The Volleyball Husker will be back in front of fans for their exhibition game against Kansas at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Neb. Saturday April 23.
The game will be televised on Nebraska Public Media and nebraskapublicmedia.org at 5 p.m. He can also be heard on the Huskers Radio Network.
Here are five stories to watch during the Huskers exhibition game:
1. Kennedi Orr and the smugglers
Second year passer Kennedi Orr might be the most intriguing part of the Huskers’ spring display. With a four-year-old starting setter Nicklin Hames in a new role this season, it’s basically Orr’s job.
Husker Head Coach John Cook said Orr missed the last game of the beach volleyball season, but is back in the gym. He said she was a little late. Orr suffered a serious knee injury in the fall of 2020 before enrolling at Nebraska.
While Orr will likely get a chance to lead Nebraska’s offense on Saturday, it’s hard to say how long she will or can play. And if she spends a lot of time on the court, keep her backhand in mind.
Orr was the No. 1 recruit in the 2021 class by PrepVolleyball.com and has a very high ceiling in Nebraska. Husker fans might get a glimpse of it during the game.
Nicklin Hames’ new role
Hames has announced that she will be taking on a different role in 2022 in her fifth season and will focus on coaching.
What will his role look like during the exhibition match? It is likely that she will be a serving specialist, a defensive specialist and/or the backup setter in the back row. Keep an eye on how it is used, but also be aware of the impact of trying to play so many players and having limited Orr.
Hames’ role won’t be on full display Saturday, but Husker fans will have to get used to her not leading the show.
Cook said after practice on Tuesday he had never seen Hames so happy.
“She’s playing really, really well,” he said. “She is a great leader and I think she is thrilled with her fifth year.”
First outing for freshmen
Nebraska added three freshmen in the offseason: center tackle Bekka Allickoutside hitter Hayden Kubik and passer/defensive specialist Maisie Boesiger.
Cook said he intended for everyone to play on Saturday, including freshmen.
“All three did big jumps and they did the same at the beach,” Cook said. “They started off like they’d never played at the beach before, and then when the beach season was over, they were doing really nice things and the same inside here. But it’s a gymnasium hard to fit in, it takes a while to adapt and they had a great mindset.”
There will likely be some nerves as this is their first match against the Husker Nation, but it’s important for them to learn how to control the nerves and settle in.
The situation of the central blocker Husker
Nebraska’s middle blocker position group is probably as complicated as it gets.
Kayla Caffey submitted a waiver to the NCAA to return for his seventh year of college volleyball. Her waiver was not granted and Cook does not know if she will be available on Saturday because of it.
Callie Schwarzenbach will play against Kansas after announcing in January that she would be moving to Long Beach State. She still has a volleyball scholarship to Nebraska until the end of the semester, so she trained with the team.
Penn State Transfer Kaitlyn Horde is finishing up her undergraduate studies before coming to Nebraska this summer.
The Huskers saw two midfielders leave the program during the offseason, Rylee Gray medically retired and Kalynn Meyer will only focus on athletics.
With position group complications, freshman Bekka Allick will likely get plenty of playing time as she could be one of two midfielders available for exposure. Cook said Allick had made “tremendous progress” across the board.
Cook has previously mentioned that the freshman Maggie Mendelsonwho is not yet on campus, could potentially be used as a middle blocker/opposite hitter hybrid to add depth.
For now, Allick will have a great opportunity to show off in front of his home country on Saturday.
One of Nebraska’s most consistent weaknesses in the 2021 season has been its outside hitters, which have improved toward the high stakes late in the season.
The three holders return to senior Madi Kubik and now in second year Lindsay Krause and Ally Batenhorst. The Huskers also have a big arm in the second year Whitney Lauenstein who played 27 games as a rookie.
First-year student Hayden KubikMadi’s younger sister, will also have the opportunity to show off her skills.
While Krause played opposite last season, Cook isn’t opposed to moving hitters to a different side. However, he has said in the past that Madi and Batenhorst are naturally on the left. So NU would need to find an opposite, potentially Lauenstein, if he wanted to move Krause.
I’ll be interested to see how they use outside hitters and if Krause will have a chance to play on the left side like she did in high school.
With many rosters to include all players, it could be difficult for passers and outside hitters to build chemistry against Kansas.