Breaking Down The Huskers By Position: Outside Hitters

By Lincoln Arneal

When the Husker volleyball team returned from Brazil in June, the players were able to take a break before fall camp started in early August. It would be their first extended break since a month off in January. 

Since that downtime to start the year, the Huskers completed their most successful beach season, transitioned to indoor to play a scrimmage vs. Wichita State in front of a sell-out crowd in Central City and took a week off before ramping up for the international trip. 

But in reality, there are no breaks for the Huskers. They are less than a month away from the start of practices for the 2023 season. One of the benefits of the spring is NU has had its entire roster together since the semester started. 

With six players gone from last year’s team and six newcomers, it’s a good time for a refresh before the Red-White scrimmage. We will take a weekly look at positions for the Huskers as they prepare for the fall season. Today, we start with outside hitters. 

Outside hitter

Who is back: Lindsay Krause, 6-foot-4, junior; Ally Batenhorst, 6-5, junior; Hayden Kubik, 6-2, sophomore.

Who is gone: Madi Kubik, 6-3, graduated.

Who is new: Harper Murray, 6-2, freshman, No. 1 overall prospect according to 

Nebraska will need to replace Madi Kubik, a four-year starter who finished with 1,264 career kills, the 13th most in program history. Not only was she a solid attacker, but she was a team captain last year and one of Nebraska’s best passers as she fell 17 digs shy of becoming the fourth 1,000-1,000 player ever for the Huskers.

Batenhorst and Krause have been key players in their first two years in the program, and now they are the elders expected to step up to carry the load on offense. While they were regular contributors in 2022, inconsistency plagued them at times and NU coach John Cook moved them around and took them out of the starting lineup. 

Batenhorst started 14 matches and finished third on the team with 2.33 kills per set. However, the Houston native only hit .190 last season. When she’s on, Batenhorst can terminate with ease, but trouble building a connection with setters limited her effectiveness. She appeared to play better this spring and on the Brazil trip with some tweaks to her swing and recorded five kills in her one set against Wichita State. Also, when the Huskers had to reconfigure their lineup after losing defensive specialist Kenzie Knuckles, Batenhorst played all six rotations. 

Krause played most of last season on the right side in the Huskers’ 6-2 offense. However, after two years of bouncing back and forth, Cook promised to play her on the left pin this season, which the team-first Krause will relish. It’s the best long-term move for her. Krause got hot and piled up kills and hit .269 last season, but then she also can fall into a rut and make a cluster of errors. She is a leader by example, possesses determination like few others and can play with a mean streak, hitting the ball with power and aggression. 

Hayden Kubik started 2022 strong, earning match point in the season’s first match. Her most extensive playing time of the year came against Creighton. She came on in the third set in place of Batenhorst and put up six kills to help the Huskers earn a five-set victory. However, she didn’t appear in another match until the NCAA tournament’s first-round against Delaware State on Dec. 1. Kubik only appeared in eight sets in four matches during the season. She hits a heavy ball and showed some promise in limited action. 

The competition for playing time in 2023 gets tougher with the addition of Murray, who entered the program with a sizable amount of hype. It is warranted based on beach volleyball, the spring match and the Brazil trip. The Ann Arbor, Michigan, product can jump out of the gym with a whip-fast arm. Cook said she rated as one of the best passers during spring practice, which earned her the start against Wichita State. She is also a dangerous weapon out of the back row with her athleticism. She could be a difference-maker in NU’s attack and will likely contribute meaningfully. 

With Cook determined to run a 5-1 system, those four players will compete for two starting spots. The hope is they will push each other to a higher level, and Cook can ride the hot hands to lead the offense. Much will be figured out during fall camp, but the answers might not come on the left pin for a while. Not only will NU have to figure out the attacking possibilities, but it will also need at least one of the outsides to play all the way around to provide stability on defense. 

Up next week: Opposites

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