Huskers Sweep Maryland, Face Indiana Wednesday

By Lincoln Arneal

After suffering its first Big Ten loss of the season Wednesday, Nebraska entered its match with Maryland not waiting to have any hangover or lingering doubts. 

Whitney Lauesnstein delivered that message as she bounced an overpass on the first rally of the match. A few points later, she pounded another attack that ricocheted off the Terrapin dig, hit the scoreboard and crossed the net for another NU point. 

The top-ranked Huskers faced little trouble as they swept Maryland 25-16, 25-9, 25-19 Saturday evening in front of 8,133 fans at the Devaney Center.

Lauenstein said the Wisconsin loss was tough, but they rallied during a team meeting and tried to take a more aggressive approach against Maryland. 

“One of the things that we said was we’re going to come in guns blazing,” the sophomore outside hitter said. “So, I just went all out. All of us went all out. We just swung for the fences because you have nothing to lose at that point.”

NU coach John Cook worried about how the Huskers would play after a low energy serve and pass earlier on Saturday. He challenged the team captains to get everyone ready for the match. 

Nebraska (19-2, 11-1 Big Ten) also won the net battle with 11 total blocks compared to a season-low five by Maryland, which entered the match averaging a nation-best 3.44 blocks per set. 

“I thought they came out with a great sense of urgency tonight, and we were really sharp and just kind of really deflated Maryland,” Cook said. “I think especially when we started blocking them. They’re leading the conference in blocking but sometimes when you do something really well somebody does it back to you, it can deflate you pretty fast.”

Senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord led the defense with nine blocks while Lauenstein added eight. Sophomore Lindsay Krause and freshman Bekka Allick each recorded three stuffs. 

The key to working around Maryland’s block was better passing than against Wisconsin and smart decisions from the setters and attackers. While Cook said he would have liked a few swings back and they could have challenged the Terrapins more, overall, NU’s offense played well enough. 

The Huskers ended with a balanced attack as Launenstein, Allick and Krause recorded seven kills apiece. NU’s other three attackers – Hord, Madi Kubik and Ally Batenhorst – each tallied five kills. Maggie Mendelson, who took the place of Batenhorst in the third set, also chipped in a kill. 

Senior setter Nicklin Hames said the hitters found a good balance between using tips and roll shots and knowing when to let attacks rip. 

“That means we’re spreading around the ball and everyone was taking care of business,” said Hames, who finished with 17 assists. “It was super easy to run our offense because everyone was terminating. We really got the middles involved which I think opened up a lot of things.”

The Huskers’ passing was also markedly better than it was against the Badgers. NU struggled to handle Wisconsin’s serve, which forced it to play out of system often. 

Against Maryland (13-11, 4-8), the Huskers did not allow an ace for the sixth time this season. The Terrapins entered the match leading the Big Ten with 1.87 aces per set. 

Kubik did most of the work in serve receive as she handled 22 of Maryland’s serves. Lexi Rodriguez, who recorded a match-high 13 digs, passed 10 services, while Kenzie Knuckles handed the final seven. 

They served Madi a lot of balls tonight and Madi held up really well,” Cook said. “All of our passers were on a mission after Wednesday night. We just did not have a good effort up there and we pride ourselves on being a great passing team.”

On the other service line, the Huskers racked up six aces, all of which came in the final two sets. Kubik had two during an 8-0 run in the second set. 

After the Huskers ran away with the first two sets, Maryland made it interesting in the third set as it trimmed a seven-point deficit down to 18-17. Allick provided two kills to provide breathing room, and later Hames ended the match with an ace serve. 

Cook said he should have called a timeout earlier to try to break the momentum, but he wanted to see if the Huskers could work through the adversity. 

“We’ve talked about not giving up big runs and we made for four poor plays in a row,” Cook said. “It got close and then we rebooted on that, regrouped and finished out really strong.”

The Terrapin hitters never found a rhythm, as they finished with 24 kills and 24 errors. The UMD outsides especially struggled as Laila Ivey finished with 12 errors and hit.-194. Sam Scire also was negative with four kills and seven errors. 

After the match, Hames said they felt disappointed following the loss to Wisconsin, but they responded well and look forward to the last month of the regular season. 

“When you want to win something so bad, it’s really draining and frustrating when you don’t have a successful result, and I think that’s how we felt on Wednesday,” Hames said. “We were disappointed with how we played because we knew we could be a lot better. But it just shows where we need to go. Coach (Cook) just said that we’ve got eight games left and the ante goes up every game. We got to be dialed in every game, and the margin for error gets smaller. So we’re just going to try to go from good to great and play our best in those big moments, which I think we struggled with on Wednesday and that’s why it was so disappointing for us.”

Nebraska Looks To Rebound Against Maryland

By Lincoln Arneal

Rainelle Jones’s heart stopped for a few beats. 

She was kneeling silently moments before the national anthem. Then, a few moments before the singer began, several fans shouted disparaging comments toward the Maryland middle blocker. 

This was the moment Jones had been preparing for but also dreading. Teammate Laila Ricks also joined Jones and Maddie Naumann in taking a knee. 

“I was shocked because it was finally happening,” Jones said. “I was expecting it. I was preparing for it. But I kind of let my guard down a little bit at those games… We were all, I guess, just not really prepared for that kind of experience.”

As Jones and the Terrapins return to the Devaney Center Saturday to take on No. 1 Nebraska at 7:30 p.m., she reflected on the incident from last season, saying it has strengthened her desire to fight for social justice.

The idea of kneeling during the national anthem came to Jones during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the nation was dealing with the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Jones wanted to do more to raise awareness of social justice and was inspired by the actions of Colin Kaepernick in 2016. 

After a discussion with her teammates, she began taking a knee during the spring 2021 season, when arenas were empty and continued as more teammates joined her. 

The outburst also impacted the Huskers as NU coach John Cook said they were emotional in the early part of the match. On the other side, Jones said the Terrapin huddle before the match was quiet and uncomfortable. She encouraged them to shake off the incident and focus on the match. 

“I knew what I had to do as a leader as a player,” Jones said. “I wanted to make it clear that let’s play the game first and then worry about it later because that’s what we’re here to do. We’ll deal with the consequences or with the issues later after the match.”

After the Husker sweep, Lauren Stivrins talked with Jones across the net and apologized for the fans’ actions and expressed the Huskers’ support for her. Jones also sent out a tweet with a statement clarifying why she takes a knee. The following day, athletic director Trev Alberts and NU chancellor Ronnie Green, who was in attendance at the match, issued statements saying they were disappointed by the harassment. 

The incident strengthened Jones’s resolve and highlighted her need to continue to fight for social justice causes. Off the court, Jones graduated with a bachelor’s degree in American Studies and is continuing her master’s degree in the same program. 

She’s also been active with the Big Ten and traveled with other student-athletes to Selma, Ala., to study civil rights history. Jones called the experience powerful but one that also left her feeling angry. 

“Even though there are museums and shrines of many social injustices and inequality over the course of history, I know that it’s still very relevant,” she said. “Seeing images that were painted in the 1940s and still seeing the same images on social media is very awakening. It does make me angry because I know that we have so much work to do, but it’s a matter of how much work we can get done in a matter of time.”

Jones continues her strong play on the court. After leading the nation in blocking a year ago, she again anchors Maryland’s nation-best net defense with 1.67 blocks per set. 

After her final season as a Terrapin, Jones said she hopes to play professionally, but she also wants to continue to work on social justice issues. She’s worked with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and used her voice to raise issues and use her platform to advocate for the voiceless. 

For now, Jones continues to take a knee and write BLM (Black Lives Matter) on her taped wrists. She has not received any other public pushback than the one incident. However, the moment a year ago was a wake-up call for her that a lot of work needs to be done to move toward social justice. 

“It really shows that a lot of us in America are still fighting with their own ignorance and fighting with their own daily issues on what their problem is when it comes to social equality and not really understanding or keeping a closed mind when it comes to what is your reasoning or why are you fighting for this instead of trying to learn more about it and understand from other people’s perspectives,” she said. 

HUSKERS RESPOND — After suffering a sweep against No. 5 Wisconsin on Wednesday, Cook said he was encouraged with how the players responded in practice on Thursday. 

One of the focuses was on serve receive and passing. Wisconsin recorded six aces, the most by an NU opponent this season, and stressed the Huskers at other times, forcing them to play out-of-system. 

“We got punched in the mouth, and we weren’t as good as we think we are,” Cook said. “So we got work to do.”

BANWARTH OUT AT OLE MISS — Ole Miss officially parted ways with former Nebraska player and assistant coach Kayla Banwarth after she was suspended last week. The decision was mutually agreed upon according to a release by the school. 

After going 1-19 during her first season, Banwarth guided the Rebels to a 21-9 record and an NCAA tournament berth last year. This season, Ole Miss was 7-10, including a loss at Nebraska. 

Assistant coach Bre Henry, a graduate manager at NU, will serve as acting head coach for the remainder of the season.

“I thank (athletic director) Keith Carter and (deputy athletics director) Lynnette Johnson for the opportunity to coach at Ole Miss,” Banwarth said in a statement. “I am grateful to the student-athletes for allowing me to be a part of their volleyball careers. Coaching volleyball is my greatest passion. I will continue to pursue that passion when the right opportunity arises. I am excited to see what the next chapter has in store for me and my family.” 

Huskers swept by Wisconsin

By Lincoln Arneal

New year, same results. 

Nebraska struggled to pass and find any consistency on offense as it lost its ninth straight match to Wisconsin. 

The top-ranked Huskers hit .162 with just 37 kills as it fell 25-23, 25-23, 25-18 Wednesday night in front of 7,229 fans at the UW Fieldhouse.

“Wisconsin took it to us and we didn’t handle the environment very well,” NU coach John Cook said during the postgame radio interview. “When you’re on the road against a team like that, you got to take advantage. We just never were in sync or rhythm. Everything was hard for us tonight.”

NU (18-2, 10-1 Big Ten) lost all three meetings against the Badgers last season, including the national championship match. Six of the nine sets the Huskers dropped were by just two points, and that theme carried over to this year’s match as the first two sets were deuce games. 

However, they unfolded in entirely different manners. 

In the first set, NU led 10-8 early before giving up a 4-0 run. After trailing by four points, NU rallied to get within 21-20. However, NU couldn’t even the score. It delayed the first two set points before Sarah Franklin ended the set. 

NU didn’t have an answer for Sarah Franklin, who finished with 21 kills – one off her season high – and a .381 hitting percentage. The Michigan State transfer terminated from all over the court with various shots and stepped up when the Badgers needed a kill. 

“She worked the entire court,” UW coach Kelly Sheffield said about Franklin during an interview on BTN. “I thought she thought she passed well, I thought she defended well, but offensively, she used every one of her shots.”

Wisconsin (16-3, 10-1) looked like it was going to run away with the second set, but the Huskers came alive after trailing 22-12. Kaitlyn Hord powered an 11-1 run with five blocks and three kills, her first of the match. Ally Batenhorst was in on two of those blocks and notched her first two kills of the night during the streak. 

NU battled back to tie the set at 23-all, the Badgers quickly ended its hopes with blocks on each of the final two rallies. 

“You gotta give a lot of credit to their team and they brought it to us,” Cook said. “We made a great comeback with a chance to potentially win it.”

The third set fell apart from the service line. First, UW earned five points in a row from the service line on three Nebraska errors and two aces from Izzy Ashburn. Then with Orzol at the service line, the Badgers ran off six consecutive points to pull ahead 16-9 and never looked back. 

Ashburn finished with three of Wisconsin’s six aces in the match. She finished with a double-double of 25 assists and 10 digs. 

Even when they weren’t earning points on the serve, the Badgers kept NU’s attack off-balance with tough serving. 

“I just thought Wisconsin put a lot of pressure on us and we didn’t handle it very well,” Cook said. “It all started at the service line, and they served really well. We had a hard time passing and we never really got into a rhythm tonight.”

Wisconsin hit .207 as a team. Devyn Robinson added nine kills and six blocks, while Danielle Hart had six kills and nine blocks. 

Sheffield said the key was to balance patience with aggression. While they were aggressive serving, they picked their spots while attacking. 

“The real key is being patient because they’re just so good defensively,” he said. “They can frustrate the heck out of you, but I thought we did a really good job of keeping our composure.”

Bekka Allick was the only Husker to find any success on offense. The freshman middle blocker set a new career high with 13 kills on a .647 hitting percentage. 

No other NU player hit above .160. Outside hitter Madi Kubik and opposite Whitney Lauenstein each had seven kills but combined for 10 errors. Batenhorst tallied four kills, while Hord and Linsday Krause hit three kills. Hord recorded seven blocks, while Batenhord had five. 

Senior Nicklin Hames finished with 15 assists and a match-high 14 digs. Anni Evans added 12 assists, while libero Lexi Rodrigue recorded 12 digs. 

Despite the loss, Nebraska is still tied with the Badgers for first place in the Big Ten. The Huskers are back in action Saturday, hosting Maryland. 

“We just got knocked down on the mat. We got to get back to let’s see how we’re going to respond,” Cook said. “I’m curious what they got in them and how bad they want this, and you know what your response can be the next three days.”

Big Ten Announces 2023 Football Schedule

Nebraska Sports Information

Big Ten Announces 2023 Football Schedule

The Big Ten Conference announced its 2023 football schedule Wednesday morning, with Nebraska set to play host to five conference games next fall.

Nebraska will begin the season with a Big Ten game for the fourth consecutive season, opening at Minnesota on Thursday, Aug. 31. Nebraska played at Ohio State in 2020, traveled to Illinois in 2021 and met Northwestern in Dublin, Ireland, to open the 2022 season.

Following its season opener against Minnesota, Nebraska will play three non-conference games beginning with a Sept. 9 game at Colorado, followed by home contests against Northern Illinois (Sept. 16) and Louisiana Tech (Sept. 23).  The Sept. 16 home opener will be Nebraska’s latest in full-season schedule since also opening on Sept. 16 in 1995.


Nebraska resumes Big Ten play with a Sept. 30 home game against Michigan at Memorial Stadium. The Huskers return to the road for an Oct. 7 game at Illinois, followed by their lone bye week of the season on Oct. 14.

Following its bye, Nebraska plays three of its next four contests in Memorial Stadium, starting with a two-game October homestand against Northwestern (Oct. 21) and Purdue (Oct. 28). The Huskers travel to Michigan State on Nov. 4, before returning home to face Maryland on Nov. 11.  

For the third straight year, Nebraska will finish with Big Ten West foes Wisconsin and Iowa. Nebraska will travel to Madison on Nov. 18, before the Huskers finish the regular season by hosting their traditional Black Friday matchup with Iowa on Nov. 24.

The 2023 football season will be the initial season with the Big Ten’s recently announced media rights partners, CBS, FOX, NBC, Peacock and BTN. Plans regarding the format of future Big Ten football schedules for 2024 and beyond will be announced at a later date

The 2023 season will mark the 100th Anniversary of Memorial Stadium. Fans interested in becoming Nebraska season ticket holders should visit and join the 2023 Season Ticket Request List.

2023 Nebraska Football Schedule

Aug. 31—at Minnesota (Thursday)

Sept. 9—at Colorado

Sept. 16—Northern Illinois

Sept. 23—Louisiana Tech

Sept. 30—Michigan

Oct. 7—at Illinois

Oct. 14—BYE

Oct. 21—Northwestern

Oct. 28—Purdue

Nov. 4—at Michigan State

Nov. 11—Maryland

Nov. 18—at Wisconsin

Nov. 24—Iowa (Friday)

Huskers Hit The Road To Face Wisconsin

By Lincoln Arneal

It’s No. 1 versus No. 5. It’s the top two teams atop the Big Ten standings. It’s a rematch of last year’s national championship match. 

But to Nebraska coach John Cook, the meeting between the top-ranked Huskers and Wisconsin is just another conference road game. Instead, he wants NU to maintain its focus on the 10-week league schedule, staying emotionally even and improving so they are peaking in December. 

Even though the Huskers are the higher-ranked team and looking to break the Badgers’ eight-match winning streak in the series, Cook said NU doesn’t have any pressure because they will still be in first place regardless of the outcome. 

“We’re not protecting anything,” he said. “It’s a great challenge for us and this is what you have to do if you want to be in the hunt for a Big Ten championship. You gotta go find a way to win.”

Through the first half of the schedule, Nebraska and Wisconsin have proven themselves among the best teams in the Big Ten. They will kick off the second half of conference play Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the UW Field House. 

“I think our team does a really great job of just taking things one point at a time, one game at a time,” NU senior Madi Kubik said Tuesday. “For tomorrow’s match, we’re really excited for the opportunity to go and compete there.”

The Badgers will look different from the last time the two teams met. Gone are fifth-year seniors: middle blocker Dana Rettke, setter Sydney Hilley and libero Lauren Barnes. That core helped UW win the past three Big Ten titles. However, some key faces remain for Wisconsin, like Final Four MVP Anna Smreck and middle blockers Danielle Hart and Devyn Robinson. 

There are plenty of changes this year too. Like the Huskers, Wisconsin is also running a 6-2 offensive system this season with Izzy Ashburn and MJ Hammill. In addition, the Badgers added two top-tier transfers in Sarah Franklin (Michigan State) and Caroline Crawford (Kansas). UW also features Gulce Guctekin, the top libero at the 2020 U19 European Championships. 

“They’re loaded,” Cook said. 

The match will also wrap up a stretch of seven of the last nine matches on the road. Kubik said they’ve done a great job focusing on each match and staying in their routine while they deal with all the travel. 

The Huskers will face another hostile crowd at the UW Fieldhouse, which was second last season in average attendance at 7,504 fans per match. Kubik said she isn’t a big fan of the gym.

“It’s kind of like a dungeon a little bit because the fans sit up (top) but it’s in the dark,” she said. “The gym’s not great and it’s really cold too with the wood (floors) and everything.”

Cook, who coached at Wisconsin for seven years, had fond memories of the Badgers’ home court. He said he used to play pick-up basketball there and watched boxing, wrestling and a throwback basketball game. 

“It’s a great venue and they’ve obviously made a lot of upgrades since I was there,” Cook said. “Is it a tough place to go? Yeah, every place in the Big Ten is tough when they get 7,000 fans. But it’s fun, and our players thrive on that.”

ALLICK HONORED AGAIN — Bekka Allick earned her second straight Big Ten freshman of the week honors Monday. The 6-foot-4 middle blocker averaged 3.17 kills on a .548 hitting percentage in wins over Purdue and Illinois last week. She also chipped in .83 blocks per set. 

Against Purdue, which features five-time weekly honoree freshman Eva Hudson, Allick set a career-high with 12 kills.

“She works hard. She prepares really well. She’s very committed to getting better every day,” Cook said about Allick,” Cook said. “She doesn’t act like a freshman. Part of that is she came early and that helped prepare to get through the season and be more prepared than if she just showed up in summer.”

ON TOP — Following losses by Texas and Louisville last week, Nebraska was voted No. 1 in this week’s AVCA Coaches Poll. The Huskers earned 48 first-place votes, while No. 2 Texas received 14. San Diego and Louisville each topped the ballot for one voter. This week’s poll is the 102nd week that the Huskers have been in the top spot, an NCAA record. 

SUPRISE RECORD — Kubik said she didn’t know senior Nicklin Hames was nearing the school record for career assists. Hames broke Fiona Nepo’s record Saturday night in the second set against Illinois. Hames was also caught off guard when she was interviewed on television after breaking the record. 

“We had no idea she was close and then it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, Nicklin beat the record. You’re like, Oh, cool. All right,'” Kubik said. “It’s just kind of a commitment to her and the way that she has been setting the entire time that I’ve been here with her and hitting off with her. She’s so consistent. We’re just really impressed with her and it’s really good to have her as a teammate.”

Hames sets career record for assists as NU Sweeps Illinois

By Lincoln Arneal

On a night when she set the career record for assists, Nebraska needed Nicklin Hames’s defense just as much. 

The senior setter finished with a match-high 13 digs to go with 20 assists as the third-ranked Huskers swept Illinois 25-14, 25-16, 25-22 Saturday evening at Huff Hall. NU (18-1) earned its sixth straight sweep and finished the first half of the Big Ten schedule with a perfect 10-0 record. 

Hames upped her career total to 4,835 assists and passed Fiona Nepo (1995-98) in the second set with her 10th assist of the match on a roll-shot kill by Whitney Lauenstein. 

“People say setters can’t play defense and I’m trying to change that. Setters can play defense,” Hames said during an interview on the Big Ten Network. “We just have a really great defensive mentality this year. Our blocking has been outstanding. We try to not let the ball hit the floor and I think we do a really great job. We’re relentless on defense.”

With Hames taking the first touch so often, libero Lexi Rodriguez finished second on the team with nine assists to go with nine digs. Junior setter Anni Evans finished with six assists and four digs. 

The Illini (9-11, 4-6) used tough serving to try to make the Huskers play out-of-system. However, the aggressive serves also hurt Illinois as it finished with 10 errors to just three aces, which all came in the third set. 

Nebraska handled the serving well for most of the match as it hit .320 on the night. Whitney Lauenstein led the Huskers with 13 kills, the first double-digit total in four matches, as she hit .346 and added five digs and three blocks. Madi Kubik added 10 kills at a .462 clip. 

“Whitney was on fire,” NU coach John Cook said during his post-game radio interview. “I thought we could have set Madi more because Madi was on fire too.”

After not recording a kill in the first set, freshman middle blocker Bekka Allick finished with seven kills and a .462 hitting percentage. Sophomores Ally Batenhorst and Lindsay Krause each notched five kills. 

The Huskers were at their best to end the first set as they closed it out with a 9-1 run, which included seven kills, as they hit .464 for the set. 

“I have great passers and then I have great hitters who adjust to a lot of balls and they make my job really easy,” Hames said. “They want to be set in the big moments, making my job super easy being able to really spread the ball around and (I can) always trust them in big moments.”

Allick took over the second set with four kills early as NU grabbed a 9-4 advantage as it never let the Illini get closer than four points the rest of the way. 

Defense continued to set up the offense. The Huskers finished the match with 44 digs, compared to just 29 for the Illini. 

“For the first two games, I feel like we dug everything,” Cook said. “I think that really frustrated Illinois. Not only did we dig it, but we transitioned for kills. It’s hard enough to side out in this league. Then when you’re getting dug on great hits that you think are kills and you’re getting transitioned back and losing points, it is really demoralizing.”

Illinois battled back in the third set behind a 4-0 run that cut its deficit to 14-12. NU tried to pull away but couldn’t shake the Illini. However, Kubik ended the match with a kill late. 

Riana Terry was the only Illinois player with much success as she tallied 13 kills. The rest of the team accounted for 17 kills and 8 errors. As a team, the Illini hit .161, their third-lowest total for the season.

The Huskers begin the second half of their league schedule on Wednesday at No. 5 Wisconsin, which has won the last eight matches.  

“It’s just the next match in the Big Ten,” Cook said. “The Big Ten championship is going to go through Wisconsin and Ohio State. Those teams are up there right now with Minnesota. We have to find a way to get over the hump.”

Hames has assist record in her sights

Setter’s winding journey will soon have her in record books

By Lincoln Arneal

Nicklin Hames’ impending record-breaking performance for career assists will come Saturday night and will cap an improbable, winding journey. 

First, it took the first-ever exception by the NCAA because of the pandemic to grant her an extra year of eligibility. (Then again, the shifted and shortened season took away 10-12 matches during her junior season.) 

After she committed to a fifth season, Hames was committed to changing roles and playing as a defensive or serving specialist. That lasted less than two weeks as Hames moved back to setter and split time there while running a 6-2 system. However, her season was interrupted by a back injury that kept her out for a month. 

Yet through it all, Hames returned to the starting lineup last weekend and is now just nine assists behind Fiona Nepo, who owns Nebraska’s career mark with 4,824. Hames will have a chance to set the new record against Illinois, which hosts the third-ranked Huskers Saturday at 6 p.m. 

Nepo’s record came from her three seasons as a starter from 1996-98 when side-out scoring was used and teams played more rallies in a match. She averaged 1,595 assists per season and was named All-American three times after she sat on the bench behind another All-American, Christy Johnson. 

In fact, 12 setters earned All-American honors at Nebraska, including Hames in 2020. Soon her name will be at the top of the list for most assists. Her reliability and consistency have been her greatest assets in her career. Saturday’s match will be her 132nd. 

“Nicklin has been there in a lot of big matches and she’s very calm,” NU coach John Cook said. “She plays great defense and serves. She understands what we need to do, and she’s a veteran.”

To get to this point this season, Hames had to go through a gauntlet of three-a-day training sessions with strength coach Brian Kmitta to recover from a back injury she suffered during the Stanford match. 

She called those workouts grueling but received perspective from former teammate Lauren Stivrins, who had a back injury last year and missed the first part of the season. She also credited NU athletic trainer Jolene Emricson with helping her during her recovery. Cook said she’s looked strong in practice because of her work building her core muscles. 

After running a one-setter offense for her entire college career, Hames is warming up to the idea of a 6-2 system. In her time off, she said the attackers got more comfortable with having different setters on the court. In addition, Hames saw the Huskers’ trust and grit grow. 

The last time the fifth-year senior shared the court with another setter was her senior year of high school when she also was an attacker. The Huskers’ new system allows her to run the offense and use her elite defensive skills while taking her out of the front row. 

Hames doesn’t mind giving up her role as a front-row blocker as Nebraska has developed into one of the best blocking teams in the nation, averaging 2.84 stuffs per set, which is fifth in the nation. 

“I really enjoyed the 6-2, actually. It’s been fun just to see our offense kind of blossom with having all the attackers out there,” Hames said. “I’ve gotten comfortable with the fact that I’m going to be out for a little bit so I have to stay ready when I go back in.”

During her time away from the court, Hames also gained a new perspective on her setting, teammates and volleyball. She returned for the Huskers’ rivalry match against No. 14 Penn State on Oct. 14 and said she felt the energy and adrenaline during her first set back. 

“It felt so good to finally be back out there because I’ve been working towards it,” Hames said. “Sometimes, it felt like it wasn’t getting any better or I wasn’t making any progress. So to finally be able to step out there and to hear my name called and everyone cheering really loud, that was really cool and a really fulfilling moment because of what I’ve been through the last month.”

Huskers Sweep Purdue, Now Have Won Ten In A Row

By Lincoln Arneal

In a battle between two top freshmen in the Big Ten, the advantage went to Bekka Allick and Nebraska. 

The NU middle blocker played the best match of her young career with 12 kills on a .611 hitting percentage to go with four blocks. Purdue freshman Eva Hudson, who had recorded double-digit kills in every other match this year, finished with just seven kills and 10 errors on 35 attacks. 

Third-ranked Nebraska won the battle of the freshmen and the match as it earned its fifth straight sweep with a 25-21, 25-20, 25-18 victory over No. 12 Purdue in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,415 at Holloway Gymnasium. 

Allick, the reigning Big Ten freshman of the week, set a career-high in kills and reached double figures for the first time this year. 

“(My setters) put the ball right where I needed it,” Allick said. “If there was an error, they were giving it right back. It was just trust in each other.”

Senior Nicklin Hames finished with 21 assists, while junior Anni Evans accounted for 16. 

On the other side of the net, Hudson struggled all night. Three of her first four attacks were errors, and she ended the match on the bench after she was pulled midway through the third set. 

The 6-foot-1 outside hitter entered the match leading the league with more than five kills per set and had won five freshman of the week honors and three players of the week awards as she appears to be the presumptive freshman of the year.

“Bekka Allick may have something to say about that,” NU coach John Cook said during a postgame radio interview. 

Nebraska’s other middle blocker – senior Kaitlyn Hord – also had an efficient night as she terminated five times on eight swings. Cook said the game plan was to see the middle as much as possible. 

“The only people who stopped our middles were our setters,” Cook said. “Our setters were in pretty good positions all night to make some pretty nice sets. We’ve got some firepower if we can do that. 

As a team, Nebraska (17-1, 9-0 Big Ten) hit .295 as Madi  Kubik tallied nine kills and nine digs. Ally Batenhorst chipped in seven kills, but Whitney Lauenstein and Lindsay Krause struggled with a combined eight kills and seven errors. 

The first set was a tight affair as both teams sided out more than two-thirds of the time. The Huskers grabbed control with a 4-0 run for a 15-12 lead. After Purdue crept back in the set at 18-17, NU went on a 5-1 run and Allick took over with three kills. 

Purdue took a 7-4 lead in the second set before Batenhorst warmed up with three kills during a 7-1 run. NU never relinquished the lead the rest of the way. 

Lauenstein played her best stretch of the match to start the third set as she recorded two kills, a block and an ace serve while the Huskers jumped out to an 8-1 advantage. Purdue closed to 9-5 after three straight NU hitting errors, but it couldn’t get any closer.

The Huskers struggled to serve early with five errors in the first set but eventually turned around and kept the Boilermakers’ offense off-kilter. Lauenstein recorded two aces, and Kubik added another. 

Purdue (15-4, 6-3) finished the match with a .140 hitting percentage, more than .100 points below its season average. Emma Ellis led the Boilermakers with nine kills, while Madeline Koch added eight. 

“Our serving put Purdue in trouble, and they never really got into a rhythm tonight attacking,” Cook said. 

Sophomore Lexi Rodriguez added nine digs, while Kenzie Knuckles chipped in seven. Lauenstein also tied the team-high with four blocks. 

With the win, the Huskers stayed atop the league standings, one game ahead of Ohio State and Wisconsin.  The Huskers had their third sweep against a ranked opponent in the past two weeks. 

“I thought we played steady enough to win. We made enough plays to win but it wasn’t always pretty,” Cook said. “Any time you win against a ranked team like this 3-0 at their gym, especially this gym, it’s a pretty good night.”

Huskers Head to Purdue, Where A Good Team and Tiny Gym Await

By Lincoln Arneal

Nestled between Ross-Ade Stadium and Mackey Arena sits Holloway Gymnasium. 

The gym is home to the Purdue volleyball team, and capacity is listed at 2,288, but the crowd can swell to nearly 2,500. The two largest attendance marks (2,961 and 2,939) in Holloway history witnessed Nebraska matches in 2011 and 2012. 

The third-ranked Huskers will return to the sold-out gym in West Lafayette, Indiana, as Nebraska faces No. 12 Purdue Wednesday night. 

While some teams might wilt in front of a hostile environment, the Huskers (16-1, 8-0 Big Ten) relish the opportunity. They are used to playing in front of large crowds and feed off the atmosphere and don’t have to create energy themselves. 

Kenzie Knuckles said the intimate environment helps them with depth perception, serving and attacking. The senior defensive specialist said she is also excited to go to Purdue (15-3, 6-2) because the Yorktown, Indiana, native will have a lot of family in attendance. 

“It’s sometimes hard when we play in huge buildings that don’t have a lot of people in them because it’s just very different from what we’re used to,” Knuckles said. “Being in gyms where the fans are kind of close to you and there’s a lot of fans there, I think that’s where we thrive environment-wise.”

NU coach John Cook said the gym reminds him of a small high school gym in Nebraska. One of the other differences the Huskers will have to adjust to is playing on a wood floor instead of a sports court that Nebraska uses. 

“There’s a great energy in there, which helps us feed off of that. I think we like playing there,” Cook said. “I think our players are so used to Devaney and have big crowds anytime there’s high energy. I think it helps us.”

While Cook said he likes Holloway, he wonders if Purdue could draw 5,000 fans to matches, and perhaps the small gym is limiting their potential. He’s seen other Big Ten programs – like Ohio State – build new, bigger arenas while others, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, expand their home venues. Michigan State moved all its matches to Breslin Center, the school’s basketball arena. 

“In some ways, they are limiting their growth,” Cook said. “A lot of other Big Ten schools are building arenas to draw more people.” 

While the Boilermakers have won two-thirds of their matches in the venue’s 40 years, they’ve dropped the last two matches there. Purdue lost to Wisconsin on Oct. 8, and then Maryland pulled a big upset against the Boilermakers on Sunday, earning a sweep – the first time Purdue had lost in straight sets since falling to Wisconsin in 2018.

Cook said he wasn’t surprised by Maryland’s victory because of their blocking and serving prowess. The Huskers will also try to get the Boilermakers out of their comfort zone when they meet. 

Purdue is led by freshman Eva Hudson, who leads the Big Ten with 4.68 kills per set this season. She is hitting .285 with 309 kills on 765 attacks, which are more than twice those of her teammates. 

Knuckles said she expects a tough fight from the Boilermakers and the key will be winning long rallies. 

“Purdue has always been great at just being really scrappy and defensively always keeping the ball up,” she said. “They have a freshman outside that’s been really good this year, and all the other attackers have been good in the past as well.”

ALLICK WINS FRESHMAN AWARD — Nebraska middle blocker Bekka Allick was named the Big Ten freshman of the week on Monday. 

The Waverly graduate recorded 15 kills on a .481 hitting percentage to go with eight blocks, four digs and an ace last week in sweeps over Penn State and Northwestern. 

McCUTCHEN TO STEP DOWN — Minnesota coach Hugh McCutcheon announced Monday night that he would step down at the end of the season. 

McCutcheon went 265-71 in 11 years and led the Gophers to final four appearances in 2015, 2016 and 2019. In addition, Minnesota won Big Ten titles in 2015 and 2018. He also led the United States men’s national team to a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics and the women’s national team to a silver medal in 2012. 

Cook said he was surprised by the news and hoped the best for McCutcheon. 

“He’s a Hall of Fame coach,” Cook said. “Minnesota is a great program. It is a top-five program. Their teams are fun to play. They run really fast and you always learn something when you play them. The guy’s one of the best.”

Stagnant Huskers Finally Find Groove

By Lincoln Arneal

John Cook thinks Sunday afternoons should be for football, walks and staying home. 

For the third time this season, Nebraska had a working day on Sunday and fought through periods of low energy and a muted crowd of 8,175. 

The third-ranked Huskers (16-1, 8-0 Big Ten) played well enough at the end of sets to stave off Northwestern 25-23, 25-16, 25-18 at the Devaney Center. 

Cook said the crowd helped NU finish off the first set after it was tied at 23-all, but the Huskers lacked the intensity compared to Friday night’s sweep against rival Penn State. 

“Our crowd was really quiet today, which I’m not blaming them but our team does feed off our crowd,” the Nebraska coach said. “Sunday afternoon matches are just kind of weird for everybody.”

Senior Madi Kubik said winning matches in the Big Ten when they aren’t playing their best is a big confidence boost. 

“It’s hard to play great every single day,” she said. “What I’m really proud of our group for doing is just kind of leaning into that weirdness and the uncomfiness at the beginning of the match and just leaning on each other and bringing our own energy and finding a way to play a little bit better as we went along.”

The Huskers struggled out of the gate as Northwestern (13-7, 2-6) took a 9-6 lead. NU tied up the set twice but didn’t take the lead until a 4-0 run made it 20-18. However, the Wildcats weren’t finished as they battled back for a deuce at 23-all before Whitney Lauenstein and Kubik hammered kills to end the set. 

NU appeared on its way to an easy second set as it staked an 11-5 lead, but the Wildcats climbed back to 15-13. However, the Huskers regrouped and won 10 of the next 13 rallies. 

While the pin hitters were playing well, the Huskers’ middle blockers were largely absent during the first two sets as they combined for just four kills on 13 attacks. The NU setters made it a point to feed them in the third set, and Bekka Allick and Kaitlyn Hord delivered with six and three kills, respectively. The Huskers hit .333 in the third set, their best frame of the match. 

Allick finished with a .571 hitting percentage, her fourth straight match above .385. The 6-foot-4 freshman tied her season-high nine kills for the third time. 

“We just started pumping her a little bit more and she was dominating,” setter Nicklin Hames said. “In the middle of a play, she was yelling at me to set her, so I was like, ‘OK.’ And she got kills every time. She just brings a lot of energy and she’s such a competitor. She’s really fun to play with and she brought it today and helped us out a lot.”

The Huskers hit .296 with a balanced offense as Kubik and Lauenstein also finished with nine kills while Ally Batenhorst added eight. NU’s other two attackers – Lindsay Krause and Hord – recorded six and four kills, respectively. 

Hames finished with 23 assists, while junior Anni Evans recorded 16. Cook said they settled in after starting a little erratic and got into a great groove by the third set. 

“I think that wears teams down,” he said about the two-setter system. “In a 6-2, you gotta defend antenna to antenna the whole way with three hitters that are all pretty good hitters.”

While the pin hitters finished with 20-23 attacks, Hord received just eight sets. She made the most of them, terminating on half of her swings. The Lexington, Kentucky, native also led NU with five blocks. 

Northwestern finished with a .195 hitting percentage, the third-highest by a Husker opponent this season. The Wildcats ran a much quicker offense than Friday’s opponent, Penn State. As a result, they tipped the ball more, which Nebraska sometimes struggled to defend. 

Kathryn Randorf led Northwestern with 11 kills and Hanna Lesiak added nine. 

Temi Thomas-Ailara entered the match third in the Big Ten with 3.96 kills per set but finished with eight kills on a .162 hitting percentage and didn’t record a kill in the second set. 

“We know that she is a very aggressive hitter and she could be very dominant if we didn’t pay close attention to her,” said Kubik, who led NU with 12 digs. “I’m really proud of our game plan and the way we executed that coming out with what she ended up with.”