Bonding In Brazil

By Lincoln Arneal

Last Tuesday, the Nebraska volleyball team boarded its flight from Rio de Janeiro to wrap up its 17-day trip to Brazil. It was a whirlwind of volleyball, tourist outings, plus lots of Brazilian food, culture and beaches. 

The trip was a success on the court as the Huskers went 5-0 against various club junior teams and several iterations of the Brazilian national team. 

The first three matches in Belo Horizonte provided little challenge for NU as it swept Minas Tênis Clube 25-8, 25-12, 25-13; Mackenzie U19 25-15, 25-14, 25-17; and Dentil Praia Clube U19 25-9, 25-7, 25-7. The Huskers used several different lineups and everyone got on the court. 

When the action shifted to Rio, the competition took a step up. The Huskers won the first four sets against the U21 Brazil National team (25-21, 25-18, 25-20, 27-25) before dropping the fifth, 16-14. NU wrapped up the competition with a 3-2 win (25-23, 25-27, 16-25, 25-19, 15-10) over the Brazil Military Selection Team, which featured some Brazilian National Team players.


NU coach John Cook said the timing of the international trip was impeccable as the Huskers could take their entire squad and had enough players to allow everyone. 

“The great thing was we can play two teams because we took 14 players – sometimes you don’t get to take everybody,” he said. “We had one team one night, then we switched setters and another team played. We mixed them up and so it was very productive.”

NU also made strides off the court as they spent a lot of time together developing bonds and participating in several community events providing young Brazilians with free Adidas gear and volleyball lessons. 

Here are five takeaways from the trip based on conversations with Cook and the captains – Lexi Rodriguez and Merritt Beason –  the YouTube streams from the matches and social media posts. 

  1. The outside hitter race is wide open – The Huskers utilized all four outside hitters while on the trip. Three leaders emerged as freshman Harper Murray and juniors Lindsay Krause and Ally Batenhorst earned most of the playing time in the final two matches. Batenhorst came on for Krause against the U21 team and played well. She connected with her setters and appeared to change her arm swing, making contact with the ball at a higher point. She finished with eight kills and a pair of aces and earned the start for the next match. While Batnehorst played the first two sets, Krause replaced her for the final three sets and played well, delivering several big kills and an ace. Harper Murray flashed the most potential out of the group, unleashing an array of powerful swings. She’s a lethal attacker from the back row and can jump out of the gym. NU coach John Cook trusted all three to play all six rotations. This battle might not be decided until the first match, and Cook could still rotate them depending on who has the hot hand. 
  1. Team chemistry is strong – Even though almost half the team is new, the Huskers have developed strong bonds after more than two weeks together in Brazil. They’ve also had a week traveling together to Hawaii during the beach season. Yes, all teams spend a lot of time together, but doing so while traveling adds another level of camaraderie, especially in a country where you don’t speak the native language. The team did the usual tourist activities and went to meals in small groups with the coaches and staff. They’ve had a lot of opportunities to get out of their comfort zone with each other and make connections. With the entire team present for the start of the spring semester, this group will have spent more than seven full months together by the time fall camp begins. With no seniors (or fifth-year players), Nebraska must rely on chemistry to help it overcome more experienced opponents.

“Being together for that long in a different country where things aren’t what we’re used to, it’s bound to bring us closer together on and off the court,” Rodriguez said. “Off the court, we all got a lot closer. We were sleeping together, eating three meals a day together, traveling together… I think just that we all figured out that no matter who’s on the court, we have a very high-level volleyball team and that no matter what six get chosen to play, it’s going to be a really good season.

  1. Bekka Allick is poised for a big year – The sophomore middle blocker shows no signs of slowing down after a solid debut campaign. Her volleyball IQ has improved as she shows better anticipation at the net and smothers attacks. She’s more aggressive and can be a more consistent threat on offense. Allick has a big personality, has no shyness in expressing herself, and looks to emerge as a team leader, even if she isn’t an official captain. Beason said one of the most memorable parts of the trip was when Allick tried some cow tongue at a meal. 

“I wimped out. I couldn’t try it,” she said. “We didn’t tell her what it was after she ate it.”

  1. The freshmen will play a significant role this season – We’ve covered Murray, who looks like a special player, but she won’t be the only member of the 2023 recruiting class – the top-rated class by – to factor into the success of the Huskers. While they showed out well during the beach season and in the spring match, Rodriguez said the trip helped them take another step. 

“I think giving them kind of a little jumpstart to what this season is going to be like,” she said. “It was very important just for them to shake out some nerves and get used to playing at this high level.”

Andi Jackson has displayed impressive athleticism and has quickly mastered the slide attack. She will challenge for playing time with sophomore Maggie Mendelson, but keeping Jackson’s potential off the court will be hard. Laney Choboy would start at libero on almost every team that doesn’t have Rodriguez. She’s a sparkplug in the back row, bringing confidence beyond her years with her natural floor instincts. Caroline Jurevicius might have the most challenging path to playing time behind Beason, but she’s no slouch, as she has power at the right pin and is a strong competitor. As for the last member of the class … 

  1. Bergen Reilly might have an inside track at setter – This is another position battle that won’t be settled for a long time, at least not publicly. In the post-trip press conference, Cook said that Reilly and junior Kennedi Orr graded out “dead even,” and he has not decided who the starter will be. The duo rotated the first three matches in Brazil, but Reilly got the nod to start against the two toughest opponents to close the trip. While these are just exhibitions and all lineup choices should be viewed as a chance to mix and match players, Reilly showed more effectiveness and potential running the offense. Orr was also solid in her turn at setter, and she has shown progress from some of the inconsistencies that plagued her at times last season. No matter who starts at setter, the NU offense should be in a better place than a year ago. The one sure thing is the Huskers will be running a 5-1 system. 

“They practice together all the time. They’re always in meetings together,” Rodriguez said. “(Orr has) done a great job of just welcoming Bergen, and it’s really good to see that no matter if she’s the one playing or not, she’s always going to be the loudest cheer and the one who’s encouraging everyone.”

With the spring and summer competitions finished, Nebraska quickly changed its focus to the future, as the recruiting contact period for 2025 prospects opened on June 15 and summer camps start in early July. For the current Huskers, open gyms will happen, with the players taking control of the workouts. (Mendelson will get some basketball workouts in as well.)

Rodriguez said she would definitely take a trip back to Brazil. She said she was impressed by the joy of sports they have they are how they play from sunrise to sunset. Beason said they used their time together even when they weren’t playing. 

“We didn’t necessarily have volleyball those last couple of days, so we were able to relax, grow as a team, just have a lot of those conversations,” she said. “It was two weeks on the road, so we’re definitely a little bit tired, but we lifted this morning so we’re ready to go.”

The next time we will hear from the players will be Aug. 1-2 in Chicago, where they will be part of the second annual Big Ten Media Days.

Cook, who wore a Brazillian volleyball jersey to a press conference last week, said it was a great trip because they got an extra month of training, they know their captains now and took a step forward on the court. 

“I just think our level of confidence is higher because we played more,” he said. “This is a very young group. So just having that game experience will (help.) We’ve gone on a couple of international trips, and we won national championships after those trips, so these trips are definitely worth it.”

Jordy Bahl Said Her Heart Was Always At Home

By Steve Beideck

Less than two weeks after leading Oklahoma to its latest Women’s College World Series title, Jordyn Bahl was at the Memorial Stadium in her home state explaining to a group of reporters why it was so good to be back in Nebraska.

Bahl had spent most of the past two years 455 miles from Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium, in the shadows of OU’s Memorial Stadium, helping lead the Sooners to their sixth and seventh WCWS titles.

The Papillion-La Vista graduate was the ace of the OU pitching staff both seasons. She posted identical 22-1 win-loss records with 397 strikeouts in 288.2 innings pitched the last two seasons.

Bahl was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2023 WCWS on the strength of the wins and saves earned in the 2-0 championship series sweep of Florida. Bahl was injury-free in 2023, unlike when she had to miss time in the postseason before with a stress fracture in her right arm.

Bahl got the final nine outs of the championship-clinching victory June 8 over the Gators and finished the season with a 0.90 ERA. Recalculate that number from March 1 after OU shook off some early season learning moments and Bahl’s ERA dropped to 0.47.

Her career ERA at Oklahoma was precisely 1.00, the second-best in Oklahoma history and the lowest mark since the pitching distance was increased from 40 to 43 feet in 1988. Bahl also left Norman with the second-best winning percentage (.957) and opponent batting average (.153) in OU history while ranking third in strikeouts per seven innings (9.62) and seventh in saves (5).

Through all of that, even those final games when the Sooners were chasing and eventually making history with their final record of 61-1, Bahl said Tuesday she couldn’t shake the bout of homesickness that stayed with her throughout her time in Norman.

“I’ve always been a big homebody,” Bahl said. “Even in my freshman year I had pretty strong feelings of homesickness. But every freshman does. Then my second year, instead of those feelings going away, they continued to worsen.

“That’s when I started just knowing my heart was always at home.”

Both Bahl and Nebraska coach Rhonda Revelle said the past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind as Bahl decided to return to Nebraska and play her final two seasons of softball for the Huskers.

“It was a week of a lot of highs and then also some low feelings,” Bahl said. “Just because it was hard to leave what has been so great the last two years as far as just the people and everything. But then you have to break it to your teammates and your coaches that you’ve decided to make the decision to come home.

“That was kind of sad. But once I got home and just started to settle in and unpack and everything, finally it started to sink in that this is real and I’m not going to have to leave home again. That’s just been a feeling of just happiness, relief, joy. A long week, but a good week.”

Revelle said she was returning from attending a funeral in Iowa when an incoming call from Bahl popped onto the display screen in her car. Wasting no time to answer the call, Revelle admitted she was surprised, but not because the 15 minutes they talked there was zero discussion about softball.

“I’m like, ‘Well, you better answer it,’” Revelle said. “It was really just a moment to reconnect and I got to tell her that when she moved in a different direction, there were never any hard feelings from any of our staff. We have always been Jordy Bahl fans, as a person first and athlete second. That never wavered.

“If she was calling me I was hoping that it wasn’t to tell me she was going to Creighton or Omaha, but that she had an interest in Nebraska. That certainly was what she was calling about. She needed to know that she would be returning to a place that is welcoming her with open arms.”

The talk took Revelle back to the times she had talked to Bahl about camps and other topics even before she got to high school. Even when she was 12 and 13, Revelle could sense there was something special about Bahl, and not just on the field.

“She’s matured as a young woman, but she was that person then,” Revelle said. “I was so blessed to have that time with Jordy before she decided to move in a different direction, and I’m really looking forward to being able to pick up where we left off.”

The open arms welcome scenario played itself out when Bahl was in Lincoln June 14 for her campus visit. During a stop at the training table for lunch, Gretna sisters Billie and Brooke Andrews came over and shared hugs and laughs with Bahl and the coaches. Those three had all played club softball together.

“They were some of the first people to call me when it came out what was happening,” Bahl said. “This team has a lot of strengths,” Bahl said. “I don’t want to walk in in any way feeling like I’m overstepping anything. That’s not what I want to do.

“I want to come into this program and help it whatever way I can. I just think our team is going to work hard all season to just leave it all out there, it’s in the Lord’s hands. Whatever happens, happens. You’re giving everything you can, that’s all you can ask for. It’s going to be fun to see what happens.”

Bahl had originally committed to Nebraska in eighth grade but reopened her commitment at the start of her junior year and eventually signed with Oklahoma. At that point in her life, Bahl said she didn’t yet understand what she needed outside of softball.

“At that point in my life, I wasn’t aware of how much I needed balance until you leave home and you’re seven hours away from everything that means so much more to you than the game itself,” Bahl said. “Then I realized I can’t love the game itself if I don’t have these other things in my life that I love so much.

“Everything gets out of whack. I think a lot of maturity, a lot of growing up. I’m thankful that I went down to Oklahoma. I learned a lot. I wouldn’t change anything; I believe it all happens for a reason. I had amazing opportunities down there. In those two years that I was down there my perspective on a lot of things changed.”

Revelle said she’s looking forward to learning more about the things Bahl learned from her time in Norman.

“If you understand her work ethic, you know why she’s continued to develop,” Revelle said. “Her work ethic has not only been in her physical game, (but) in her mental and emotional game. She was in a great environment in Oklahoma. The championship mindset is real.

“I look forward to leaning in and learning from her what she learned down there. We’re constant learners. I’m going to try to figure out some of those things that have helped her along the way.”

Outside Hitter Joins NU’s 2025 Class

By Lincoln Arneal

Teraya Sigler has had a few fangirl moments during the last few months. 

Her first moment was when Lauren Stivrins walked into her physical therapy center last December. Sigler said Stivrins is a big name in the volleyball world, but she tried to play it cool as they had a few personal conversations and worked out together over the next few weeks. 

The next came last week when she hopped on a Zoom call with the Nebraska coaches and was chatting with Jordan Larson. She didn’t know that the Olympic gold medalist was recently named an assistant coach at NU. 

“The best player in the world was sitting right here like on a computer talking to me,” Sigler said. “It says a lot about a program, when a lot come back and want to coach, especially under John (Cook), that just speaks volumes of the program and the community. That, for me, was such a green flag, obviously. I was just ecstatic and fangirling, not wanting to make myself sound stupid.”

If everything goes according to plan, Sigler might be the one that people fangirl over in a few years. On Monday, she announced her commitment to play volleyball for the Huskers. She is the third member of the 2025 class, joining setter Campbell Flynn and Keri Leimbach, a libero from Lincoln Lutheran.

Growing up in Scottsdale, Ariz., Sigler played all the sports – swimming, basketball, gymnastics, softball, baseball and football. She shied away from playing volleyball – that was her mother’s sport. But when she was 10, she looked up college volleyball videos on YouTube. The first one she came across showed the Huskers playing in front of a sold-out crowd in the Devaney Center. She felt connected even though she was across the country and knew nothing about Nebraska. 

“I was so intrigued,” These players were volleyball junkies and just wanted to play volleyball and everyone celebrated. It made me so happy to watch through a screen. We’re so far away. I’m in Phoenix and they were in Nebraska, but I could feel it through TV. So I just knew when they reached out, I was beyond excited.”


Sigler dove into the volleyball world and developed into one of the best prospects in the nation. As a 6-foot-2 outside hitter, Prep Dig ranks her as the No. 6 overall prospect in the 2025 class and the fourth outside hitter. has her at No. 20 overall and the sixth outside hitter. 

Sigler burst onto the prep scene as a freshman at Phoenix Country Day, where she hit .542 with 5.6 kills per set. She helped lead the school to the 2A state championship and a 29-2 record. 

She transferred to Horizon High School this past year, even though her stats took a slight dip to  4.5 kills and 3.5 digs per set on a .370 hitting percentage, the result was the same. Another state title, this one coming in Class 5A. She said she learned a lot from the higher caliber of volleyball and playing alongside Baylor commit Kendall Murphy. 

“For me, it didn’t really matter about stats, and honestly, I didn’t have as many kills as I did my first year,” she said. “I’m thankful that transition was actually fairly easy because I was able to use my teammates and create some really good bonds. I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by great people who helped me grow and thrive.

Sigler got her first taste of international volleyball in May as she was part of the gold-winning team at the U19 PanAm Cup. She played next to Flynn and 2024 commits Skyler Pierce, Ayden Ames and Olivia Mauch. 

She will be a key addition as the Huskers will lose outside hitters Ally Batenhorst, Lindsay Krause and Merritt Beason the season before Signer and her 2025 classmates enroll. 

While she had a few other conversations with other schools, Sigler has had Nebraska at the top of her list.

She first got to check out Nebraska last summer when her club, Arizona Storm, made the trip up for a summer camp. (Stivirns also played for Arizona Storm and Terri Spann coached them both.) On that trip, she envisioned herself playing in front of a packed house at Devaney and got goosebumps. 

“I want to go here. I want to play for John. I want to play for the red and white,” she said. “It’s just been a dream school for a while.”

NU Volleyball Gains Lincoln Lutheran Commit

By Lincoln Arneal

Keri Leimbach’s phone buzzed two minutes after midnight June 15. 

“Hey Keri, are you up?”

On the other end was Nebraska assistant coach Jaylen Reyes reaching out moments after communication was permissible to 2025 prospects. 

Of course, she was up. She was too excited to sleep. So she jumped on a Zoom call with Reyes, coach John Cook and assistants Kelly Hunter and Jordan Larson. They offered her a scholarship to join the Husker volleyball program. 

Leimbach, a 5-foot-4 libero who will be a junior this year at Lincoln Lutheran, said she went into the contact period with an open mind and wanted to take time with the process, but when her top choice offered, it simplified everything. 

“It’s always been a dream of mine to represent my hometown, especially because I’m from Lincoln,” Leimbach said. “It hasn’t set in yet that I’m going to play volleyball at Nebraska. I’m just so excited, and I’m very blessed.”

Leimbach said it was difficult to tell other schools no after building connections with them over the years, but that task was made easier by knowing she was going to her dream school. Leimbach had planned to go to several camps later this summer to check out other schools, but with her commitment, she has already canceled those trips. 

She is the second member of the 2025 class after setter Campbell Flynn gave her pledge to the Huskers on Friday. 

Leimbach has been a lifelong Husker fan and comes from a volleyball family. Her mother, Stacy, won a title at Lincoln Northeast in 1991 as an all-state setter and coached at North Star and Lincoln Lutheran. Her older sister, Hope, wrapped up her career at Midland and was named the NAIA National Setter of the Year and was a two-time All-American.

Keri began playing volleyball when she was in kindergarten. While she initially followed the path of her mother and sister as a setter, she started to focus on defense on the advice of her coach Christina Boesiger, the Norris coach and mother of current Husker sophomore Maisie.

“She switched me to libero, and that was probably the best decision that has ever happened,” Leimbach said. 

Now, Leimbach is the No 36 overall recruit, according to and the sixth-rated libero. PrepDig has her as the top prospect in Nebraska, No. 39 overall and the fifth-best libero. 

She has won two state titles at Lincoln Lutheran and helped the Warriors go 40-0 last fall. Leimbach averaged 4.9 digs per set, recorded 68 aces and was a team captain as a sophomore.

She was shocked to be named captain but honored to receive the recognition of her leadership. After the team lost seven seniors from her freshman year, Leimbach knew she would have to step up. 

“I knew that it’s not just given, I have to earn it,” she said. “I have to always be a constant voice. I have to support the girls. I have to hold them accountable and I just have to be that leader that the coaches want me to be.”

Leimbach said the Nebraska coaches like her team-centric approach, how other players enjoy being on the court with her, and her defensive skills. She tries to build confidence in teammates by talking to them on the court and having their back no matter what. 

She will join a Husker program that has produced some stellar liberos the past decade. Justine Wong-Orantes and Kayla Banwarth each won Olympic medals for the United States, and junior Lexi Rodriguez has earned All-American honors her first two campaigns. While Rodriguez will be gone by the time she gets to NU, Leimbach said she’s excited to play with freshman Laney Choboy and 2024 commit Olivia Mauch. 

“I feel like Nebraska has one of the best legacies with the liberos,” she said. “Nebraska is so set and focused on serve and pass and how it’s the most important part of the game. I’m just really excited to learn from them and just grow my game even more when I get to college.”

Leimbach has attended the Nebraska camp for the past two years and was at the Creighton camp earlier this week. She plans to attend the Husker Dream Team camp next month and the National Team Development Program in Florida before attending camps with her Lincoln Lutheran teammates. 

Now that she’s made her college decision, she will work with Flynn to add a few more future Huskers. 

“Me and Campbell are gonna try and get some people,” she said.

NU Volleyball Lands First Commit of 2025 Class

By Lincoln Arneal

On Thursday, Campbell Flynn’s phone was blowing up with college coaches trying to reach her on the first day they could have recruiting conversations with her. 

On Friday, her phone was buzzing for a different reason. Flynn, a 6-foot-2 setter, posted on social media that she was committing to Nebraska. Only a junior, she is the first commit in the 2025 class. 

“Yesterday I was feeling a lot of stress,” Flynn said shortly after posting her announcement on Instagram. “But today, I’m feeling less stress and just really excited to be a part of the Husker family.”

Flynn, from Rochester Hills, Michigan, a suburb on the north side of Detroit, is the No. 5 overall prospect according to PrepDig and the top-ranked setter. lists her as No. 13 overall and the third-best setter. 

Even before coaches could communicate with her starting June 15, Flynn said she narrowed her list of schools down to two – Nebraska and Texas. She spent most of her time letting other schools down and telling them she was looking elsewhere. 

Flynn said she wasn’t planning to commit so early in the process but was feeling pressure from one of the schools she was talking with. So she spent the day focusing on herself and listening to her instincts. She used the alone time in her car driving to and from practice to imagine herself at both schools and where she might have more fun as a player. 

Campbell Flynn.

“I wanted to trust my gut, and my gut told me Nebraska,” she said. “I love Texas so much, but ever since I was a little kid watching volleyball, I’ve always wanted to go to Nebraska. They have such a big volleyball atmosphere that I want to be a part of. It’s hard to say no to Nebraska.”

Flynn also talked on Thursday to Harper Murray, the No. 1 2023 prospect. The two played for the same Michigan club team, Legacy. She said Murray was a helpful sounding board and gave her unbiased advice. 

Nebraska assistant coach Jaylen Reyes was at Flynn’s practice on Thursday. Even though they couldn’t talk face-to-face, she appreciated the effort it took to fly to Michigan on such a busy day. 

Flynn told the coaches about her commitment Friday morning over Zoom. She said NU coach John Cook was nervous because she started the call by thanking them for everything they do. However, she quickly let them know she was giving them her verbal commitment. 

The Huskers often recruit setters every other year, and Flynn becomes the third straight top-ranked setter to join NU. She follows in the footsteps of junior Kennedi Orr and freshman Bergen Reilly. 

Even though she won’t join the program for a couple years, Flynn said she is excited to see all the big things happening at Nebraska, like playing a match in Memorial Stadium and hiring Jordan Larson as an assistant. 

“It’s definitely a program I really want to be a part of because they keep doing the next big thing and making it exciting to watch volleyball,” she said.

Flynn both sets and plays opposite hitter for Mercy High School, which went  31-11 and won a district title. She averaged 3.2 kills on a .348 hitting percentage and 6.2 assists per set as a sophomore while earning  Michigan Division 1 First Team honors. 

She said she is aggressive at the net as a left-hander and tries to keep the defense guessing. Flynn said she spent a lot of time watching Wisconsin’s Lauren Carlini and Illinois’ Jordyn Poulter and is excited to follow their path into the Big Ten. She’s also looking forward to working with NU assistant coach Kelly Hunter, another former All-American. 

“Being in the Big Ten was definitely a pro for Nebraska,” she said. “Especially because I live in Michigan, and my parents can see me a lot. I’ve always grown up watching the Big Ten, and that’s mostly where I would want it to go.”

Flynn attended Nebraska’s summer camps in each of the last two years but isn’t sure she will make it to Lincoln this year. She was one of 19 players selected for the U19 national team, which will train together at the end of July. Twelve players from that group will be chosen to compete in the World Championships in Hungary in August. In addition, she is traveling to Orlando for AAU junior nationals, which start later this month. 

She broke out a Nebraska shirt she purchased on her first camp trip for the photo shoot to make her announcement. 

“I have three or four shirts, and I was going through all of them and seeing which one to pick,” she said.

Larson Reveal Left Jaws on Floor

By Lincoln Arneal

Earlier this year, the Nebraska volleyball team walked into the gym and was greeted by Jordan Larson. 

What was this volleyball great doing in their gym? Meet your new assistant coach, NU head coach John Cook told them. 

The Huskers responded with excitement, some with disbelief, and others moved to tears at the thought of getting to work with the former Nebraska All-American, national champion and three-time Olympic medalist. 

Junior opposite Merritt Beason said she’s seen how much the setters have benefited from having All-American setter Kelly Hunter in the gym as an assistant coach, and having another former Husker will help them have someone they can relate to. 

“I think it was just very much like the reaction that you would expect – jaws on the floor, just so excited,” Beason said. “It’s a great opportunity to be coached by her, and it’s really special because she was in our shoes. I think it’s going to be really fun in the fall.”

Cook has talked to Larson about coaching at Nebraska for several years, but it wasn’t until the new NCAA rule to allow for a third coach and Larson’s career timing that made the move possible. Even though Larson will continue to play with the United States National Team this fall and hopes to participate in the Olympics next year, Cook was willing to be flexible to get her on the sidelines. 

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Larson will officially start full-time on Sept. 27, after the Olympic qualifying tournament ends. Her contract ends Dec. 31, 2023, but can be extended. She will receive a salary of $50,000. 

Even though her schedule is unpredictable for the next few months, Cook thinks Larson can still be a valuable asset. She can coach from a distance through VolleyMetrics, which allows her to share clips and break down film. 

Larson has already been utilized in recruiting by participating in several calls to prospects. Cook said they were stunned by talking to one of the greatest players in the world.  

While her play on the court is impressive, Cook said Larson could teach the Huskers about her mindset and how to approach the mental side of the game.

“It’d be like if a football team had Tom Brady out there or Michael Jordan is hanging out with our basketball team and helping those guys,” he said. “She has a different presence and a different feel and a different look in how she sees things. She’s a great communicator. She’s going to be a great coach.”

Larson already developed relationships with some players while training with them last fall in preparation for a return to professional volleyball in Italy. 

Junior libero Lexi Rodriguez said having Larson in the gym was educational, even for a short time.

“She had such an impact even just getting to watch her play,” Rodriguez said. “She didn’t always have to say anything but just getting to watch how she plays and watching how she presents herself. I think everyone from last year’s team learned a lot from her.”

Cook said he’s excited to have Larson return to help build the next generation of volleyball players. He sensed she was ready to settle down after a tumultuous year in 2022. After traveling the world for years, he noticed she felt comfortable and happy in Lincoln and knew it was time to move into coaching. To Cook, that is the best part of his job. 

“The greatest reward of coaching for me – I love to win and love to do all that – but the greatest reward is when I see our players can go into coaching or come back here and coach,” he said. “That is the validation for everything that I tried to do in coaching. That validates for me that we’re doing the right things. They want to come back and be a part of this and put up with me.”

SETTER NOT SETTLED — Cook said he’s nowhere close to deciding on a starting setter. 

Freshman Bergen Reilly appeared in four matches on the Brazil trip, while junior Kennedi Orr played in three. Cook said every match and practice was graded during the spring, and the numbers say the two are dead even. 

“We communicated to them that no decisions have been made,” he said. “They’re gonna have to keep battling it out. So both of them did really, really well. I couldn’t tell you, if we were starting tomorrow, who would be starting.”

Rodriguez said she’d seen a lot of growth from Orr during the last two years dealing with injuries and overcoming adversity while helping Reilly adjust to the college game. 

“I think she’s done a great job of just welcoming Bergen,” Rodriguez said about Orr. “It’s really good to see just that, no matter if she’s the one playing or not, she’s always going to be the loudest cheerer and the one who’s encouraging everyone.”

On Wednesday’s edition of the radio show “Sports Nightly,” Lauren Cook West said she’s been impressed with how Reilly has played this spring. The former Nebraska All-American setter said Reilly is smooth and does a great job getting her hitters in one-on-one situations against the defense. 

While Reilly might not be as fiery as former NU setter Nicklin Hames, she still plays passionately and remains calm during matches while playing aggressively. The 6-foot-1 freshman is also a weapon in the front row and is not afraid to go on the attack.

“She has a really high volleyball IQ,” Cook West said. “She knows where to set the ball and when to set the ball.”

MENDELSON HOOPS IT UP — Sophomore middle blocker Maggie Mendelson will continue lifting weights with the volleyball team but will begin training with the Husker basketball team next month. 

The women’s basketball team is preparing for its quadrennial foreign trip later this summer, but Mendelson will not travel with them. 

This is the first off-season workout program she will go through. Last year, she played with the U19 junior national team in June before coming to Nebraska to practice with the basketball team. 

BEASON GLAD TO BE PART OF RECORD — When Merritt Beason elected to transfer from Florida, she knew how big volleyball was in the state of Nebraska, but the last few months have far exceeded her expectations. 

She’s played a few hours from her hometown in Alabama during the beach season, spent a week in Hawaii during spring break, played in a sold-out spring match in Central City, went on a trip to Brazil and learned she’d be coached by one of the best to play the game. 

She said all those opportunities drew her to Nebraska, and she’s enjoying every moment and excited to be in the middle of it all. She’s most excited to play in front of more than 90,000 people in Memorial Stadium. 

“It just kind of blows my mind because you grow up wanting to be a part of that, and so it’s very special,” she said. “Actually being able to be someone who’s going to play in that match that will probably hold the record until we get to tell our daughters that we hold that record. So I think it’s super cool being on the flip side of it now and not being the little girl that was like, ‘I want to be that one day.’ It’s very surreal, for sure.”

Volleyball Team Names Two Captains for 2023

By Lincoln Arneal

During the Huskers flight back from Rio de Janeiro to Houston, the captain of the plane approached Lexi Rodriguez and Merritt Beason. 

At first, Beason thought she and Rodriguez were in some kind of trouble. Instead, the pilot wanted to congratulate the pair on being selected captains of the Nebraska volleyball team, “from captain to captain.”  

“He was super nice, and it was a cool way to find out for sure,” Beason said Thursday afternoon. 

With no seniors on the roster, NU coach John Cook said he started preparing the team to step up and take on more leadership responsibility. He offered leadership seminars throughout the spring, which everyone attended. To cap off the semester, Cook asked everyone who wanted to be a captain to get up and talk to the team. Eveyone spoke. 

While in Brazil, the team continued to talk about leadership and the responsibility that comes with the title of captain. During one of the trip’s final days, Cook asked anyone who felt they were ready to be captain to address the team. This time, six people made their case. 

During individual meetings with the coaches, all six speakers were brought up. Rodriguez and Beason emerged as consensus picks.

Cook said he was pleased with how the process played out and the team’s interest in leadership roles. 

“It was pretty clear cut that two had a pretty distinct advantage over everybody else,” he said. “The good news was all the other ones got a lot of consideration. So the message to them is, you may not be the captain this year, but you’re showing that you’ve got leadership which is great. Maybe down the road, that will happen and keep working at it. 

“It was an awesome process, and I was blown away by the job they did getting up and talking about how they felt about that. … We’re pretty fired up about how this has gone and that we’re working at it.”

Rodriguez was a captain last season alongside departed seniors Madi Kubik and Kenzie Knuckles. She was also the captain of the U21 national team last summer that won a gold medal at the Pan Am Cup. 

Cook said even though she’s quiet and not the biggest personality, she still significantly impacts everyone else. 

“The world revolves around her on our team,” he said. “She’s kind of the center of everything going on.”

Rodriguez said she is honored to earn the title again and learned how she wanted to lead last year.

“I just want to make sure that my teammates are having fun while they’re playing, but also doing their job,” the All-American libero said. “(I also want to) make sure there’s a good balance and the vibes on the court and off the court are always good.”

Beason was a captain last season for Florida, but in just a matter of months, she built relationships with her new teammates and earned their respect as a leader. She said she had to learn the ins and outs of the program and put the work in during her first semester in Lincoln. 

“I just came in, put my head down, and did what I needed to do,” Beason said. “Ultimately, I focused on those relationships with everyone – the freshman, the newbies, that I was coming in with – and then everyone else. I think it’s definitely a huge honor. I don’t know; it’s pretty surreal. But I would just say I just focused on being myself and just let it all fall into place.”

Cook said Beason’s personality attracts others to her. She is going to be a third-grade teacher, which he said means her mindset isn’t self-centered and she knows how to take care of people.

“They all come to her when something’s not right,” Cook said. “She’s just like the team mom. She’s built great relationships, even though she’s been here a short time.”

Husker Volleyball Fans Circling Nov. 24 on Calendars

By Lincoln Arneal

If Nebraska wants to end Wisconsin’s fourth-year reign atop the Big Ten volleyball world, the Huskers will likely have to do it on the Badgers’ home court. 

With the season set to begin in just 72 days, the Huskers finally know their path to seek their first league title since 2017 as the conference released the 10-week, 20-match schedules for all 14 teams Wednesday.

For the third straight year, the Big Ten Conference scheduled NU and Wisconsin for a final week meeting. The two programs will play on Friday, Nov. 24. The next night, the Huskers will close the regular season at Minnesota. 

In league play, Nebraska will face Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State and Rutgers twice. 

Illinois, Maryland and Ohio State will travel to Lincoln for their only meeting with the Huskers, while NU will go to Indiana, Iowa and Purdue for single plays. 

Nebraska only plays multiple matches one weekend during the first month as it opens with three matches during the first three days of the season. The Huskers kick off the 2023 campaign with Utah State, an NCAA qualifier a year ago, and follow with Lipscomb and SMU. Utah State is coached by Rob Neilson, who was an assistant coach at BYU when Huskers assistant Jaylen Reyes played for the Cougars.

Several local products will return to their home state during the first weekend. Lincoln East graduate Brooklyn Fuchs will come back with Lipscomb, while Evan Glad, a Millard West product, is a freshman at SMU. Casey Batenhorst, the younger sister of NU junior Ally Batenhorst, also plays for the Mustangs. 

NU plays three other 2022 NCAA tournament teams in the nonconference. The Huskers will host Creighton at the Devaney Center for the first time since 2019. Nebraska will also host Kentucky and travels to Stanford. 

While those three teams will represent the toughest early tests, the marquee matchup might be hosting Omaha in Memorial Stadium on Aug. 30, with an anticipated crowd of more than 91,000.

Tyler Hildebrand will return to the Devaney Center for the second year. The former NU associate head coach will bring Long Beach State to Lincoln on Sept. 9. 

The nonconference season features a road match on Sept. 3 at Kansas State, which will be the first time the Huskers have played in Manhattan since 2010. 

The Huskers begin league play with home matches against Ohio State and Minnesota. NU will spend the next two weekends on the road with pairs of games in Indiana (Purdue and Indiana) and Michigan (Michigan State and Michigan). Five of the next six matches will be at the Devaney Center with a quick midweek trip to Northwestern in between. 

November starts with an East Coast trip to play Penn State and Rutgers before three more home matches.

NU plays four Big Ten matches on Sunday: Minnesota (Sept. 24), at Rutgers (Nov. 5) and Illinois (Nov. 12) and at Iowa (Nov. 19); and just twice on Wednesdays with both matches against Northwestern (away on Oct. 18 and home on Nov. 8).

Match times were not announced for league games but will be once television schedules are finalized. 

The 2023 Husker volleyball schedule

Aug 25 (Fri) 6:00 p.m. Utah State Devaney Center

Aug 26 (Sat) 5:00 p.m. Lipscomb Devaney Center

Aug 27 (Sun) 2:00 p.m. SMU Devaney Center

Aug 30 (Wed) 7:00 p.m. Omaha (Memorial Stadium 

Sep 3 (Sun) 4:00 p.m. at Kansas State Manhattan, Kan. 

Sep 6 (Wed) 7:00 p.m. Creighton Devaney Center

Sep 9 (Sat) TBD Long Beach State Devaney Center

Sep 12 (Tue) TBD at Stanford Stanford, Calif. 

Sep 17 (Sun) TBD Kentucky Devaney Center

Sep 22 (Fri) TBD Ohio State Devaney Center

Sep 24 (Sun) TBD Minnesota Devaney Center

Sep 29 (Fri) TBD at Purdue West Lafayette, Ind.

Sep 30 (Sat) TBD at Indiana Bloomington, Ind. 

Oct 6 (Fri) TBD at Michigan State East Lansing, Mich. 

Oct 7 (Sat) TBD at Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. 

Oct 13 (Fri) TBD Michigan State Devaney Center

Oct 14 (Sat) TBD Penn State Devaney Center

Oct 18 (Wed) TBD at Northwestern Evanston, Ill. 

Oct 21 (Sat) TBD Wisconsin Devaney Center

Oct 27 (Fri) TBD Maryland Devaney Center

Oct 28 (Sat) TBD Rutgers Devaney Center

Nov 3 (Fri) TBD at Penn State University Park, Pa. 

Nov 5 (Sun) TBD at Rutgers Piscataway, N.J. 

Nov 8 (Wed) TBD Northwestern Devaney Center

Nov 12 (Sun) TBD Illinois Devaney Center

Nov 17 (Fri) TBD Michigan Devaney Center

Nov 19 (Sun) TBD at Iowa Iowa City, Iowa 

Nov 24 (Fri) TBD at Wisconsin Madison, Wisc. 

Nov 25 (Sat) TBD at Minnesota Minneapolis, Minn.

Larson Returning As Husker Assistant

By Lincoln Arneal

Jordan Larson has one of the most impressive resumes of any Nebraska volleyball player. National Champion. All-American. Hall of Famer. 

Soon, she will add another title: assistant coach. 

Nebraska announced Tuesday that Larson will join the coaching staff as a full-time assistant this season. In January, the NCAA changed its rules to allow a third assistant coach, eliminating the volunteer coach position. 

During a Zoom call with local media Tuesday night, Larson said the timing of the opportunity and her desire to get into coaching lined up to create the possibility. She started talking to NU coach John Cook in January and the conversations began to build into a more structured position. 

While she had talked to other programs about other opportunities, joining the Nebraska staff was the one that made the most sense to her. 

“I have a ton of support in Nebraska as well – family, friends – so it was just kind of obvious for me,” Larson said. “I really had a lot of great options, but this gives me the most ability to kind of also be good for myself, professionally, coaching but then also playing. I feel very lucky.”

Cook has often joked about bringing Larson back to help with the Huskers and finally got her on board. She will join the two other assistant coaches, Jaylen Reyes, the defensive coordinator who also leads recruiting, and Kelly Hunter, another former Husker who works with the setters.

“Jordan and I have talked for years about coaching at Nebraska,” Cook said in a release. “She will bring a wealth of experience that she can share with our players.”

Last spring, Larson worked briefly as a volunteer assistant at Texas before leaving the program. She returned to her home state, began volunteering with Midland University in Fremont, and helped out with Elkhorn North High School during its run to a state runner-up finish. 

She also worked out with the Huskers a few times to help prepare her to play professionally with Vero Volley Milano in Italy, which finished as league runner-up last month. That stint helped her understand how the NU staff works together. 

“It’s new territory for me and I’m just excited to learn and (they have) obviously a great staff,” Larson said. “I’m just really excited to kind of be in that role and see where I can learn and how I can help in any way.”

Larson has already dived into the work on her own time, watching film of the current squad and offering a few tips to the pin hitters. She was impressed with how they played in Brazil and their eagerness to compete. 

“They love to get after it, which is a great sign,” the Hooper, Nebraska native said. “We don’t have any seniors, so that’s going to be not only great for this year but the years to come. I see learning happening. They want to get better, which is a great asset to any team.”

Even though her position starts on July 1 when the new NCAA rule kicks in, Larson won’t join the program until late September if everything goes according to plan. Until then, she will continue to watch video, study the metrics and Facetime with the staff and players. 

She is currently training in California as she prepares to play with the United States national team in the Volleyball Nations League. She said she had some quad tendon issues during the spring and is receiving treatment, including a knee injection. She’s begun ramping up in hopes of playing with the national team for the 2024 Olympic qualifiers in Poland in September. Larson also hopes to play for the U.S. at the Paris Games next year. 

If the U.S. qualifies, and Larson is chosen to play, she would want to play professionally next spring to help her prepare for the Olympics. Larson said she is still deciding which league she would play in, but she has several options, including the Pro Volleyball Federation team in Omaha, which starts play in February. 

Larson has an impressive playing career winning three Olympic medals, including the gold at the 2020 Tokyo Games, where she was named the best outside hitter and most valuable player. She also won a silver medal at the 2012 London Games and a bronze in Rio in 2016. She has had an extensive professional career in Puerto Rico, Russia, Turkey, China and Italy.

While her life may not slow down over the next year, she’s ready to attack the coaching world as she did as a player. Larson said she’s prepared for a new challenge. She talked about how much she has to learn about recruiting, the daily grind of coaching and building connections with 18- to 22-year-olds, and she is excited about the possibilities. 

Larson said she’s a different person than the last time she was with the Huskers. She’s been all over the world and matured over the previous 18 years since she was a freshman. Now, she’s ready to shape the next generation of Husker athletes. 

“I’ve come a long way since college and I’ve tried to make a lot of changes,” she said. “Learn and grow. Now to give back to a place that really has meant so much to me, it’s really come full circle.”