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Husker Volleyball Time!

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The Red-White Scrimmage is tonight

Maddie Washburn

2021 Red-White Scrimmage
Saturday, August 21 • 6 p.m.
Devaney Center
Lincoln, Neb.

» Stream: Big Ten Network+
» Listen: Huskers Radio Network, Huskers.com, Huskers App
» Live Stats: Huskers.com

The Nebraska volleyball team will hold its annual Red-White Scrimmage this Saturday, Aug. 21 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, with first serve set for 6 p.m. The scrimmage is open to the public, and a limited number of $10 tickets are available for purchase online at Huskers.com/tickets or by phone at (800) 8-BIG-RED. Four hundred fans will receive a 2021 volleyball season poster Saturday at the Devaney Center.

There is so much to be excited for on Nebraska’s volleyball court. First, let’s talk about the past. We just celebrated the United States first gold medal in women’s volleyball with three Huskers on the roster; Jordan Larson, Justine Wong-Orantes and Kelsey Robinson. Larson and Wong-Orantes were chosen to the Tokyo dream team and Larson was the most valuable player in Tokyo. She is also the captain of the Olympic team and the only woman to have earned gold, silver and bronze medals. Those are BIG celebrations.

Thinking about the future, the excitement keeps coming. The #1 recruiting class in the country is on the court in Lincoln, practicing and preparing and by all reports transitioning to college ball well. They are pushing an already talented and experienced core of players, the present, to win starting spots on the court.

Competition makes players better, period. Some are worried about too much talent for too few starting spots, but I disagree. The true competitors won’t leave, they’ll just get better.

I understand first hand, having been involved in one of these competitions for the starting job myself, how urgency can create excellence. I was competing with another setter for the starting job. Back and forth we went, with each of us starting at various points in the season. Our practices were intense. I thought about volleyball all day. Took advantage of quiet moments at home and between classes to work on skills, like my hands or envisioning scenarios against future opponents. I wanted that starting job.

In the end, she won the job but we won state. She went off to play in college and when I got my chance, I earned D-1 scholarship offers myself. I wouldn’t have been nearly the player I ended up being without someone pushing me. It forced us both to be better and therefore elevated the team to new heights.

My point. The immense talent Coach Cook has amassed in Lincoln is not a burden. It isn’t something that must be managed, or massaged, or mitigated. Quite the opposite. Let ‘em sort it out, is the attitude. Think of Nick Saban at Alabama, with a roster full of future 1st round NFL draft picks. Nebraska Volleyball has the same situation: Our bench players would start at pretty much any other school.

Some may shrink from the competition for just six starting spots, but the players you want in your program are the ones who stay, and earn the spot. And when they do, goodness sakes that’s a hackuva forging process for a team. What is facing, say, Penn State when you’ve already faced down the #1 player at your position for weeks on end at practice? Bring it on, Russ Rose.

That said, the position I am most excited to see is who ends up as right side hitter (RH). As we know, Jazz Sweet, who started the last half of the season and through the tournament, graduated and moved on, while Riley Zuhn, starter for a lot of the season until she got hurt and is now medically retired. These two starters from last season leave the position wide open. I think Kalynn Meyer, the 6’3’’ Sophomore, could transition from her traditional middle blocker position well. We saw her a few times last season and she looks the part.

However, and brace yourself here, I think Lexi Sun could be a great, world class RH. Which means, she is not our outside hitter (OH), which is generally considered a team’s #1 offensive player. Lexi is an excellent blocker, so placing her in the path of the opposing teams best attackers is good for NU. As a right side she would pass less, which is not her strength. She would be opposite Nicklin Hames, which makes her a much bigger threat for back row attack, something she does well.

Now, this isn’t a foolproof plan. Based on what we saw of her in previous seasons she would need work on her shots from the right side. During rotation 1 she often hits from the right side during serve receive, which is a rotation Nebraska gets stuck in often because Sun and others aren’t able to terminate the ball. But if Sun can add some right side kills, we are in business.

This, then, opens up the left side position, the #1 offensive asset on the court. Think Foeke, Larson, Robinson. These players get kills. And so, this is an exciting and critical competition!

Your attention goes immediately to the 6’ 4’’ freshman outside hitters Lindsay Krause and Ally Batenhorst. They were the #1 and #2 outside hitter recruits in the country, respectively. They can make an impact this season. Will they develop into Hames’ go-to when we absolutely need a kill? Maybe! See the above paragraph about competition. Let’s see what they can do with fall camp under their belt.

Madi Kubik will continue to improve her game this year. She was very good last season and improved from her freshman campaign, but still has unrealized potential. I think we will consistently see her as a hitter on the left side.

I am tempering my hopes and expectations for Lauren Stivrins. As she recovers from a back injury and surgery there is no way to know what she will look like this season. She will wear the Husker uniform and be an exceptional leader for the team during practice and in the locker room, this we know. Will she lead on the court? Time will tell.

The libero position is full is excitement as well. You know Kenzie Knuckles and Keonilei Akana. New to the Nebraska back court is Lexi Rodriquez. This 5’ 5’’ freshmen is from Illinois and played for one of the best club teams in the country in high school. She was also selected with Batenhorst and Krause to the U20 US World Championship team. The balls that will be dug this season by Knuckles, Akana and Rodriquez are going to change the outcomes of matches. Defense can beat great teams. These three can play great defense.

The scrimmage will be broadcast live on Big Ten Network+ and Huskers Radio Network. Huskers Radio Network will carry the match on HRN radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and AM 590 in Omaha. A live audio stream will be provided at Huskers.com and the Huskers app.