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Under Armour All-America Volleyball Match, 12.14

Team East's Madi Kubik, a Nebraska recruit, goes for a dig on Friday during the Under Armour All-America match at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS — Friday evening, at the Final Four, was for the players you’ll probably see on the biggest stage in college volleyball in the future.

The Under Armour All-America match was held at the Target Center on the same court where Saturday’s national championship will be played.

Three high school players who will join the Nebraska volleyball team for the 2019 season played in the match. They are outside hitter Madi Kubik from West Des Moines, Iowa; defensive specialist Kenzie Knuckles from Yorktown, Indiana; and outside hitter Riley Zuhn from Fort Collins, Colorado.

Kubik and Knuckles are actually scheduled to join the program next month, and will take part in spring practice.

Kubik was named the Team East MVP following the game. 

Other Huskers who have played in the all-star match include Nicklin Hames, Capri Davis, Jazz Sweet, Mikaela Foecke, Amber Rolfzen and Kadie Rolfzen.

Big role at young age: Two years ago, as a freshman setter, Jenna Gray led Stanford to its only national championship in the past 13 years.

On Saturday, Gray will be the seasoned junior across the net from Nebraska's newbie, freshman setter Nicklin Hames.

"I feel like a lot of the stuff from my freshman year is kind of a blur, because it was all moving so fast," Gray said Friday, when asked about her memories from the 2016 season.

Stanford beat Texas for the 2016 title in John Dunning's final match as coach of the Cardinal. Amazingly, the program that shares the record for all-time championships with Penn State (seven) won its last previous title in 2004.

The Cardinal lost championship matches in 2006 (Nebraska) and 2007 and 2008 (both Penn State).

More red in the building? Following Nebraska's win over Illinois late Thursday in Minneapolis, Husker coach John Cook speculated that more Husker fans would set out for the Twin Cities to catch Saturday's title match against Stanford.

It appears, too, that ticket brokers did a little speculating following the Huskers' win.

The cheapest championship match tickets on the second-hand market spiked to over $150 overnight before prices slowly dropped throughout the day on Friday. At 5 p.m., $75 would get you in the door for the championship match, but most tickets were listed over $110.

Attendance Thursday night was 17,808, a sellout at the Target Center. Lower-bowl tickets for the semifinals could be found for $25.

Any questions for the coach? Gray studies human biology at Stanford and throws the javelin for the Cardinal track and field team, but the All-American junior setter also seems to dabble in sports journalism.

After fielding questions from the media at Friday's news conference, Gray left the stage and settled in the back of the room. With microphone in hand, she had a question for Stanford coach Kevin Hambly.

"If you could pick a favorite player on the team — it can be a blonde, a setter — who would it be?" asked Gray.

Hambly, whose team's 31-match winning streak is the longest in Stanford's rich history, was quick to respond.

"Well, it was Jenna Gray," he said, sparking laughter. "Now, it's (senior backup) Payton Chang."

Practice has been fun: When Nebraska beat Oregon last week, one of the first things the team talked about is that they’d be one of the four teams in the country still practicing on Monday. By Friday, that list had taken another hit.

“Callie Schwarzenbach informed me today there's only two teams practicing, and we're one of them,” Cook said.

Several times this season Cook has said this has been a team that loved to practice. That showed again on Tuesday. Sweet drilled a teammate in the face with a shot. Once it was determined she was OK, the whole group, Cook included, laughed and watched the replay. In that same practice, Schwarzenbach was told she was done for the day because all that was left was serving. Instead, she asked to work on hitting.

“The main reason is just because we like being together,” said Kenzie Maloney, when asked why this team has enjoyed practice. “I don't know, I just think the relationships that we have with each other are genuine. It's fun to get into the practice gym, get better and learn with each other every day.”

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