With Freshmen On Board, NU Dives Into Beach Season

By Lincoln Arneal

The Husker volleyball team has undergone a mini roster makeover in the 50 days since it was last in action. 

Gone are seniors Madi Kubik, Kenzie Knuckles, Kaitlyn Hord and Nicklin Hames since the indoor season ended Dec. 8 in the NCAA regional semifinals. Plus, junior Whitney Lauenstein stepped away from the sport. 

In their place are five incoming freshmen ranked as PrepVolleyball.com’s top-ranked recruiting class and Florida transfer Merritt Beason. 

After more than a month away from campus, the returning Huskers were back in Lincoln last week and began beach practices on Monday. They will have a sprint to get ready for the beach season, which kicks off in less than four weeks on Feb. 24 against Wayne State. 

NU coach John Cook said he’s impressed by the newcomers. The freshmen have arrived in shape coming off their fall seasons and all participated in the Under Armour All-America Game at the end of December. Beason is in her element in the sand having played beach volleyball for three years in high school in Gardendale, Alabama. 

“The five freshmen are way ahead of where we thought they would be,” Cook said. “They’re just good volleyball players. They came in in shape. I can tell you this – they’re way ahead of where our junior class was as freshmen; of course, they were coming off COVID stuff. We were pretty impressed with the first week.”

The one notable omission from the beach roster is Kennedi Orr. Cook said the junior setter will not participate in beach volleyball, instead focusing on indoor season training. 

Orr suffered a minor knee injury midway through the beach season last year on the same knee in which she tore her ACL in September 2020 as a high school senior. 

“We’re just going to keep her out of it. We don’t want to risk it,” Cook said. “She wants to (play), but we’re just doing it as a precaution.”

Orr will also try out for the USA Select Team in May, which includes training sessions and possibly an overseas trip for a tournament. 

FOREIGN TRIP UPCOMING – The Nebraska staff is busy planning its quadrennial foreign trip this summer. This will be the Huskers’ sixth foreign trip. The previous five have been to China or Japan.

While they haven’t finalized any details, they are doing more research into taking a trip to Brazil. Cook said they would likely decide on their destination in the next week or so. 

“We’re still going back and forth, but we’re a little farther along in Brazil right now,” Cook said. “With China, there’s a lot of ‘ifs’ there. They really want us because they haven’t had anybody, but Brazil right now is a little farther ahead in that progress.”

SPRING MATCH ROADSHOW – Nebraska is also working to finalize details for its spring match. Cook said he has a location and opponent in mind. However, Nebraska is still finalizing contracts and figuring out ticket information. The site should be announced in February.

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