Huskers Aim To Shatter Volleyball Attendance Record

By Lincoln Arneal

One of the mantras of John Cook’s volleyball program is to dream big. 

For Nebraska, it can’t get much bigger than hosting a volleyball match outdoors in the 85,458-seat Memorial Stadium. 

Nebraska announced on Friday that it would play Omaha on Aug. 30 in a celebration of volleyball in the state at the 100-year-old stadium. The day will also feature an exhibition match between Nebraska-Kearney and Wayne State in an exhibition at 4:30 p.m. and be followed by the Huskers and Mavericks at 7 p.m. The games will be paired with a music concert by a to-be-announced national recording artist.

The match at Memorial Stadium would likely be the first NCAA volleyball match played outdoors, not including the beach season. Playing outside would present new challenges in dealing with wind, humidity and sun. However, for the Huskers, who all play beach volleyball, the conditions would be similar to what they experience during the spring season, but with a more stable surface. However, Cook appreciated NU athletic director Trev Alberts’s confidence in their ability to pull off the event.


“It’s cool to be around people that dream big,” Cook said. “That’s what we talk about all the time. This is just the next step we can take to make Nebraska volleyball really special or more than it is and really put it on a world stage.”

Tickets go on sale Apr. 25 to season-ticket holders and to the public one day later. Tickets will be $25 for adults and $5 for high school-age and under. A ticket will gain entrance to both volleyball matches and the concert.

NU middle blocker Bekka Allick said she was pumped about the opportunity to play in front of a stadium full of Nebraska volleyball fans. 

“They’ve got the right amount of crazy,” the Waverly graduate said. “I think it doesn’t take normal, chill fans to want to do this nor to want to fill a stadium like this. It takes that next level of passion, almost obsession, and just love for the game and to see their athletes do well and just want to be there for them like a family.”

Nebraska isn’t just seeking to raise the bar and take back the regular-season, single-match volleyball attendance record. Instead, the Huskers aim to annihilate the previous mark and launch it into a new stratosphere.

The event’s origins hatched last fall after Wisconsin hosted Florida, attracting 16,833 fans at the Kohl Center in Madison. The Badgers’ record erased the previous mark set by Nebraska and Creighton nine days earlier when 15,797 fans watched the instate rivals play at the CHI Health Center in Omaha. 

Cook said he talked with Alberts about how to take the record back. Since Pinnacle Bank Arena can only hold 15,290 for volleyball, the only other option was the football stadium. 

“We’re going to do this once, and I want to hope that the number is large enough that nobody dares even try to attack our all-time record,” Alberts said. 

Allick said she took it personally when Wisconsin took away the attendance mark. She admits she gets a little competitive about anything and wants to take back the record.

“I get freakishly competitive about anything. If I’m in traffic and if someone accelerates too fast, I’m gonna take it personal,” the Waverly graduate said. “When I saw that they set the trend I was like, ‘Alright, game on.’ We don’t just roll over to anybody. There was a little bit of talk in the locker room. Then, of course, Coach drops the mic and says, ‘Yeah, we’re playing Memorial Stadium.’ Let’s pack it.”

The other three schools will receive $50,000 for participating as a bonus. If the event is moved to Devaney because of weather, their share will be $15,000. 

Alberts said Nebraska would apply to the Board of Regents for an exemption to sell alcohol in the stadium, similar to the Garth Brooks concert in 2021. He also said the musical artist would be announced at a later date. 

Before the 2022 season, Nebraska was part of the 12 largest regular-season crowds, which were either played at CHI Center or the original configuration of the Devaney Center.

Seven of the eight largest attendance figures for any volleyball match, and 12 of the top 14, all featured Nebraska in the national championship match or national semifinals. The 2021 NCAA title match between Nebraska and Wisconsin drew the biggest crowd to ever watch a college volleyball match with 18,755 fans at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

The announcement press conference also featured Alberts, Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen, University of Nebraska system president Ted Carter, UNL chancellor Ronnie Green and all four head coaches. 

Carter said he was excited to see all three schools in the Nebraska university system participate in an event celebrating women’s athletics. The court will be set up in the north end zone with the concert stage in the middle of the field. None of the speakers were shy about calling for fans to turn out and fill the stadium. 

“I’m just not going to be happy with 20,000 or 30,000,” Carter said. “I want to challenge all Nebraskans. We have sold out this stadium for every sporting event we’ve put in that stadium since 1962. Let’s pack the stadium. But sell this thing out and show the world how great we as Nebraskans are as sports fans.”

College basketball has tried the outdoor experiment as four games have been played on the decks of aircraft carriers, starting in 2011. (Two more were scheduled to play, but condensation on the court canceled them.) The NBA played four preseason games outdoors, with the last three played at Indian Wells Tennis Garden near Palm Springs, California. The WNBA hosted a regular season game at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York, in 2008.

Pillen, who played football for Nebraska in the 1970s, said he thought about how special it would be for the athletes to participate in the event. 

“This is Nebraska,” he said. “Innovation across the state and incredible innovation from Memorial Stadium.”

Pillen issued a proclamation declaring Aug. 30 as Volleyball Day in the state. He read off the list of accomplishments for Nebraska and the other three programs and even got a little choked up when reading the official decree. Pillen also presented Cook with a cowboy hat and dispensed the honor of becoming an admiral in the Nebraska Navy to the Husker coach. 

Each coach of the four schools talked about what a unique opportunity this event would be.

Wayne State coach Scott Kneifl said he was sold right away on the event because it is a great opportunity to showcase his program and UNK. He told his team about the news Friday morning as they prepared to play Nebraska in beach volleyball. 

“There were a lot of big eyes in the room,” he said. “They’re trying to process it a little bit, I think, but at the same time, I think that they’re super excited. They know this isn’t something that’s going to happen every year. I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and they’re just really pumped to be a part of it.”

The Division II season doesn’t officially kick off until that weekend, meaning the matting between Wayne State and UNK will be an exhibition. WSC finished last season ranked No. 5, while the Lopers were No. 15. They haven’t played a regular season match-up since 2015. 

While Nebraska recently saw its regular season record taken away, so did Nebraska-Kearney and Nebraska-Omaha. They owned the Division II attendance record of 3,520 in 1996. Last year, Central Washington and Anchorage-Alaska played a match in front of 3,888 fans at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.

Although this match won’t count for the Division II record, UNK coach Rick Squires said they are working to bring that back to Nebraska as well. 

“We’ve already had discussions on our campus about making sure that we also regain the home court attendance record,” he said. “We’re in the process of trying to pick out the right date and get everybody in Kearney to make sure we’re back on top.”

Largest regular-season match attendance 

16,833 – Florida-*Wisconsin 3-2, Sept. 16, 2022, Kohl Center Madison, Wisc.

15,797 – Nebraska-*Creighton 3-2, Sept. 9, 2022, CHI Health Center

14,022 – Nebraska-*Creighton 3-2, Sept. 6, 2018, CHI Health Center

13,870 – UCLA-*Nebraska 3-2, Sept. 13, 2009, Devaney Center

13,412 – *Nebraska-LSU 3-0, Sept. 12, 2008, Devaney Center

13,396 – *Nebraska-Hawaii 3-0, Oct. 21, 2007, Devaney Center

13,081 – Cal Poly-*Creighton 3-0/Nebraska-Penn State 3-0, Sept. 2, 2007, CHI Health Center 12,504 – *Nebraska-Colorado 3-0, Nov. 4, 2000, Devaney Center

12,112 – Nebraska-*Creighton 3-1, Sept. 24, 2006, CHI Health Center

11,892 – Dayton-Western Michigan 3-0/*Nebraska-Illinois 3-2, Sept. 11, 2010, Devaney Center 11,529 – *Nebraska-Colorado 3-0, Oct. 22, 1995, Devaney Center

11,279 – Nebraska-Creighton 3-0, Sept. 8, 2021, CHI Health Center

11,076 – Nebraska-UCLA 3-1/Tennessee-Utah 3-2, Aug. 25, 2007, CHI Health Center

11,032 – UCLA-*Nebraska 3-1, Sept. 14, 1991, Devaney Center

* Host institution


NU Storms Back From Down 17 to Knock Off Wisconsin In OT

By Jacob Bigelow

If Wisconsin had the game in the bag, somebody forgot to tell Nebraska.

The Huskers rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit on Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena, pushed the game into overtime and dominated from there, winning 73-63.

Perhaps the only one more perplexed than the stunned Wisconsin players was Husker coach Fred Hoiberg, who was still trying to process the improbable comeback in his post-game media conference.

Asked for his initial thoughts, Hoiberg had no words.

“I can’t,” Hoiberg said with an ear-to-ear grin. “I’m just gonna get up and leave and say it was a lot of fun.” 

Yes it was. 

  • It was NU’s largest come-from-behind win since 2013 (Iowa, 19 points).
  • It was NU’s third-largest comeback since the start of the 1996-97 season.
  • It was NU’s largest second-half comeback since at least 1997-98.

Down 35-24 at halftime, things looked bleak for the Huskers. At that point, they were 1 of 8 from 3-point range and had only one assist.

The hole only got deeper to start the second half. Wisconsin started with an 8-2 run and took its biggest lead at 43-26 with 17 minutes to play. 

Husker fans who turned the channel would be kicking themselves by Saturday evening. 

Keisei Tominga splashed back-to-back 3-pointers. Derrick Walker made a lay-up. Sam Griesel capitalized on an and-one. Blaise Keita scored his only points of the game. Tominaga again hit back-to-back 3s.

Suddenly, NU had its first lead of the game.

It was all part of a 20-2 run that stretched into overtime. The Huskers (12-14, 5-10 Big Ten) finished on a 12-0 run and outscored Wisconsin (14-10, 6-8) 12-2 in overtime.

Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said his team got what it deserved.

“I was really brutally honest with them,” he said of his locker room address. “It was Jekyll and Hyde between who we were in the first half defensively (and) who we were in the second half.”

The Badgers’ sin, he said, was allowing Tominaga, who scored 17 of his 22 points after halftime, to catch fire.

“It started with too much fouling,” Gard said. “We fouled too much in the first half. That gives the team confidence to get to the free throw line and then Tominaga – I’ll give him credit, he’s had some tough shots, but it’s not surprising because that’s how he plays.”

But it wasn’t a one-man show.

  •  Griesel stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
  • Walker scored 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds and often had his way down low against Badger big men. Example: He had six of Nebraska’s 12 points in overtime.
  • Jamarques Lawrence scored 11 points, and his athleticism was a clear problem for Wisconsin guards.

Who got the gameball?

Blaise Keita.

Little used to this point – Keita had played just 22 minutes since Dec. 29 because of an ankle injury – the big-man clocked almost 23 minutes, all in the second half or overtime, pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds to go with two steals and two points.

“I’m so proud of him,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a guy that has gone through a lot this year with the injuries. He got hurt in the Queens game with a high-ankle sprain. He has really struggled with that from a timing standpoint.”

That may be about to change.

For the first time, Hoiberg played his two bigs together, sliding the 6-foot-9 Walker to the 4 spot and playing the 6-11 Keita at the 5.

“We have been working on the big-big lineup for this exact situation, when (the opponent) had two good post players. It allowed us to go one-on-one in the post.”

Wisconsin, which gets much of its work done down low, had no answer – Nebraska outrebounded the Badgers 43-37 – and Walker went to work offensively, most notably in overtime.

“We were in a close game,” Walker said. “We were in overtime and someone needed to score. … Whether it is me or somebody else I am just happy we capitalized on our moments and did what we had to do to finish the game.”

Evans Headed To San Diego

By Lincoln Arneal

After playing the past three years at the San Diego of the Big Ten, Anni Evans will spend her final two seasons of eligibility at actual San Diego. 

The 5-foot-9 setter announced on her Instagram Friday that she would join the Toreros after she earns her undergraduate degree in May. 

Gabby Blossom, who transferred from Penn State, guided the Toreros to their most successful season in program history. USD went 31-2, reaching the national semifinals before falling to eventual national champion Texas. 

San Diego returns 5-foot-6 senior Alex Hoglund and 6-foot redshirt senior Isadora Tercariol. Hoglund played in 33 matches last season, primarily as a serving specialist and only recorded 2 assists. Tercariol did not appear in a game in 2022. 

Evans played in 27 matches as a junior for Nebraska, which used a 6-2 system for most of the season. She averaged 4.37 assists per set as the Huskers’ second setter. The Waverly graduate also added 158 digs.

Her best match came in the second match of the year as she tallied 36 assists against Tulsa, running the offense solo in an NU sweep. Her next best performance came against Creighton with 25 assists. She recorded at least 20 assists in two of the three postseason matches. 

As a sophomore, Evans was used as a serving specialist appearing in 23 matches and recording 10 aces. She played 15 sets over nine matches during her freshman campaign. 

Evans earned the NCAA Elite 90 award at the 2021 Final Four as the student-athlete with the highest GPA. In addition, she was named to the Academic Big Ten list twice for indoor volleyball and was on the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team in 2021.

Playing the Portal Game

By Lincoln Arneal

It’s been less than two months since Texas defeated Louisville for the national championship in Omaha, but during that time, player movement has happened at a non-stop pace. 

Ohio State saw an exodus of talent after its season ended the same way it began – with a loss to Texas. Meanwhile, Penn State remade its team for Katie Schumacher-Cawley’s second season as head coach. The movement is not over as players will continue to find new homes during the second transfer window in May, plus a few key players are still in the portal looking for their next destination. 

A month into the spring semester, some of the dust has settled enough to take stock of the portal movement of several teams in the Big Ten and around the nation. These assessments do not consider incoming freshmen or players who have exhausted eligibility. We’ll take a more extensive review of roster changes come summer. 


Penn State

Gained from the portal: Mac Podraza, Gr., S, from Ohio State; Jess Mruzik, Jr., OH, from Michigan; Camryn Hannah, Jr., OH, from Clemson; Ally Van Eekeren, Gr., S, from High Point; Lina Perugini, Gr., L, from Coastal Carolina.

Lost to the portal: Katie Hurta, So., S/OPP, to Clemson; Erika Williams, So., MB/RS, undecided.

The Nittany Lions might be this year’s winner of the portal. They added Podraza, the Big Ten’s top setter from a year ago, who will upgrade the Nittany Lions’ attack. She could have an impact similar to that of former PSU player Gabby Blossom at San Diego. Van Eekeren was the Big South setter for the year, adding solid depth to the position. Mruzik is a two-time all-Big Ten performer and instantly becomes their best attacker. Camryn Hannah earned All-ACC second-team honors, and she should slide in at opposite, while Zoe Weatherington and Anjelina Starck compete for the other outside hitter spot. 


Gained: Temi Thomas-Ailara, Gr., OH, from Northwestern; Carter Booth, So., MB, from Minnesota.

Lost: Jade Demps, Jr., OH, to LSU; Liz Gregorski, Jr., OH, to Kansas State; Anna MacDonald, Gr., L/DS, to Dayton.

Is it possible for a team to have too many attackers? Even after losing Demps, the Badgers still have an impressive outside hitter group. All-American Thomas-Ailara joins Sarah Franklin, who transferred from Michigan State a year ago, and Julia Orzol, both juniors. Even after losing Danielle Hart in the middle, UW will be well-stocked. Booth will battle with Caroline Crawford, Anna Smrek and Devyn Robinson for court time, with the latter two also playing opposite. Even if Wisconsin sticks with a 6-2 system, someone will be left out of the regular rotation. But it’s good to be Kelly Sheffield and deal with having too much talent. 


Gained: Gabby Gonzales, Gr., OH, from Ohio State; Kara McGhee, Gr., MB, from Baylor; Onye Ofoegbu, Sr., MB, from UC Irvine

Lost: Kiari Robey, Jr., MB, to Florida State

The team that knocked out the Huskers has remade the middle of its lineup. After losing Robey to the portal, the Ducks added a pair of middle blockers in McGhee and Ofoeghbu, who were named all-conference in the Big 12 and Big West, respectively. Those two will compete with senior Karson Bacon for time in the middle. Oregon also found a replacement for Brooke Nuneviller in former Buckeye Gonzales. The Ducks should contend for the Pac-12 title with their other returning pieces. 



Gained: Merritt Beason, Jr., OPP, from Florida.

Lost: Anni Evans, Gr., S, undecided

The Huskers hit the portal quickly after its starting opposite hitter Whitney Lauenstein decided to step away from the sport. They found a ready-made replacement in Beason less than a week after the season ended. She will provide plenty of firepower, passing and leadership for the Huskers on the right pin. NU also loses Anni Evans but still has two scholarship setters on the roster. Evans hasn’t yet announced her next school but has been taking visits and will join her new program after she earns her undergrad degree in May. 


Gained: Jenna Wenaas, Jr., OH, from Minnesota.

Lost: Melanie Parra, Jr., OH, to TCU; DeAndra Pierce, So., MB, to Georgia Tech.

After going all in on the portal a year ago, the Longhorns took a much more measured approach this season. Wenaas is a solid addition. No one can replicate Logan Eggleston, but she’ll form an excellent attacking duo with Madisen Skinner. With Asjia O’Neal, Bella Bergmark and Molly Phillips returning, UT will put up a strong title defense. Parra provided quality depth last year and had a crucial kill in the national championship match but totaled just 64 kills on the season. Pierce only appeared in one match during two seasons.


Gained: Charitie Luper, Jr., OH, from UCLA.

Lost: Paige Morningstar, So., S, to Cal; Nena Mbonu, Gr., OH, to Houston; Sydni Schetnan, So., OH, to South Dakota State.

The national runners-up lost a lot of firepower from last year, but Luper will try to spark the offense next to Anna DeBeer. She averaged more than three kills per set for the Bruins last season. If Wahoo native Elle Glock can step in and run the offense, the Cardinals will fight for another ACC crown.


Ohio State

Gained: None

Lost: Mac Podraza; Gabby Gonzales; Kylie Murr, Gr., L, to Minnesota; Jenaiysa Moore, Gr., OH, to Tennessee; Adria Powell, Gr., MB, to Clemson

It was a rough off-season for the Buckeyes, who said goodbye to five seniors who elected to use their bonus year of eligibility elsewhere. OSU dealt with a brutal scholarship crunch which it hopes will be offset by’s No. 5 recruiting class which features five Top 100 prospects. 


Gained: Kylle Murr

Lost: Carter Booth, Jenna Wenaas

The Gophers found their replacement for CC McGraw with Murr, the Big Ten defensive player of the year last season. However, the attack took a step back, losing Booth and Wenaas. The latter was shifted to opposite hitter with the emergence of McKenna Wucherer. The good news for new coach Keegan Cook is Taylor Landfair is back. 


Gained: None

Lost: Mruzik, Jess Robinson, Gr., MB, to Duke; May Pertofsky, Gr., OPP, undecided


Gained: Julia Sangiacomo, Gr., OH, from Santa Clara.

Lost: Temi Thomas-Ailara, Hanna Lesiak, Gr., OH, to Long Beach State; Desiree Becker, Gr., MB, to UCLA; Grace Reininga, L/DS, undecided; Abryanna Cannon, Gr., OH/OPP, undecided.

It was a rough transfer season for the Wolverines and Wildcats. Michigan will get a hard reset under new coach Erin Virtue as it lost its top three attackers, who also doubled as the top blocker and second-best passer. Likewise, Northwestern will be without three of its top four attackers and best blocker. The path to the top half got a little more challenging for two teams that finished in the middle of the Big Ten pack. 

Still in the Portal

The best player left in the portal might be Texas Tech outside hitter Kenna Sauer. After earning All-Big 12 honors twice, she will look for a new home for her final year. Teams looking for help at the pins can look to outside hitter Iman Isanovic from Arizona State and USC opposite Emilia Weske, both of whom are looking for new homes.

At libero, Maryland’s Milan Gomillion and Missori’s Leandra Mangual-Duran could each boost a school’s back row. As mentioned above, Anni Evans and May Pertofsky are also looking for new homes. 

Tominaga’s Career Day Leads NU Past Penn State

By Jacob Bigelow

When did Fred Hoiberg know that Kesei Tominaga was in for a big game? 

“Probably when he hit the one from halfcourt,” the Huskers basketball coach said. “I think that was the one where I kind of knew that it was Keisei’s night.”

Grinning from ear to ear, Tominaga echoed that sentiment. How early did he know? 

“Probably the first shot,” Tominaga said. 

Amid a four-game losing streak and down two members of its starting lineup, Nebraska defeated Penn State 72-63 on Sunday at Pinnacle Bank Arena, moving to 11-13 on the season and 4-9 in the Big Ten.

With the local discourse around the program more about the uncertainty of next year instead of the season at hand, Hoiberg’s Huskers led from start to finish against the visitors, who fell to 14-9 and 5-7. 

Tominaga finished with a career high 30 points, 16 of those coming in the second half. It was the third-highest scoring output by a Husker in a Big Ten game. His five 3-pointers were also the most a Husker has made in a game this season.

Tominaga is best known as a shooter, but his slashing cuts off the ball and his attempts at the basket prove he’s much more than that.

CE5A3074 800
30 Keisei Tominaga

“People label Keisei as a shooter, but his cutting off of Derrick (Walker), off of (Sam) Griesel, is really impressive,” Hoiberg said. “And when teams are hugging him like they were today, and like they always play him, cutting is something that he has to do.” 

Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry said the Nittany Lions made the mistake of letting Tominaga get going. 

“We didn’t do a good job,” Shrewsberry said. “We didn’t do a good job at all, but I thought he was great. I thought he got into a rhythm early by getting layups. Everything starts to fall from there.”

Tominaga’s long bombs, quick drives into the lane and his overall energy have made him a fan favorite.

“It is infectious,” Hoiberg said. “You see that when he hits those shots, when he gets to the end of the lane and hits those circus shots, you see the bench go crazy for him, you see his teammates out on the floor. It’s just fun to have a guy play with that much passion.”

Tominaga wasn’t the only act that drew raves. Guard Jamarques Lawrence finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. The freshman from Plainfield, New Jersey, has seen his role expand following season-ending injuries to Emmanuel Bandoumel and Juwan Gary. 

Nebraska hit four of its first five 3-pointers to lead 22-13 early in the first half. Tominaga set the tone by scoring 10 of the Huskers’ first 17.

NU’s largest lead was 15 at 35-20 following a traditional three-point play by Griesel. Penn State responded by scoring six straight to get within single digits before half at 37-28. 

Penn State would eventually cut the lead to three late in the second half, but a Tominaga layup and another 3-pointer all but slammed the door. The dagger came from Lawrence, who nailed his third 3 right in front of his head coach with 45 seconds to play. Free throws down the stretch from Lawrence and Sam Hoiberg finished the game. 

Penn State attempted 38 3-pointers, more than half of their total shot attempts. Seth Lundy  finished the game with eight 3-pointers, tying the Pinnacle Bank Arena record for made 3s in a game. Jalen Pickett finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists after being held in check the first half.

Lundy, Pickett and Andrew Funk accounted for 53 of Penn State’s 63 points. 

The Huskers took care of the ball and finished with only seven turnovers, a much better performance than its 19 and 15 turnovers in back-to-back road losses to Maryland and Illinois.  

“It started with our preparation and how we were going to turn the page and come back in here and get back to work and the guys were very resilient,” Hoiberg said.

Husker Volleyball Will Play Spring Exhibition in Central City

By Lincoln Arneal

Central City built it, so Nebraska will come. 

The Huskers will play their only spring exhibition match this year in Central City’s new Bison Activity Dome, the first monolithic dome in the state, which also doubles as a EMA-rated tornado shelter.

A few years ago, Central City reached out to the Huskers about visiting its town for highly sought-after spring match. It was in the process of replacing gym, which only had a capacity of 900. 

In the place of the gym near the elementary school was a $7.7 million dome, which was built with the help of a federal grant. The dome was completed late last year. 

“They reached out about four years ago and said hey, we’re gonna build this facility where you guys come and open it,” NU coach John Cook said. “We said, ‘Sure, if you build it will come.’  They got it built and I think they’ve had a couple of events just to kick it off.”

Ticket information has not been released for the spring match. Last year, the match against Kansas sold out the 8,000-seat Heartland Events Center in Grand Island.  

The Huskers have played their spring match around the state including McCook, Kearney, Norfolk, Ogallala and Wayne. 

With Freshmen On Board, NU Dives Into Beach Season

By Lincoln Arneal

The Husker volleyball team has undergone a mini roster makeover in the 50 days since it was last in action. 

Gone are seniors Madi Kubik, Kenzie Knuckles, Kaitlyn Hord and Nicklin Hames since the indoor season ended Dec. 8 in the NCAA regional semifinals. Plus, junior Whitney Lauenstein stepped away from the sport. 

In their place are five incoming freshmen ranked as’s top-ranked recruiting class and Florida transfer Merritt Beason. 

After more than a month away from campus, the returning Huskers were back in Lincoln last week and began beach practices on Monday. They will have a sprint to get ready for the beach season, which kicks off in less than four weeks on Feb. 24 against Wayne State. 

NU coach John Cook said he’s impressed by the newcomers. The freshmen have arrived in shape coming off their fall seasons and all participated in the Under Armour All-America Game at the end of December. Beason is in her element in the sand having played beach volleyball for three years in high school in Gardendale, Alabama. 

“The five freshmen are way ahead of where we thought they would be,” Cook said. “They’re just good volleyball players. They came in in shape. I can tell you this – they’re way ahead of where our junior class was as freshmen; of course, they were coming off COVID stuff. We were pretty impressed with the first week.”

The one notable omission from the beach roster is Kennedi Orr. Cook said the junior setter will not participate in beach volleyball, instead focusing on indoor season training. 

Orr suffered a minor knee injury midway through the beach season last year on the same knee in which she tore her ACL in September 2020 as a high school senior. 

“We’re just going to keep her out of it. We don’t want to risk it,” Cook said. “She wants to (play), but we’re just doing it as a precaution.”

Orr will also try out for the USA Select Team in May, which includes training sessions and possibly an overseas trip for a tournament. 

FOREIGN TRIP UPCOMING – The Nebraska staff is busy planning its quadrennial foreign trip this summer. This will be the Huskers’ sixth foreign trip. The previous five have been to China or Japan.

While they haven’t finalized any details, they are doing more research into taking a trip to Brazil. Cook said they would likely decide on their destination in the next week or so. 

“We’re still going back and forth, but we’re a little farther along in Brazil right now,” Cook said. “With China, there’s a lot of ‘ifs’ there. They really want us because they haven’t had anybody, but Brazil right now is a little farther ahead in that progress.”

SPRING MATCH ROADSHOW – Nebraska is also working to finalize details for its spring match. Cook said he has a location and opponent in mind. However, Nebraska is still finalizing contracts and figuring out ticket information. The site should be announced in February.

Fitting The Pieces: A Quick Look at NU’s Volleyball Roster

By Lincoln Arneal

The solution in Nebraska’s offseason scholarship shuffle revealed itself on Tuesday when junior opposite Whitney Lauenstein announced that she was leaving the Huskers to focus on herself and her family. 

Now the Huskers will have to replace their top two attackers with Lauenstein stepping away and Madi Kubik graduating. Help is on the way as all five 2023 signees will be on campus next week as NU begins offseason workouts that will soon give way to beach volleyball practices. With an eye to the fall, here are the implications of Lauenstein’s departure and how the new pieces fit together for the Huskers. 

OPPOSITES ATTRACT: Even though Lauenstein started almost every match at the left pin, the Huskers already have a ready replacement in Merritt Beason, who announced her transfer from Florida in December.

Beason actually posted a better-attacking stat line than Lauenstein last year. She averaged 3.35 kills per set on a .261 hitting percentage with 38 aces. Lauenstein put up 2.78 kills at a .238 clip with 28 aces as a sophomore. The Waverly graduate was a better blocker averaging more than a block per set. 

Beason should get the first crack at the starting position. She already has a rapport with several Huskers as she played with middle blocker Bekka Allick and libero Lexi Rodrigeuz on the junior national team. Incoming freshman Caroline Jurevicius should provide depth as she adjusts to the college game.

KRAUSE COULD FLIP: Last year, Lindsay Krause played both at the left and right pins with high effectiveness. She has more experience on the left side and looks more comfortable. With Beason’s experience, she could finally settle in on the left pin along with fellow junior Ally Batenhorst. Those two finished third and fourth for the Huskers in kills last season, both averaging more than two per set. Krause flourished late in the season with 62 kills and a .351 hitting percentage. 

This is dependent on Nebraska reverting back to a one-setter offense. If junior Kennedi Orr or freshman Bergen Reilly can grab control of the system and perform at a high level, NU can revert back to the offense preferred by NU coach John Cook. The Huskers have enough attackers to run a 6-2, but Cook might want the consistency of playing just one setter.

Batenhorst and Krause should start the spring as the top outside hitters, but don’t count out sophomore Hayden Kubik and freshman Harper Murray. Kubik really only got extensive playing time against Creighton and held her own, while Murray enters the program with a boatload of prep awards and talent. 

With Rodriguez and the top libero prospect Laney Choboy, the Huskers have a bit of flexibility with their back-row defense. If Beason continues to play all six rotations, NU only needs one of its two outside hitters to play all the way around. Batenhorst stepped in late after Kenzie Knuckles was injured, but Krause has shown the ability to pass as well. It might lessen the load as they become NU’s featured attackers. 

SCHOLARSHIPS STILL FULL: Entering the off-season, Nebraska was at the limit of 12 scholarships. When Beason committed out of the portal, it signaled that some sort of roster movement was likely. 

The Huskers now have five scholarship juniors: Krause, Batenhorst, Rodriguez, Beason and Orr. Allick and Kubik are the two sophomores on scholarship as Maggie Mendelson counts toward women’s basketball and Maisie Boesiger is a walk-on. The final five are freshmen: Murray, Choboy, Jurevicius, Reilly and middle blocker Andi Jackson. 

Nebraska will have more scholarship numbers to crunch next year as it has no seniors on the roster. Still, three verbal commitments for the Class of 2024 – outside hitter Skylar Pierce, middle blocker Ayden Ames and libero/defensive specialist Olivia Mauch – mean more player movement is probable. The one caveat is sometimes NU only awards two-year scholarships to defensive specialists, so that could create an open scholarship or two. But, that’s an issue for next offseason.

Incoming freshman named Gatorade National Player Of The Year

By Lincoln Arneal

Harper Murray’s trophy case just got a little more crowded. 

The Ann Arbor (Mich.) Skyline senior was named the 2022-23 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year. 

To surprise her, Skyline high school athletic director Andre Criswell arranged a ceremony at the school where they filled the trophy case with Gatorade and invited her family and classmates to celebrate. However, as she was about to be presented the award, she took off running when her teammates tried to dump a Gatorade bucket of confetti. 

“To have the support of everyone around me makes it a lot more special. It’s so very surreal,”  Murray said. “I’ve seen girls I know get this award. I’ve seen a lot of athletes get this award, so it’s a really big honor. I’m very honored.”

Harper Murray
Harper Murray

Murray, who will enroll at Nebraska next week, is the fifth Husker player to win the award, joining Ally Batenhorst (2020-21), Lexi Sun (2016-17), Mikaela Foecke (2014-15) and Gina Mancuso (2008-09).

The recognition caps off an impressive prep career for the 6-foot-2 outside hitter. She was named Michigan’s Miss Volleyball and earned first-team All-American honors from AVCA and MaxPreps. 

In addition, Murray was named the Best Spiker at the U19 Pan Am Cup in Tulsa in August as she led the United States to a gold medal. She also participated in the Under Armour All-America game earlier this month. The No. 2 ranked prospect by also helped her club team, Legacy, win a national title in 2021. 

This season for Skyline, Murray recorded 726 kills (6.1 per set) on a .405 hitting percentage as the Eagles went 39-8 and reached the Division 1 regional semifinals. She also added 409 digs, 86 aces and 40 blocks. Murray finished her career with 2,488 kills and 1,460 digs. 

Winners are selected for athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character. Murray graduated with a 3.62 GPA and participated in her school’s Rising Scholars Leadership Program, designed to create access and opportunity for underrepresented yet high-achieving students. She volunteered for the Vada Murray Endowed Fund for Cancer Research, named for her late father. She also served as a lead coach for the Skyline Rising Eagle Volleyball Clinic.

She is one of two incoming freshmen to win Gatorade player of the year honors for her state, joining Bergen Reilly, who won her third-straight South Dakota award. 

They will join five previous state winners on the Huskers: Bekka Allick (Nebraska 2020-21), Ally Batenhorst (Texas 2019-20), Lindsay Krause (Nebraska, 2019-20), Kennedi Orr (Minnesota 2017-18, 2018-19), Lexi Rodriguez (Illinois 2019-20), 

Lauenstein no longer part of Husker Volleyball Team; Will Focus On Self, Family

By Lincoln Arneal

Whitney Lauenstein announced Tuesday evening that she is stepping away from the Nebraska volleyball team. 

The junior opposite hitter announced on her Instagram that she took time between semesters to figure out her future with the sport. 

“I have decided to step away from the volleyball team to focus on myself and be with my family and continue to heal due to the passing of my dad,” Lauenstein wrote. “I will miss playing at the (Bob Devaney Center) with my teammates. It will be something I will remember forever, but I think it’s important to put yourself first before you commit to something big!” 

NU coach John Cook said he fully supports Lauenstein and her family in the decision and hopes she will find peace and healing. 

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13 Whitney Lauenstein

“There are bigger things in life than volleyball,” he said. “Whit will be missed by everyone involved with our program, especially her Husker teammates and coaches. She will always be a Husker.”

This season, Lauenstein finished the season averaging 2.78 kills and 1.07 blocks per set, both of which were second-best for the Huskers. In addition, she led NU with 28 aces this year. 

Lauenstein’s father, Ryan, passed away in early February 2021 during her senior year of high school. She said that also weighed on her decision to put volleyball aside in her final few months of high school at Waverly High.

“Playing volleyball and running track both didn’t give me enough time to really focus on my family,” Lauenstein said to the Lincoln Journal Star that spring. “High school sports, you don’t have to do it 24/7, and with track, there’s not very much on the weekends. It was just too much stress for club volleyball right now to play that on the weekends.

Lauenstein appeared in 27 matches as a freshman, but often only briefly as part of a double-substitute package. She recorded just 67 kills while hitting .130 as she mostly sat behind fellow freshman Lindsay Krause at opposite. 

She flashed potential in the spring match against Kansas with 12 kills and eight blocks. During the nonconference schedule, the 6-foot-2 sophomore led Nebraska with 3.60 kills per set with a .325 hitting percentage. The highlight of her season came in the Creighton match when she recorded 25 kills on a .385 hitting percentage leading NU to a five-set victory.

However, opponents started to make kills harder to come by during the second half of the Big Ten season. While she put up big numbers against Northwestern and Iowa, she totaled just 12 kills during the rematch with Iowa and versus Purdue and Wisconsin. She finished the season with 12 kills in NU’s five-set loss to Oregon in the regional semifinals.

Lauenstein’s post said there had been rumors about her status since the end of the season after Florida transfer Merritt Beason announced her commitment to the Huskers on Dec. 23. NU coach John Cook said Nebraska’s roster underwent “adjustments” since the season ended. With Lauenstein’s departure, the Huskers are at the limit of 12 scholarships.

“Thank you everyone for the unconditional love and support,” she wrote. “The Nebraska fan base is unlike any other!”