By Lincoln Arneal
The last month has been a ride for Ally Batenhorst.
The Nebraska outside hitter exited the first set against Creighton on Sept. 7 with an abdomen injury. After a few weeks of rehabilitation, she began making brief appearances for the Huskers, but usually when the score was lopsided or in the third set.
On Saturday, Batenhorst earned her first start in a month and thrived in NU’s sweep of Michigan. The 6-foot-5 sophomore recorded seven kills and added two blocks. She said she’s tried to stay engaged mentally and focus on the things she can control.
“I tried to bring as much fire to the team as I could and have a good positive vibe for the team and be less focused on myself and my stats,” Batenhorst said Tuesday after practice. “I was just focused on playing for my team and working hard and doing my part.”
Batenhorst dealt with injuries in the early season last year, missing the first weekend of matches. She took a conservative approach and sat out the Red-White scrimmage this year. She started the first weekend strong with a seven-kill performance against Tulsa before putting up 10 against Loyola Marymount.
In her absence, sophomore Lindsay Krause flipped to the left pin and freshman Maggie Mendelson stepped up at opposite.
So when middle blocker Bekka Allick missed Saturday’s match with an illness, NU coach John Cook needed to shuffle the lineup and Batenhorst was back as a starter.
“When we got on the bus, I said, ‘OK, Ally, here’s your opportunity. Let’s go for it.'” Cook said. “We made the adjustments and Ally competes. I’ve always had a lot of confidence in her. She showed us last year she could play in big matches and Michigan was a big match for us.”
Cook said Batenhorst’s attitude has exemplified the team-first approach that has produced positive results.
Last season after experimenting with different combinations at outside hitter, Cook settled into one lineup to start Big Ten play. However, this season they have even more depth and dealt with more injuries, which hasn’t allowed the Huskers to settle into a regular rotation. Nebraska has used multiple looks at setter, plus Krause has played both pins and Mendelson has started at both middle blocker and right side.
“Nothing fazes them as far as who goes where and I’m pretty amazed by that,” Cook said. “They’re just very adaptable. I just tell them, ‘Hey, you’re volleyball players. Go play volleyball.'”
IN FULL RECOVERY — After spending eight out of 10 days on the road, the Huskers spent the first part of the week in full recovery.
Cook said a lot of the players were dealing with sickness. Bekka Allick missed Saturday’s match with an illness, and Cook said with a slightly hoarse voice that he was also fighting a cold. After taking Sunday off, the Huskers also used Monday as a recovery day to get their bodies back to full strength.
Batenhorst said she went through red light therapy, muscle compression and cryotherapy on Monday.
“It’s been a lot,” Batenhorst said. “We’ve been working really hard on recovery, and (strength coach) Brian (Kmitta) has been doing a lot of extra in the morning. We’ll just start stretching out, rolling out, and doing all the extra stuff to make sure our bodies are in good shape.”
RODRIGUEZ HONORED – Lexi Rodriguez earned Nebraska’s first weekly Big Ten honors on Monday. The sophomore libero was named co-defensive player of the week after she averaged six digs per set in wins at Michigan State and Michigan.
Rodriguez notched 25 digs against the Wolverines on Saturday, a season-high and the third-best performance in her career. She also added three aces and three assists last week.