Breaking Down The Huskers By Position: Setters

By Lincoln Arneal

At long last, the 6-2 is gone. 

After relying on a two-setter offense, Nebraska is poised to return to having one setter play full time and guide the offense. 

That was the intent in 2022, but the Huskers’ were forced to switch up the offensive system through a combination of injuries, inconsistency and desire for defensive strength. While the Huskers had plenty of pin hitters to swing away and put up a big block, NU coach John Cook never hid his preference for a one-setter system. Afterall, no team has won the national championship with a 6-2 since USC in 2003. 

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. In February, Cook said he was ready to hand the keys to the offense to Kennedi Orr. However, the rising sophomore suffered a setback in her recovery from a knee injury during the beach season and underwent a minor operation. 

Four-year starter Nicklin Hames was slated to return for a fifth season and was ready to embrace a role as a defensive specialist. Orr started the first match and appeared to have the inside track for the starting position, with junior Anni Evans playing some matches as Orr built her strength back. 


That plan lasted two weeks.

After a lackluster offensive showing against Pepperdine, Hames and Evans split the setting duties against Loyola Marymount. The setters rotated in as Orr, Evans and Hames all split time as the two setters. NU hit .244 as a team, an improvement over 2021 but the third-lowest since 1983. 

All that appears in the past. With Orr returning, and touted freshman Bergen Reilly joining the mix, NU will return to one setter running the show. Which one, though, remains to be determined. 

Who is back: Kennedi Orr, 6-foot, junior.

Who is gone: Nicklin Hames, 5-10, exhausted eligibility; Anni Evans, 5-9, transferred to San Diego.

Who is new: Bergen Reilly, 6-1, No. 4 overall prospect according to PrepVolleyball.com

The central question entering the fall is if Orr can live up to the potential she flashed as a prep player. A knee injury interrupted her senior year when she was ranked as the top prospect in the nation. 

After she appeared in just two matches as a freshman, Orr took a step forward. Cook praised her skills and ability to make sets that no one else in the gym could do. However, she struggled at times. The low point came against Maryland last fall when she was called for seven ball-handling errors. 

However, Orr appears to be in a different place this spring. She bypassed the beach season to get extra training with Cook and assistant coach Kelly Hunter, a three-time All-American setter. 

Orr looked improved and more steady this spring against Wichita State. She started the Huskers’ lone spring exhibition and amassed 15 assists in the first set. 

Orr has big hands, which allow her to send the ball all over the court like few setters. If she can stay healthy and build strength and trust in her knee, her ceiling is high.

The Huskers’ other option is Reilly. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota, native comes in as the top setter nationally in her graduating class. 

While she played outside hitter for O’Gorman High School, winning state titles in 2020 and 2021, Reilly has excelled as a setter on the international scene. She helped the United States win the bronze medal at the U18 World Championships in 2021 and took Best Setter honors at the 2022 Pan American Cup, claiming the gold medal. 

Reilly also appeared for the U.S. Senior National Team at the Pan Am Final Six last fall. She started twice as the Americans took home the silver medal.

During the Huskers Brazil trip this summer, Reilly earned the start against the Brazilian U21 National Team and Brazil Military Selection team. Against the Military Selection team, Reilly set the whole match, recording 51 assists with six digs and five blocks.

The 6-foot-1 freshman is a smooth operator on the court and makes running an offense appear easy. She remains calm no matter the score and delivers hittable balls to teammates all over the court. Reilly has the poise and athletic ability to be an All-American in her career. 

Should Nebraska need an emergency setter, defensive specialist Maisie Boesiger played the position for Norris in high school. But at 5-6, she would be a defensive liability in the front row. 

Cook has refrained from naming any favorite heading into preseason camp. He said the two setters were “dead even” after the Brazil trip. Cook might not have an answer until the first match. Even then, he could choose to rotate them for early-season matches. If the Huskers find the correct answer, they will be among the elite teams this season. 

Next Week: Libero/Defensive Specialist

Rodriguez Named to Preseason All-Big Ten Team

By Lincoln Arneal

The season has yet to begin, but the honors are already rolling in for Nebraska’s Lexi Rodriguez. 

The junior libero was one of three unanimous selections in the Big Ten preseason all-conference team released on Friday. Rodriguez averaged 4.26 digs per set last year for NU as she earned All-American honors last year. She was a first-team All-American and the Big Ten defensive player of the year as a freshman. 

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08 Lexi Rodriguez

Rodriguez was the only Husker named to the list. 

The other unanimous selections were setter Mac Podraza of Penn State and sophomore outside hitter Eva Hudson from Purdue. 

Besides Podraza, a former Ohio State star, four others were named to the list after changing Big Ten teams during the offseason. Libero Kylie Murr will play for Minnesota this year after four seasons with the Buckeyes. Podraza, her former teammate, was recognized for Penn State. The Nittany Lions’ other honoree, outside hitter Jess Mruzik, transferred from Michigan. 

Two of Wisconsin’s league-high honorees came from Big Ten rivals. Graduate outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara transferred from Northwestern, while sophomore middle blocker Carter Booth played for Minnesota last year. 

Eight of the honorees will attend the Big Ten media days next week, including Rodriguez. 

For the team race, the Big Ten coaches expect a repeat of last season’s pecking order. 

The league released its preseason rankings for the 2023 season on Friday and they looked quite close to the final standings for last season. 

Wisconsin, which has won four-straight Big Ten titles, was picked to win the conference again. Nebraska was in second place followed by Minnesota, which hired Keegan Cook from Washington in the offseason. The Huskers were runners-up last year, a game ahead of the Gophers. 

Penn State, Purdue and Ohio State rounded out the top six. The only difference from the 2022 standings was OSU slid from a tie for third to sixth with the Nittany Lions and Boilermakers filling the void and projected to finish one spot higher. 

Illinois and Indiana were predicted to finish seventh and eighth again. Michigan and Maryland swapped spots as the Wolverines hired Erin Virtue earlier this year. Northwestern kept its place in a tie with 10th place with Michigan. 

Michigan State, Iowa and Rutgers were slated to maintain their spots as the bottom three teams in the league. 

2023 PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN TEAM

Raina Terry, Illinois, Sr., Outside Hitter

Camryn Haworth, Indiana, Jr., Setter

Taylor Landfair, Minnesota, Jr., Outside Hitter

Kylie Murr, Minnesota Sr., Libero

Melanie Schaffmaster, Minnesota, Sr., Setter

*Lexi Rodriguez, Nebraska, Jr., Libero

Emily Londot, Ohio State, Sr., Opposite

Rylee Rader, Ohio State, Sr., Middle Blocker

Jess Mruzik, Penn State, Sr., Outside Hitter

*Mac Podraza, Penn State, Gr., Setter

*Eva Hudson, Purdue, So.,, Outside Hitter

Carter Booth, Wisconsin, So., Middle Blocker

Sarah Franklin, Wisconsin, Jr., Outside Hitter

Devyn Robinson, Wisconsin, Sr., Opposite

Temi Thomas-Ailara, Wisconsin, Gr., Outside Hitter

2023 BIG TEN PRESEASON POLL

1. Wisconsin

2. Nebraska

3. Minnesota

4. Penn State

5. Purdue

6. Ohio State

7.  Illinois

8. Indiana

9. Maryland

T10. Michigan

T10. Northwestern

12. Michigan State

13. Iowa

14. Rutgers

Husker Freshmen Share Thoughts in Radio Interviews 

By Lincoln Arneal

Since enrolling in January, the five members of Nebraska’s 2023 top-ranked volleyball recruiting class have made an immediate impact without playing an official match. 

That’s according to Husker veterans who talked about how the newcomers have changed the tenor of the practice gym by raising the level of competition and inserted themselves into the competition for playing time. 

During the last few weeks, each freshman appeared on the Huskers Radio Network and was interviewed by Jessica Coody. Among specific questions to each, the interviews hit on recruiting stories, settling into Nebraska, the Brazil trip and playing volleyball in Memorial Stadium. 

Here are some takeaways from Coody’s interviews with the five newcomers. 

Award Season

After she was chosen as the Gatorade National Player of the Year, Harper Murray participated in the glitz and glamor of the ESPYs in mid-July. 

The 6-foot-2 outside hitter learned of the Gatorade honor in January, the day before she moved to Lincoln. Winning the award became a goal after fellow Michigan native Jess Mruzi –  who played with Murray’s older sister, Kendall, for the Wolverines – won it for the 2019-20 year.

“I was pretty close with her and I knew that was something that I wanted to do when I saw her win it,” Murray said. “So kudos to my coaches for helping me, and my mom for supporting me through all that.”

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

Murray said during her interview that she still had a couple outfits she was deciding between, but she ultimately went with a red dress, perhaps as a shout out to the Huskers. 

Action Jackson

Andi Jackson is a big hockey fan. 

She grew up in Alaska, but didn’t really get into the sport until she lived in Colorado and attended a few Avalanche games. However, once she was introduced to the Edmonton Oilers, she was hooked. She texted with her father during the Stanley Cup playoffs and enjoys watching Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian, among others. 

Hockey is Jackson’s second favorite sport – behind volleyball – and she enjoys the speed of the game. 

“It’s very fast and it’s a little bit aggressive, but I think I enjoy that part of it and obviously there can be fights,” she said. “But it never stops. It’s just go, go, go.”

Besides her sports watching, Jackson is also big into fishing, especially when she visits family in Alaska. She calls the landscape there “gorgeous” and that it “can’t be beat.” They like to hike, ride four-wheelers and fish. She also enjoys visiting attractions like the Salty Dawg Saloon in the Kachemak Bay town of Homer. 

“You just can’t get bored in Alaska,” Jackson said. 

Almost Longhorns

Both Jackson and Laney Choboy said they were close to playing for Texas. 

When Jackson made her first college list of 35 schools, Nebraska wasn’t on it. She said UT was her top choice, but a poor camp performance left her looking elsewhere. After a seed was planted by her club coach, former Husker Christina Houghtelling Hudson, Jackson opened up to Nebraska. She talked to NU coach John Cook on June 15 and committed a month later. 

“I felt bad because they had been looking at me and I was just kind of being a little bit standoffish because I was so dead set on Texas,” Jackson said. “After talking with Coach (Cook) I just knew that’s the program I wanted to play for. That’s a coach I want to be playing for and like who doesn’t want to play for Husker Nation, getting to play at ‘The Bob’ in front of 8,000 people? So I had definitely kept in touch with him after that. And on July 14, after a Dream Team Camp, I just committed.”

Choboy only looked at two schools – Texas and NU – after decommitting from Minnesota with the news of an impending coaching change there. The Gophers wouldn’t announce a new coach until December so in the final weeks before signing day, Choboy hit the road. She only took two visits upon opening up her recruitment again and eventually gave Nebraska her pledge. 

“It was pretty stressful. It was definitely not easy,” Choboy said. “With both of my parents being coaches, they were able to help me through that and they knew how to go about it. So I just kind of leaned on them and trusted that they knew what they were talking about. We got through it in a timely manner, but also very efficiently.”

Natural Fit

Meanwhile Caroline Jurevicius had Nebraska as her top school since her seventh-grade year before the recruiting rules changed and didn’t allow coaches to contact prospects until June after their sophomore year. 

She was close to committing as an eighth-grader, but her parents put the kibosh on that idea. They wanted her to explore her options and see what else was out there. She went to camps and learned about other schools, but in the end she still knew the place for her was Nebraska. 

“It was just a matter of how comfortable I was with the coaches,” Jurevicius said. “There were some coaches where I would be pacing around the house on the phone, completely anxious. Then my mom pointed out to me that I’d be on the phone with Coach Cook and I’d just be lying on my bed completely relaxed and I didn’t even realize but it was just a little subconscious response to how I love the coaching staff and how much I respond to them.”

Her body also gave her a big clue to where she belonged. Jurevicius said she broke out in hives while thinking through the options and possibilities. However, when she was at Nebraska for Dream Team Camp, the ailment went away. 

Jurevicious is in favor of the rules that delay recruiting conversations. Even though she ended up at her initial choice, the reasons for choosing a school evolve a lot in those few years, she said. She is also a proponent of sticking to a timeline and not letting schools dictate commitments or pressure prospects. 

“I think giving them time to develop into who they are and who they will be in college a little bit more is really, really important,” she said. 

Coach Larson

All of the freshmen expressed their excitement to have Jordan Larson join the NU coaching staff, but perhaps none more than Murray, who will be coached by Larson at outside hitter. 

Murray said she has looked up to the All-American and Olympic gold medalist since she was in middle school. While she didn’t plan to be coached by Larson, Murray said it will be a bonus and benefit her development.

“​​I got pretty emotional just because Jordan is another big reason why I came here,” Murray said. “Finding out that she was going to be a coach here for my time here is really special. I think me and a couple other players kind of got emotional because it was unexpected, but it’s gonna be really cool. I’ve talked to her a lot, and that’s kind of weird to say now, because before she didn’t really know who I was, and now she’s one of my coaches.”

Playing Up

Both Choboy and Bergen Reilly talked about how playing with older players impacted them. Choboy got her start playing with 13s when she was just 7. 

Reilly said she played on her club’s 18U team as a 13-year-old and doing so helped her learn how to stay calm and control her emotions on the court – one of her biggest strengths as a setter. 

“I knew that if I got in my head, if I got all frazzled that I was just not going to be able to perform,” she said. “I think it ultimately started with that and then once I kind of realized that that was my superpower, I really worked on it. I was very conscious of what I was doing. I knew that everyone was kind of looking to me to bring calmness to the team when we were in stressful situations or bring energy to the team when we were down. And so I think that it started from having to play with a bunch of older girls, but it also just kind of went from there and I had to work on it a lot.”

Family Affair

Many of the freshmen talked about the importance of siblings who helped them develop into elite talents. Murray cited her older sister, Kendall, who plays at Michigan. Reilly said her sister, Raegen, a setter at South Dakota State, was a big influence. 

For Jurevicious, she learned a lot from her NFL-playing father, Joe. While he wasn’t into the fine-tuned details of volleyball, he developed some unorthodox methods for training, including swinging a sock with another sock inside of it to develop arm strength. 

Jurevicius’ family will also be following her to Lincoln, but they are doing so for the benefit of Caroline’s younger sister, Ava. They weren’t happy with the club scene around Cleveland so they moved to Lincoln where Ava will play for Volleyball Club Nebraska and Lincoln Lutheran with 2025 NU commit Keri Leimbach. With her parents set to move to Colorado eventually, the move worked out well for everyone. 

“She ultimately took the initiative herself which was so mature for a 15-year-old girl to do at the time and said, ‘I want to give myself the best shot I can,’” Jurevicious said of her younger sister. “It’s cool that I have the option to go see (my parents) and Ava’s thriving. My family’s happy. (Nebraska) was the final destination for me if you could say that and a stepping stone for my parents to get out West and then a launching pad for Ava.”

Breaking Down The Huskers By Position: Middle Blocker

By Lincoln Arneal

One year ago, Nebraska looked poised to have one of the best middle blocker combinations in the nation in super seniors Kayla Caffey and Kaitlyn Hord. 

But just before fall camp, Caffey announced she was transferring to Texas. Hord led the nation with 1.61 blocks per set but never got on the same page with the setters. She averaged 1.4 kills per set on a .297 hitting percentage, both of which were the lowest of her career. 

With one starting spot open, Bekka Allick seized the opportunity early in the season and looked the part. She more than held her own and earned All-Big Ten second-team honors and was also on the all-league freshman team. 

Now the Huskers are in full youth mode. Allick returns as a sophomore, while the other two middle blockers on the roster are a freshman and a sophomore. 

Middle Blocker

Who is back: Bekka Allick, 6-foot-4, sophomore; Maggie Mendelson, 6-5, sophomore.

Who is gone: Kaitlyn Hord, 6-4, exhausted eligibility.

Who is new: Andi Jackson, 6-3, No. 6 overall prospect according to PrepVolleyball.com.

A year ago, Allick started the first match of the season and injected energy and power into the lineup. She has a big personality and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She’s likely a future captain and should be a four-year starter. She can do it all on the court, terminating with authority and putting up a big block. 

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05 Bekka Allick

It will be interesting to see if she elevates her game even more with the addition of her brother, Josiah, to Nebraska’s men’s basketball team. She has talked about how big of an influence her brother has been on her competitive spirit and how inspiring he can be. Having him around more could push her to a new level. 

Mendelson balanced a demanding workload in what should have been her high school senior year. She played with the Under 19 U.S. Volleyball Team last summer and also worked out with the Husker basketball team. After the volleyball season, she ​​averaged 2.0 points and 2.2 rebounds over 22 games. 

She started three matches a year ago and typically saw limited time playing right side filling in for Allick. Mendelson appeared more comfortable jumping off one foot to attack on the slide, which is quite similar to a basketball move. 

Jackson is the newcomer of the group and oozes potential. Her club coach was Christina Houghtelling Hudson, and the former NU All-American gave NU coach John Cook an early  heads up to get in early and land the Colorado native. She was a latecomer in the prospect rankings but finished No. 6 overall. She burst onto the scene and stood out for the U19 team at the Pan Am Games and the Under Armour All-America game. 

At 6-3, Jackson is the shortest of the trio, but she can jump out of the gym. Her leaping ability allows her to hit over blocks and create new angles. Even though she has to refine some skills, Jackson showed during the spring match it might be challenging to keep her off the court. She changes the game’s dynamic with her ability to cover ground and close down mistakes with her athleticism. 

The hope for the position is that better setting will give more termination chances. The two-setter system didn’t allow NU’s middle to get into much of a rhythm last season. Kennedi Orr or Bergen Reilly will have time to build rapport with the middle and unlock their attacking, benefiting all of the Huskers’ hitters. 

The other unknown is whether any of them will serve during the match. NU typically has the libero serve for one of the middle blockers, but the other served. Allick amassed a team-high 51 service errors last year, with just 10 aces. However, with the Huskers running a 5-1 offense, they should have more substitutions for serving specialists. 

Next week: Setters.

From Peaches to Jordy to … Somewhere there is a little girl who will be next in NU’s Papio pipeline

By Thad Livingston

Ten-year-old Harper Bails has a big goal in mind. 

Next year at this time, as an 11-year-old, she wants to be playing for the Nebraska Thunder softball organization. 

Don’t bet against her. There’s lineage here. 

On Friday morning, chaperoned by her grandfather, young Bails showed up to the Papillion Landing Sports Complex to meet one of her heroes – a player her mother played with in the late 1990s at Papillion High School. And while her mom, the former Ashley Killeen, went on to play catcher at Iowa State, she was here to see the pitcher on those great Papio teams, one Peaches James. 

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“I knew Peaches was going to be here and I wanted to get her autograph,” Bails said, flashing a picture – presumably a family treasure – of mom Ashley catching for the Cyclones while Peaches was at the plate for NU during their Big 12 playing days. Once a teammate. Then a rival. Now an inspiration. 

That was the theme of the morning when two of the best athletes to ever come out of Nebraska high schools were honored to help kick off USA Softball’s 17-team Class B 18-Under Northern National Tournament at the Papillion Landing Softball Complex. 

At some point, it seems, the next great softball player is destined to come out of Papillion. It started with James, now James-Keaton, who handed the torch to Jordy Bahl, suddenly a household name in Nebraska since turning in her Oklahoma uniform for Husker togs. It was the perfect time to recognize the two hometown softball hurlers, separated by 25 years but whose names will now intersect, literally, at the city’s glistening new softball complex which opened in 2021. 

During the event, the streets intersecting at the complex were renamed to Peaches James Way and Jordyn Bahl Boulevard. 

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About 150 folks showed up to watch, some who sauntered over from the playing fields to investigate the commotion out near the parking lots that held cars from as far away as Wisconsin, Wyoming and South Dakota. 

What they found was a mutual admiration society. 

Bahl, who became the face of NCAA softball and ESPN darling while pitching the dominant Sooners to their third straight title at the 2023 Women’s College World Series in early June, said James-Keaton was an inspiration while growing up and attending Papio High. “She gave girls like me something to strive for and she’s always been the name I hear about and have always wanted to be somewhat like,” she told the crowd. “Without her being that example, I don’t know what I would be striving for.” 

James-Keaton, now a specialist in office problem-solving methodology at WoodmenLife in Omaha, said Bahl forced her into rooting for Oklahoma the last two years.

“They were always a rival but these last two years, I can say I was an Oklahoma fan,” she said. “I would ask my family, ‘When’s Oklahoma playing? What time are they playing?’ I probably won’t be (an OU fan) anymore now that you are (back in Nebraska). So I’m done. “Everytime I watch you play and pitch makes me think I could still go out there …,” she said. “I miss it so much.” 

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Husker softball coach Rhonda Revelle coached James-Keaton as a Husker and now gets Bahl too. 

She is already realizing some similarities. One is pure athleticism. 

Bahl has been in the Husker weight room for only a few weeks and is already leading by example. 

“I’ve had some of our players come in and go, ‘Coach, I’ve got to up my game. Man, she’s so strong. She’s so athletic. I’ve got to try to stay up with Jordy.’ And I just smile.” It’s the same effect Revelle saw when James-Keaton was in that same weight room and recorded a vertical jump that, at the time, and maybe still, was higher than any other woman at Nebraska. A good vertical, she said, was always considered one of the greatest indicators of athleticism by Boyd Epley, NU’s famed strength and conditioning guru. 

“I was so glad she was 5-6 because I was afraid Coach Cook would have tried to recruit her (for volleyball) if she were any taller.” 

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Looking on through all the revelry, glowing words from dignitaries and the street sign unveiling were three girls from Norfolk dressed in Golden Girl softball uniforms. They had just beaten the Fremont Force in a first-round game and came over to the street intersection to see one of their heroes. 

Now 17, Tiana Price, Adyson Mlnarik and Tylar Humphrey have been watching Bahl since they were in eighth grade. Their coach at the time would encourage them to watch the Papio pitcher, then a high school sophomore, on clips floating around on social media. Use her as an example, the coach would tell them. 

And so they have. Now they were meeting her. 

“You get up there and don’t know what to say,” said Humphrey, after taking a quick pic with the surefire Husker star. “You are kind of in awe.”

Huskers Add North Carolina Star To 2025 Class

By Lincoln Arneal

Two weeks ago, Ryan Hunter received the full-court press while attending the Dream Team volleyball camp at Nebraska. 

She was the only uncommitted rising junior at the camp and received lots of one-on-one time with Husker pledges, coaches and current players. Hunter said she felt no pressure while at the camp despite all the attention. Instead, she felt comfortable and at home during her few days in Lincoln. 

Hunter enjoyed her experience at Nebraska, learning about how the coaches operate, getting to know current Huskers and why they enjoy playing for Nebraska. She was also impressed with how interactive NU coach John Cook was with all the players. 

On Thursday, Hunter made her commitment public, becoming the fourth member of the 2025 Huskers’ class. 

“The environment at Nebraska was very chill and homey,” she said. “They never really established pressure. They always made it known that I can take my time and that they are in no rush, and I’m in no rush. I didn’t feel pressured to play a certain way or anything like that. I just felt very chilled because of the environment that they set.”

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John Cook, Head Coach, Ryan Hunter

Hunter, a 6-foot-2 left-handed opposite, is the No. 11 prospect according to PrepVolleyball.com and ranked No. 35 by PrepDig. She joins outside hitter Teraya Sigler, setter Campbell Flynn and libero/defensive Keri Leimbach in NU’s class. 

As a sophomore, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native averaged 3.9 kills per set with a .236 hitting percentage at Mallard Creek High School. She also recorded 72 aces and 163 digs.

Hunter has had a busy recruiting period since it opened on June 15. She wanted to take the process at a deliberate pace but was overwhelmed by calls – upwards of seven a day recently. 

She narrowed her list to eight schools – Nebraska, Florida, Penn State, Wisconsin LSU, Louisville, USC and UCLA. This summer, she’s camped at Penn State, Pitt and Wisconsin. She earned all-tournament honors at junior nationals while helping her Triangle club team place fifth. On top of all that, she also worked out with the National Team Development Program in Florida. Hunter said she knows Flynn, Leimbach and 2024 commit Ayden Ames through the program, and NU assistant coach Jaylen Reyes also worked with her previously. 

After getting back from NTDP, Hunter finally had a few days at home where she could contemplate her college decision. While each school presented her with the possibilities of a good education and training, her thoughts kept returning to Nebraska. 

“It was definitely a difficult decision,” Hunter said. “Ultimately, it came down to the bonds that I made with the coaches, the players on the team and even the ’24 and ’25 commits. It came down to what school I felt would best help me achieve my goals, which are to win a national championship, to play on the national team and to play professionally. I felt like Nebraska had the environment and the resources to help me achieve those goals.”

Hunter’s older sister, Keimaya, played at North Carolina from 2014-17. Hunter said she learned a lot about the recruiting process and the game from her. Her older sister served as an unofficial coach growing up and helped as her first coach in middle school. Hunter said Keimaya and her parents were quite involved in her decision as well.

“It was very important for me that my family was included in this process,” she said. “Given that my sister went through this as well, that definitely helped. She walked me through a whole bunch of things and I’m so grateful that I had her during this process because it made it like 10 times easier.”

After all the travel the past month, Hunter is ready for a break. To celebrate her hard work and college decision, she is taking a family vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, before school starts. 

“I have not been home for basically the whole month of July, so I’m definitely going to take some rest,” she said. “I’m gonna be well rested for the high school season.”

NU Volleyball Receives Huge NIL Boost

By Lincoln Arneal

Nebraska volleyball has long been at the forefront of the volleyball world. From program success to selling out regular season matches and sending players to the Olympics, few colleges can match the Huskers’ success. 

On Thursday, Nebraska was part of a historic announcement in the world of name, image and likeness, or NIL. The 1890 Collective received a pledge of $5 million from Nebraska Crossing – an outdoor shopping mall – and JUSTDATA, both located near Gretna. 

The donation will be paid out across 10 years. The NIL arrangement is likely one of the largest specific to volleyball. 

“Thank you to the Nebraska Crossing team for this generous gift to 1890 in support of Husker Volleyball,” NU coach John Cook said in a press release. “Your vision for NIL is a game-changer for Husker Volleyball and will propel our program for years to come.”

According to a release by Rod Yates, the owner of Nebraska Crossing, each athlete will receive $2,000 FASTCASH annually to redeem at Nebraska Crossing stores. 

JUSTDATA, a stock market data provider which has a location at Nebraska Crossing, also recently announced a partnership with Drew Brees as a strategic investor. Purdue, from which Brees graduated, is also working with JUSTDATA. 

Breaking Down The Huskers By Position: Opposite

By Lincoln Arneal

The opposite is tasked with a lot of responsibilities. In addition to being an offensive powerhouse, she must be a proficient blocker and slow down an opponent’s best attacker. 

The Huskers employed two opposites in 2022 – Whitney Lauenstein and Lindsay Krause – as part of a 6-2 system. Both helped NU field the best defense in the country and were often among the best attackers on the court. 

However, with Krause returning to her more natural position on the left side, and Lauenstein departing the program, the Huskers are starting over at the position. In the second part of our positional previews, we break down NU’s attackers on the right pin. 

Opposite 

Who is back: No one.

Who is gone: Whitney Lauenstein, 6-foot-2, left program.

Who is new: Merritt Beason, 6-4 junior, transfer from Florida; Caroline Jurevicius, freshman, 6-2, No. 17 overall prospect.

Lauenstein was a revelation last year at opposite and led the Huskers with 383.5 points, including a 25-kill performance with a .385 hitting percentage against Creighton. However, the Waverly graduate announced she was leaving the team during the offseason. 

The Huskers moved quickly to fill the void, nabbing Beason from the transfer portal even before Lauenstein made her decision public. Beason was one of the biggest gets out of the portal and brings an impressive resume, making the 2022 All-SEC Team and the 2021 SEC All-Freshman Team. She was also a member of the U21 U.S. team that won the 2022 Pan American Cup while playing alongside her new NU teammates Bekka Allick and Lexi Rodriguez. 

Beason averaged 3.35 kills per set with a .261 hitting percentage last season at Florida. She also was a defensive force with 200 digs and 98 blocks in 104 sets. She will likely play all six rotations, opening up more options for NU’s defense. 

On top of her impressive play, Beason was named a Gator captain last season as a sophomore. Her personality and leadership style allowed her to quickly connect with her new Husker teammates, and she was named an NU captain for the upcoming season. She’s impressive, humble and is used to dealing with the media. Coach John Cook has talked about her career path to become an elementary school teacher and how her “helper” attitude carries over to volleyball. 

Jurivicious has also shown positive glimpses in her first few months with the Huskers. She’s a powerful attacker and blocker who plays with an edge. She held her own in the spring match and should provide a good attack option. The No. 17 prospect likely would be an instant starter at most programs, but Jurivicious will likely provide depth for the Huskers, at least early on.

Sophomore Maggie Mendelson made a few appearances at opposite last season, but she will focus more on middle blocker this year. 

While Jurivicious could play early, Beason should slot into the starting spot and keep a high production level at the right pin for the Huskers. 

Next week: Middle blockers.

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 PrepVolleyball.com. 

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

Prep Volleyball Talent Floods Lincoln For Husker Camp

By Lincoln Arneal

The future is never too far away for Nebraska volleyball. 

Each summer the Huskers welcome dozens of top prospects from across the country to Lincoln for a “dream team” camp. The most recent iteration ended on Sunday after a weekend of drills and work under the guidance of Nebraska coaches and players. The campers wrapped things up with a scrimmage that enabled them to showcase their skills. 

On the center court in the Devaney Center, some of the best young talent squared off under the eyes of NU coach John Cook and assistants Jaylen Reyes and Kelly Hunter. Those 17 players represent many of the top targets for the Huskers’ current and future recruiting efforts. 

Five of Nebraska’s six current commits attended the camp. All three 2024 Husker recruits were in Deveney, led by outside hitter Skyler Pierce and Olivia Mauch from Bennington. On Sunday, Ayden Ames of Prosper (Texas) High School attended but did not participate in the camp-ending scrimmage. 

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John Cook, Head Coach, Audrey Flanagan, Henley Anderson, Halle Thompson, Ryan Hunter, Keri Leimbach

They were joined by two 2025 commits: setter Campbell Flynn of Rochester Hills, Michigan, and Lincoln Lutheran libero Keri Leimbach. Flynn was one of the most impressive players on the court as she distributed the ball effectively. The lefty also mixed in setter attacks to catch the defense off guard. Mauch and Leimbach had a digging showdown as each kept rallies going. 

The only commit not on hand was 2025 outside hitter Teraya Sigler, who was named the MVP of the 16 Open division at the USA Volleyball Girls Junior Nationals while leading her club Arizona Storm to the top prize. 

The only uncommitted 2025 prospect in attendance was outside hitter Ryan Hunter, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter from Cary, North Carolina. The left-handed attacker played both pins and got lots of attention from the coaches and current Huskers helping at the camp. Hunter is one of NU’s last targets for the ’25 class, along with No. 1-ranked Abigail Mullen from Kansas City, Missouri.

With 2025 recruiting winding down, NU is already busy evaluating outside hitters and middle blockers for the 2026 class. 

Among the 2026 outside hitters, Halle Thompson from Spring, Texas, stood out for her leaping ability and whip-fast arm. She’s rated as the No. 2 recruit in Texas behind Henley Anderson, a 6-2 rising sophomore from Dripping Springs near Austin, who was also at the camp. 

Also taking swings on the outside were Gabriella Divita from White Lake, Michigan; Audrey Flanagan from Hermosa Beach, California; Alexis Anderson from Kilgore, Texas; and Tessa Larkin from Phoenix, a 2027 prospect. 

At middle blocker, four prospects played on the center stage. The most physically imposing was 6-4 Lynney Tarnow from Chicago. She was joined at the net by 6-4 Lacy Tinnel from The Woodlands, Texas, who plays with the Houston Skyline club team with Thompson. Keoni Williams, from Fort Worth, Texas, showed good quickness and strength. Ella Andrews, who plays for Legacy in Michigan – the same club as NU freshman Harper Murray, Flynn and Divita – looked good recording several blocks. 

With Flynn already committed to the Huskers, Nebraska will likely not take a setter in the 2026 class. Several 2027 prospects ran the show (except when Kelly Hunter made a brief appearance). Brynn Stephens from Frisco, Texas, was smooth running the offense, took a few swings as an attacker and looked solid. Malorie Boesiger, the younger sister of NU sophomore Maisie, also ran the show. She is on the same club team as Leimbach – Nebraska ONE – which tied for third place at junior nationals. 

In addition to the center court, several other scrimmages were played in Devaney and elsewhere in the complex, all featuring highly recruited players. After the scrimmages, the campers took pictures with each other and got autographs from current Huskers, with some hoping to sit on the other side of the table in a few years.