By Lincoln Arneal
Whitney Lauenstein announced Tuesday evening that she is stepping away from the Nebraska volleyball team.
The junior opposite hitter announced on her Instagram that she took time between semesters to figure out her future with the sport.
“I have decided to step away from the volleyball team to focus on myself and be with my family and continue to heal due to the passing of my dad,” Lauenstein wrote. “I will miss playing at the (Bob Devaney Center) with my teammates. It will be something I will remember forever, but I think it’s important to put yourself first before you commit to something big!”
NU coach John Cook said he fully supports Lauenstein and her family in the decision and hopes she will find peace and healing.
“There are bigger things in life than volleyball,” he said. “Whit will be missed by everyone involved with our program, especially her Husker teammates and coaches. She will always be a Husker.”
This season, Lauenstein finished the season averaging 2.78 kills and 1.07 blocks per set, both of which were second-best for the Huskers. In addition, she led NU with 28 aces this year.
Lauenstein’s father, Ryan, passed away in early February 2021 during her senior year of high school. She said that also weighed on her decision to put volleyball aside in her final few months of high school at Waverly High.
“Playing volleyball and running track both didn’t give me enough time to really focus on my family,” Lauenstein said to the Lincoln Journal Star that spring. “High school sports, you don’t have to do it 24/7, and with track, there’s not very much on the weekends. It was just too much stress for club volleyball right now to play that on the weekends.
Lauenstein appeared in 27 matches as a freshman, but often only briefly as part of a double-substitute package. She recorded just 67 kills while hitting .130 as she mostly sat behind fellow freshman Lindsay Krause at opposite.
She flashed potential in the spring match against Kansas with 12 kills and eight blocks. During the nonconference schedule, the 6-foot-2 sophomore led Nebraska with 3.60 kills per set with a .325 hitting percentage. The highlight of her season came in the Creighton match when she recorded 25 kills on a .385 hitting percentage leading NU to a five-set victory.
However, opponents started to make kills harder to come by during the second half of the Big Ten season. While she put up big numbers against Northwestern and Iowa, she totaled just 12 kills during the rematch with Iowa and versus Purdue and Wisconsin. She finished the season with 12 kills in NU’s five-set loss to Oregon in the regional semifinals.
Lauenstein’s post said there had been rumors about her status since the end of the season after Florida transfer Merritt Beason announced her commitment to the Huskers on Dec. 23. NU coach John Cook said Nebraska’s roster underwent “adjustments” since the season ended. With Lauenstein’s departure, the Huskers are at the limit of 12 scholarships.
“Thank you everyone for the unconditional love and support,” she wrote. “The Nebraska fan base is unlike any other!”