they are playing conference foes.

Typically, the league slots volleyball matches into the TV schedule once all the football games are on the calendar. In the last two years, the Big Ten has released its league schedules on June 14. In 2021, the schedules came out on June 12.

This year, the Big Ten announced all the matchups for the 18 members. Each team will play every other team once with three pairs of home-and-home matchups.

Purdue, Minnesota wrap up foreign trips

The Golden Gophers finished a 12-day trip across Europe after playing matches in Türkiye, Slovenia and Italy.

During the trip, Minnesota played three matches in Istanbul, the hometown of sophomore libero Zeynep Palabiyik, against Vakifbank TBC, Eczacibasi and Yesilyurt. In Slovenia, the Gophers faced  Odbojkarski Klub Nova KBM Branik (Slovenia). Minnesota wrapped up the trip in Italy by taking on Busto Arsizio Volley and the Italian Federation U22 Team.

Speaking of Minnesota, coach Keegan Cook and wife Sarah welcomed their second child this past Friday. Keegan and Sarah met when he was on a foreign tour at the same venue in Slovenia and she was working there.

Purdue also spent its two-week trip in Italy, Croatia and Türkiye.

The Boilermakers went 4-0-1 during the tour. They tied the Italian Federation Team 3-3 in Milan. Purdue didn’t drop another set during the rest of the trip, picking up wins against OK Pula and Mladost in Croatia and then playing five sets twice against PSA Fire Ants in Istanbul.

Rutgers’ Detering moves up

Rutgers coach Caitlin Schweihofer promoted Abby Detering to associate head coach.

Under her guidance, Rutgers setters recorded the most assists per set since 2018 and the most kills per set since 2012. Deterring, who played at Florida and Penn State, enters her third season on the Scarlet Knights’ staff.

“Abby offers high-level playing experience and brought that experience to guide our offense,” Schweihofer said. “She has a strong recruiting vision for the future of the program and has made dedicated recruiting efforts to strengthen the Rutgers volleyball brand across the country and the world.”

Transfer Market Roundup

Even though the transfer portal closed during the middle of May, programs are still adding players to their rosters as the summer begins.

Northwestern: First-year coach Tim Nollan continued to build out the Wildcats’ roster by adding two transfers during the last week of May in middle blocker Sophia Summers and outside hitter Lily Wagner.

Summers started all 31 matches for Washington as a fourth-year sophomore during the 2022 season, averaging 1.36 kills and .087 blocks per set. She was not listed on the Huskies’ roster for the 2023 season.

Wagner joins the Wildcats after spending her first year at Liberty. The 5-11 attacker appeared in 59 sets across 18 matches. She contributed the most via defense, averaging 2.02 digs per set. The transfer brings Wagner closer to home, as she grew up outside Milwaukee. Her mother, Amy, won a Big Ten title in 1997 at Wisconsin, where she was also named an All-American.

Illinois: The Illini announced a pair of newbies to its roster on Thursday. Outside hitter Averie Hernandez isn’t changing conferences or home state as she goes from Northwestern to Illinois. As a sophomore last season, she started nine matches for the Wildcats and played in 25 matches while averaging 2.52 kills per set.

Vivian Campbell played in eight matches as a freshman setter at Cincinnati. Of her 35 assists, 27 came in her lone start of the season against Butler.

Michigan State: The Spartans will be boosted by adding Akasha Anderson from Auburn.

The junior outside hitter was an all-SEC selection as a freshman and amassed 356 kills last year, the second most for the Tigers. Anderson recorded double-digit kills in 22 of her 27 matches and topped the 20-kill mark on three occasions.


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