By Lincoln Arneal
The smack talk started even before the match was official.
When Ally Batenhorst first learned about the possibility of playing her sister, Casey, and SMU earlier this year, she immediately reached out and they shared in the excitement.
However, the joy quickly turned to sibling rivalry.
“I was like, ‘I’m gonna hit you in the face,’” Ally told her sister.
The younger Batenhorst, a sophomore, didn’t like that option. How was she supposed to respond as a setter? So she asked kindly for Ally to avoid any attacks. In Casey’s favor, she has a better scouting report. She knows where Ally likes to receive the ball and what type of shots she hits.
“We both know each other pretty well,” Ally said. “It’s gonna be really competitive.”
The Batenhorsts will meet on Sunday at 2 p.m. when No. 5 Nebraska wraps up the Ameritas Classic against SMU. The Huskers open the season Friday at 6 p.m. at the Devaney Center against 2022 NCAA tournament qualifier Utah State. The Huskers play Lipscomb at 5 p.m. Saturday.
The Huskers have ties to each team coming to Lincoln this weekend.
Utah State coach Rob Neilson was an assistant coach for the BYU men’s team, while NU assistant coach Jaylen Reyes played for the Cougars. Lipscomb freshman middle blocker Brooklyn Fuchs played in high school at Lincoln East and Premier Nebraska volleyball club.
SMU also includes freshman outside hitter Evan Glade, a Millard West graduate who grew up in Grand Island.
Ally Batenhorst said she and Casey have a bunch of family members coming to the match. She has lots of relatives who live in Nebraska. Her mother, Susan, attended Nebraska, and her father, Kurt, played basketball and ran track at Nebraska Wesleyan. Their older sister, Danielle, wrapped up her volleyball career at Gonzaga last year.
Batenhorst said her family will have special split shirts to represent both sisters. They haven’t let Ally see the shirts, but she said they would be “very extra.”
Casey appeared in 10 matches last year for SMU and recorded 78 assists and six aces over 30 sets. The Mustangs return their starter from last year, Celia Cullen, who averaged 10.16 assists per set.
Ally, a junior, is one of four outside hitters vying for action for NU. She started 14 of the 26 matches she played a year ago and averaged 2.33 kills per set.
Being only a grade apart, Ally and Casey grew up playing volleyball together and developed a good connection as a setter and hitter. They helped lead Seven Lakes High School outside Houston to the 6A Texas state title in 2020. Ally was named tournament MVP.
Ally, a 6-foot-5 outside hitter, said she and Casey have a good relationship even when they have a few rough moments on the court.
“With a setter-hitter connection and you’re also siblings, you bicker a little bit when things aren’t going well,” she said. “We grew up together, and we’ve built that relationship, and we bonded really well. We are really excited to see each other. It’s been a while.”