By Lincoln Arneal
Nebraska might be without Nicklin Hames this weekend.
The senior setter left Tuesday’s match with an injury and NU coach John Cook said he didn’t know how long she would be out of action. However, based on his comments on his weekly radio show, Hames is unlikely to play in the Huskers’ match at No. 13 Kentucky at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“She’s out for right now,” Cook said. “So I don’t know. It’s one of those things. She just needs some rest. Time.”
After starting the season as a defensive specialist, Hames moved back to setting against Loyola Marymount earlier this month. She had started the previous five matches while the Huskers ran a two-setter offense.
Against Stanford on Tuesday, Cook said he noticed Hames’ sets were getting lower and tighter as the match progressed. Finally, with the Huskers leading 20-18 in the third set, Hames told Cook that she was struggling to move and couldn’t continue. Sophomore Kennedi Orr entered the game and helped NU claim the set. She finished with eight sets in her first action in 10 days.
Cook said he was impressed with Orr’s performance after standing around for almost two hours.
“She stepped up and really helped us when we needed it because we could have imploded right then or folded up,” Cook said.
NU will rely on Orr and junior Anni Evans to run the offense with Hames unlikely to play. The Huskers work on both in practice because if they run out of subs in a set, they need to reverse to a 5-1. Cook said they could stick with the 6-2 or go back to a one-setter system depending on how practice goes.
“If one setter can really separate and show that they can be a difference-maker and make all those hitters better, it’s better to always go with a one-setter offense,” Cook said. “If they are both a wash, then it’s better to go with a 6-2. We will see how practice goes tomorrow and the next day and decide. We can flip in and out of either one.”
BATENHORST ON THE MEND
Sophomore outside hitter Ally Batenhorts is getting closer to making a return, but Cook is still uncertain when she will be available.
Batenhorst missed the Red-White scrimmage as a precaution with an abdominal injury. She then left NU’s match against Creighton after reaggravating it and didn’t play in the two subsequent matches.
“She’s slowly coming back,” Cook said. “These soft tissue injuries (need) just rest. So it depends on how long it takes the body to heal, but she’s doing more and more every day.”
While Nebraska makes its first big road trip of the year this weekend, one Huskers player will be making a homecoming.
Senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord will return to Lexington, Kentucky. Hord said she is excited to have some friendly faces in the crowd while playing in her hometown.
Hord first learned Nebraska would be playing on the Wildcats’ home court while she took an official visit there earlier this year. Eventually, the former Penn State All-American committed to the Huskers in January.
“Hopefully all my family comes. I mean, they better come,” she said. “Now they don’t have an excuse not to see me play. So I’m very excited to see some old friends.”
FIXING THE SERVE
On Tuesday, Stanford and Nebraska set a new low for serving futility. The teams combined for 37 errors, which set a Nebraska record for a match during the Cook era. Stanford’s 24 errors were a new high for an NU opponent during that time frame.
Cook was not pleased with the showing, so the Huskers spent even more time working on serving. He calls their serving the most important drill they do every day in practice. He guided them through their pre-serve routine by verbalizing it to a teammate. Cook compared it to shooting a free throw or kicking a field goal and finding a way to develop consistency no matter the score.
“It’s just trying to get them to trust their routine and trust what they’re doing,” Cook said. “Technically we worked on a couple of things today to help some of them out so they’d be more consistent. It’s a fine-tuning process because you’re just always living on the edge. If you serve too tough and it goes out or if you serve too easy, then you’re going to pay for it.
LEAVING THE GOOD LIFE
Sunday’s match at Kentucky will be Nebraska’s first time leaving the state, but not its first away match.
The Huskers’ only match outside the Devaney Center this year was in front of an NCAA-record crowd of 15,979 at the CHI Health Center. While it was officially a Creighton home game, most of the crowd was cheering for NU.
Both teams enter the match following home losses. The Wildcats (5-3) are coming off a five-set setback to No. 3 Louisville, while Nebraska suffered its first loss of the season against Stanford on Tuesday.
Because of the odd schedule of matches on Tuesday-Sunday, NU altered its regular practice schedule. The Huskers took off Wednesday before returning to the gym on Thursday to prep for their last nonconference game.
“The ante goes up every week, and it goes up more this week,” Cook said. “(Kentucky) will be a great road test for us leading into the Big Ten. They’re a team that’s in the hunt right now.”