Volleyball Team Names Two Captains for 2023

By Lincoln Arneal

During the Huskers flight back from Rio de Janeiro to Houston, the captain of the plane approached Lexi Rodriguez and Merritt Beason. 

At first, Beason thought she and Rodriguez were in some kind of trouble. Instead, the pilot wanted to congratulate the pair on being selected captains of the Nebraska volleyball team, “from captain to captain.”  

“He was super nice, and it was a cool way to find out for sure,” Beason said Thursday afternoon. 

With no seniors on the roster, NU coach John Cook said he started preparing the team to step up and take on more leadership responsibility. He offered leadership seminars throughout the spring, which everyone attended. To cap off the semester, Cook asked everyone who wanted to be a captain to get up and talk to the team. Eveyone spoke. 

While in Brazil, the team continued to talk about leadership and the responsibility that comes with the title of captain. During one of the trip’s final days, Cook asked anyone who felt they were ready to be captain to address the team. This time, six people made their case. 

During individual meetings with the coaches, all six speakers were brought up. Rodriguez and Beason emerged as consensus picks.

Cook said he was pleased with how the process played out and the team’s interest in leadership roles. 

“It was pretty clear cut that two had a pretty distinct advantage over everybody else,” he said. “The good news was all the other ones got a lot of consideration. So the message to them is, you may not be the captain this year, but you’re showing that you’ve got leadership which is great. Maybe down the road, that will happen and keep working at it. 

“It was an awesome process, and I was blown away by the job they did getting up and talking about how they felt about that. … We’re pretty fired up about how this has gone and that we’re working at it.”

Rodriguez was a captain last season alongside departed seniors Madi Kubik and Kenzie Knuckles. She was also the captain of the U21 national team last summer that won a gold medal at the Pan Am Cup. 

Cook said even though she’s quiet and not the biggest personality, she still significantly impacts everyone else. 

“The world revolves around her on our team,” he said. “She’s kind of the center of everything going on.”

Rodriguez said she is honored to earn the title again and learned how she wanted to lead last year.

“I just want to make sure that my teammates are having fun while they’re playing, but also doing their job,” the All-American libero said. “(I also want to) make sure there’s a good balance and the vibes on the court and off the court are always good.”

Beason was a captain last season for Florida, but in just a matter of months, she built relationships with her new teammates and earned their respect as a leader. She said she had to learn the ins and outs of the program and put the work in during her first semester in Lincoln. 

“I just came in, put my head down, and did what I needed to do,” Beason said. “Ultimately, I focused on those relationships with everyone – the freshman, the newbies, that I was coming in with – and then everyone else. I think it’s definitely a huge honor. I don’t know; it’s pretty surreal. But I would just say I just focused on being myself and just let it all fall into place.”

Cook said Beason’s personality attracts others to her. She is going to be a third-grade teacher, which he said means her mindset isn’t self-centered and she knows how to take care of people.

“They all come to her when something’s not right,” Cook said. “She’s just like the team mom. She’s built great relationships, even though she’s been here a short time.”

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