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For the third time in 12 months, Nebraska plays Wisconsin with the championship on the line | Wisconsin

Nebraska’s Madi Kubik talks about her team controlling its own destiny and her decision to leave after her senior year.

For all their accomplishments — including being on teams that have won 123 games over five seasons — none of the players on the Nebraska volleyball team have a championship ring from their time here.

And the main reason why — Wisconsin — will be back on the other side of the net on Friday, trying again to stop the Huskers from winning a championship.

No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 5 Nebraska play at 7 p.m. at the Devaney Sports Center. The game is on Big Ten Network.

It’s the third time in 12 months that the programs are playing in some sort of championship game. Last year, Nebraska and Wisconsin also played in the final week of the regular season with the Big Ten titles on the line. Wisconsin won in four sets and finished a game better than Nebraska to win its third straight Big Ten title.

Then, three weeks later, the Badgers beat Nebraska again in five sets in the 2021 national championship.

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Now Nebraska is back with another shot at winning a championship. The Huskers control their own destiny but must beat Wisconsin to stand a chance at a Big Ten title. Then Nebraska plays No. 9 Minnesota on Saturday.

“We’ve been working to get to this point since January, to have this opportunity to contend for a Big Ten championship,” said Nebraska coach John Cook. “The team worked hard and the staff worked really hard. We have to tackle it. That will be fun for our fans.”

In a league with six ranked teams, Finals weekend almost always comes down to winning the Big Ten title, and Nebraska avoided major upsets to give themselves a chance at Finals weekend to win a title.

Nebraska’s losses are against top 10 teams, respectively – Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Nebraska had a rough patch during the Big Ten season, playing seven of nine games. But the payoff is now coming with three straight home games to wrap up the Big Ten season.

“We gave ourselves an opportunity to play for the Big Ten championship this weekend, which is really cool,” said Husker senior Madi Kubik.

The final list of games ended in great style, with the top 10 teams going head-to-head. Cook said the Big Ten Network had a hand in the great end-of-season schedule.

Last season, the game between Wisconsin and Nebraska set a record with 375,000 viewers on BTN.

Nebraska’s Kenzie Knuckles reflects on the relationships she forged during her volleyball career in Nebraska and has no regrets in her final season.

“It’s all Big Ten, and Big Ten (Network) made it up,” Cook said. “That’s one of the reasons they’re taking so long to get the schedule out because I think they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to do it all and try to make it a big weekend.”

Nebraska’s senior squad — Nicklin Hames, Kenzie Knuckles and Kubik — has been able to win championships and come close on several occasions, including twice in the national championship game for Hames.

“These guys need a ring, whether it’s a Big Ten or a national championship ring,” Cook said. “That’s kind of the only thing left on the table that they need to pursue.”

To do that, Nebraska must make a significant about-face after the Badgers defeated Nebraska 25-23, 25-23, 25-18 on Oct. 26.

“We have to find a way to win some close games against top teams. That’s what matters,” Cook said.

Overall, Wisconsin has won nine straight games against Nebraska in five seasons.

One of the areas that held Nebraska back in the first game was serve, which was pretty uncharacteristic of the Huskers.

“We didn’t handle it very well, so we’ve got to get better if we’re going to have a chance,” Cook said.

Nebraska’s main players in receiving service are Lexi Rodriguze, Knuckles and Kubik. Knuckles is confident Nebraska’s pass can be better this time.

“We know exactly what they’re going to do, so honestly it’s just a mentality to go inside them and do it and be aggressive with what we’re doing,” Knuckles said.

The Badgers roll into Lincoln on a 16-game winning streak. Wisconsin’s only Big Ten loss came in its second Big Ten match, a win over Minnesota.

Cook says Nebraska needs to be better on offense and not allow as many long runs.

But players — and Nebraska fans — know the Badgers lineup well.

In the first match against the Huskers, Wisconsin winger Sarah Franklin had 21 kills with a .385 batting average. Devyn Robinson added nine kills.

“We can’t let Franklin get 21 kills, so that’s a good start,” Cook said. “And they know that. And we can’t let Robinson bounce balls at us. We don’t even have to talk about names. You know.”

Reach the author at 402-473-7435 or [email protected] On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.