By Lincoln Arneal
When Merritt Beason entered the transfer portal a little more than a week ago, she had no idea what to expect.
What she got was a whirlwind.
In the span of a week, the former Florida Gator talked to 10 schools, visited three campuses and then decided to continue her career at Nebraska. Beason called the NU coaches Friday morning to tell them she was committing to the Huskers.
Upon entering the portal, Nebraska was the first call Beason took. After that, things progressed quickly and by 7:30 a.m. the next day, she was on a flight to Lincoln.
“I didn’t necessarily plan to move that fast,” Beason said. “But as soon as I had that first phone call with them, I knew that Nebraska was going to be one of the places that I wanted to visit. So if that meant tomorrow, or the next day, whatever it may have meant, I knew that I wanted to go.”
During her sprint recruitment, Beason also visited Wisconsin and Auburn before pledging to join the Huskers. She said her No. 1 requirement for her new school was a good relationship with the players and coaches. She felt a great connection during her first call with NU coach John Cook and assistant coach Jaylen Reyes.
In a statement about Beason’s commitment, Cook said Nebraska’s roster underwent “adjustments” since the season ended, which allowed them to recruit the 6-foot-3 opposite hitter.
“She will fill a huge need for our team and her personality on and off the court will create an instant connection with Husker Nation,” Cook said. “‘MB3’ is a true six-rotation player and can do it all.”
While on her official visit, Beason said she felt at peace. She grew up in Gardendale, Alabama, just north of Birmingham, and said Lincoln had a lot of similarities to her hometown. She was also impressed with how much the fans support volleyball.
“Being from the South and going to an SEC school, as you can imagine, it’s very much football based. Everything’s all for football,” Beason said. “Volleyball is such a big thing up there and it’s so supported. I wanted to be a part of that.”
She also tried her hand at roping Cook’s practice steer on her visit – and got it on her first try.
“We knew it was meant to be,” Cook said
Beason also toured the facilities and downtown Lincoln. She talked to the support staff, academic advisors as well as several of the players who were still around campus.
Last summer, Beason was a member of the U21 national team with sophomore middle blocker Bekka Allick and junior Lexi Rodriguez, who was the captain of the U.S. team. They won the Pan Am Cup with Beason earning tournament MVP honors.
Even though she wasn’t thinking about leaving Florida at the time, Beason was impressed with Allick and Rodriguez and how they represented Nebraska.
“They’re just great people all around, on and off the court,” Beason said. “They’re great teammates. They push you to get better, but they’re gonna have your back and you could tell that within our short two weeks that we had together that they want to win.”
Beason will have two seasons of eligibility remaining. She said she will be on scholarship at Nebraska and will start attending classes in January. In a matter of weeks, she will move to Nebraska and move in with outside hitter Lindsay Krause.
Next season, the Huskers will be without graduating senior Madi Kubik, who played every rotation for NU for the past four years. Sophomore Ally Batenhorst also played back-row after NU lost Kenzie Knuckles to an injury in late November.
At Florida, Beason played all six rotations and was a captain. She averaged 3.35 kills per set with a .261 hitting percentage while adding 1.92 digs and 0.88 blocks per set. Beason also led the Gators with 38 aces. In a five-set win against Wisconsin in September, she recorded 21 kills with eight digs, three aces and a pair of blocks.
In addition, Beason served as a captain for the Gators, which reached the regional semifinal this past year before losing to Pittsburgh in four sets.
Even though she played at a high level, Beason said she still has room for growth.
“There’s multiple areas of my game and multiple things I can improve on and continue getting better at,” she said. “I know I’m not playing at my full capacity and full level of ability yet, and I want to at least continue to get closer and closer to that.”
With her move to Nebraska, Beason is excited to compete in the Big Ten and have a chance to play during the final weekend of the season.
“I want to win a national championship,” she said. “So being at a program where that’s the standard – that’s ultimately the goal for next year.”