Opinion by Lincoln Arneal
Now comes the tough part.
Following the Red-White scrimmage on Saturday night, Nebraska coach John Cook said he would go back and look at the stats from the first two weeks of practices and the scrimmage to help determine who will open the season on the court against Utah State on Friday.
The good news is Nebraska has plenty of depth, and if someone is having an off-night, the Huskers will have options. Cook said the determining factor is who is the best at passing and serving. He will crunch all the numbers and drills run in practice to figure out the best lineup.
Since we don’t have all that data, we can only rely on what we’ve seen in the scrimmage and short sessions of practice. Based on available information, my starting lineup for the first match of the season would be as follows: setter Bergen Reilly, outside hitters Harper Murray and Lindsay Krause, middle blockers Bekka Allick and Andi Jackson, opposite Merritt Beason and libero Lexi Rodriguez. Laney Choboy will play the back row for Krause.
Reilly is just steady running the offense. She will make mistakes as a freshman, but you know what you’ll get from her, and Cook said she was one of the best servers on the team this week. Kennedi Orr can do some impressive athletic feats on the court, but Reilly’s consistency sets her apart. Cook also cited Reilly as the best server through the first two weeks, as we saw that with a pair of aces to end the match.
Murray is a difference-maker and lethal from the front and back row. She hits angles that few outsides can match. She should be in discussions for national freshman of the year. Krause fought through some challenging moments but showed determination. If she can keep swinging hard, she gets the nod over Ally Batenhorst. It wouldn’t be surprising to see them both get starts during the first weekend. Batenhorst hits shots that few can match, but that ambition can also bite back. Cook could ride the hot hand, but Krause’s grit and pure power get her the nod. She was a workhorse in the scrimmage and helped fuel a big White team rally in the fourth set. Kubik more than proved her talent in the scrimmage but is still a notch behind the other three.
Beason is another steady presence with quite a few nifty kills out of the back row. She hit into the block a few too many times during the scrimmage, but her passing and leadership get her the top spot. Caroline Jurevicius showed glimpses of greatness, but she will benefit from learning from Beason and others this year.
Allick is another bulldog who can change the game with her physical presence. She’s still searching for that timing with her setter, but when Allick is on, she’s unstoppable. Jackson’s athleticism is going to be tough to keep off the court. As she grows and learns more nuances of the game, she will emerge as a threat on both sides of the net. Mendelson is more than capable of holding her own against Big Ten competition but lacks the explosiveness of the other two.
Lexi is Lexi and will do something amazing each match, and Choboy is another who will quickly win over fans with her hustle. Those two will provide the backbone of the defense and give opposing hitters fits.
No matter who starts, if they match the fight put up in the intrasquad scrimmage, this year promises to be a fun ride.
“These guys want to win in the worst way,” Cook said. “That’s why they’re so much fun to be around. They want to win. It doesn’t matter what drill it is. What day it is. They want to win. You saw a great example tonight.”