By Lincoln Arneal
The Nebraska volleyball gym is getting an Olympic-level boost.
A few days after helping the United States national team qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, 2020 gold medalist Jordan Larson joined the Huskers in person as an assistant coach on Tuesday.
NU coach John Cook said he was fired up to add Larson to his staff full-time. They announced the move in early June. However, she’s spent most of her time playing and training with the national team since then. Cook said Larson’s vast accomplishments, insights and desire to help the Huskers will benefit everyone in the program.
“That energy is contagious and I’m excited to be around somebody that’s really passionate about Nebraska volleyball,” he said. “It’s just going to help build our energy, build our culture, all those things and she’s got a lot of wisdom to tap into. She’s got experiences none of us have.”
While she hasn’t been doing a lot of hands-on coaching, Cook said Larson’s role as the elder statesman with the national team will help her adjust back to the sidelines.
Even though she started working with NU players and coaches during the summer, all the work was done remotely through Zoom or Volleymetrics. Larson participated in recruiting calls and worked with the outside hitters, leaving digital notes on the film.
Cook didn’t know how he planned to utilize Larson – they were slated to talk on Tuesday after media availability – and make her feel comfortable, but he was excited to add her to the staff.
“This is gonna be a work in progress, how to incorporate her back in,” he said. “The good news is she’s been staying in touch via Zoom wherever she’s been in the world, so the players have a connection with her.”
Cook said outside hitter Lindsay Krause is back to 100 percent following a car accident almost two weeks ago. The 6-foot-4 junior did not suit up for the Kentucky match, but while Krause was dressed for the opening weekend of Big Ten games, she did not play.
In Krause’s place, junior outside hitter Ally Batenhorst started the matches against Ohio State and Minnesota. She contributed in different ways during the first two league matches. Against the Buckeyes, she recorded a career-high seven blocks but hit negative for the match. Cook said she was on the receiving end of “some tough sets.”
“She put on a blocking clinic like I’ve never seen from a left-side blocker, so that was huge, even though she didn’t hit very well,” he said.
Against Minnesota, Batenhorst put up 12 kills on a .333 hitting percentage and didn’t commit a hitting error until midway through the third set. Cook also praised her passing.
Now, with both Kraue and the 6-5 Batenhorst healthy and available, playing time will be determined by practice performance.
“Those guys are competing, as are some other positions,” Cook said.
The second-ranked Huskers will take their first Big Ten road trip this weekend playing in front of sellout crowds at Purdue and Indiana.
While the Huskers have played matches against ranked competition, they haven’t played matches in front of too many hostile crowds with just two road matches.
Cook said his job this week is to prepare the team to play tough competition in rowdy environments.
The best point of comparison the Huskers have is their sweep against Kansas State in front of 3,044 fans in the Morgan Family Arena. That should give the Huskers a taste of what is to come playing in Purdue’s Holloway Gymnasium, which has a capacity of 2,288, and IUs’ Wilkinson Hall, which seats more than 3,000.
“Kansas State gave us the best feel for that because we’re actually playing in two small gyms like K-State,” he said. “That worked out well for us. We’ve already got experience doing that so we can refer back to that and it’s just getting them the mindset of going on the road.”