Nebraska volleyball opened its 2021 NCAA tournament run with three straight sweeps of Campbell, Florida State and Illinois. Yet after their dominant start to the tournament, no one expected the Huskers to beat No. 2 Texas in its home stadium in Austin.
The Huskers shocked the nation, beating Texas 3-1 and becoming the lowest seed to ever reach the national semifinals. The Huskers punched their ticket to the national championship game after another shocking win over Pittsburgh 3-1 as well. Their miraculous run ended with a 3-2 loss in the national championship game to Wisconsin. While it wasn’t the result it was hoping for, Nebraska remains a regular in the NCAA tournament. Under the direction of coach John Cook, the Huskers have made 10 Final Four appearances in Cook’s 22 years. This, in part, is due to stellar recruiting classes that have landed in the top 10 for the last six years and featured many Nebraska Natives.
In the last two years, five Nebraska natives have joined the Husker squad, including three in 2021’s top ranked recruiting class. This includes PrepVolleyball’s second and third overall recruits of 2021, Lindsay Krause and Whitney Lauenstien. Next fall, Waverly middle blocker Bekka Allick will join Krause and former Waverly teammate Lauenstein in Lincoln as part of the No. 2 recruiting class of 2022. The 2022 Huskers will feature three Waverly players in total, with Anni Evans set to return as well. Throw Kalynn Meyer and 2022 recruit Maisie Boesinger in the mix as well, and the 2022 Huskers might be more Nebraskan than ever.
Waverly head coach Terri Neujahr was shocked to receive an email from Bekka Allick in the summer of 2020, asking for the team’s summer plans since she was transferring from Lincoln North Star. Allcik had already committed to play at Nebraska and still had two more years before graduation. Neujahr was quick to realize that Allick was a special talent.
“She analyzes things on a different level,” Neujahr said, “We’d have these really in-depth conversations about really small technical things that most players don’t get to until college.”
Allick’s processing abilities on the court were so advanced that Neujahr had to change how she coached Allick.
“It was really interesting to coach her because she was thinking on the same level as me.”
Allick was quick to make an impact, and set a Waverly high school record for single match kills with 37. Allick’s play wasn’t the only thing that impressed her new coach. Neujahr described her as one of the most unselfish players she has ever worked with.
“She revels in making people better,” Neujahr said, “She is the biggest celebrator of other kids’ success that I’ve ever seen.”
Allick showed potential as Nebraska’s next great middle blocker in her senior campaign, recording 442 kills, hitting 0.292. She led Waverly to the state semifinals and was named 2021-2022 Gatorade Nebraska Volleyball Player of the Year. She later joined Team USA’s U18 squad, where she was a captain and secured a bronze medal at the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball World Championship in Mexico. Allick will step into a middle blocking role that remains a point of interest for the Huskers going into 2022, with Lauren Stivrins’s graduattion, Callie Schwarzenbach’s transfer to Long Beach State, and Rylee Gray’s medical retirement from the sport. The only returning middle blockers are senior Kayla Caffey and sophomore Kalynn Meyer, a fellow Nebraska native, leaving the position wide open for Allick.
While Allick will have to prove herself next season, she joins another Nebraska native, Krause, who finished high school as the No. 2 recruit in the country, and earned the starting outside hitter spot for the Huskers’ season opener against Colgate. She set the bar high by hitting her personal record of 15 kills against Utah in early September, matching that total less than two weeks later at Northwestern.
“It was a goal of mine as a freshman to come in and make an impact right away, but obviously I couldn’t have done it without my older teammates that were helping me along the way,” Krause Said.
Krause competed in 32 games for the Huskers last season and totaled 267 kills, second to only Madi Kubik’s 412, and 90 total blocks. The Papillon native’s freshman outing ended with 12 kills in the national championship game.
Whether it’s high school or college volleyball, Nebraska is a hub for great play. Some of the greatest Husker players graduated from an in-state high school, including Alison Weston, Kelly Hunter and Jordan Larson. The culture and success of Husker volleyball has an impact on the high school talent of the state. She credits the push for club volleyball in Nebraska, spearheaded by Terri Pettit, as a major factor in raising the level of competition within the state.
“If he [Pettit] would not have done that I don’t think the towns in Nebraska would be where it is right now,” Neujahr said. “But having that avenue to hone your skills and play a bit more volleyball in the high school offseason really helped Nebraska to launch itself as this amazing hotbed of talent for high school women.”
Neujahr served as an assistant coach under Pettit alongside Cook before his promotion to head coach. Neujahr also emphasized the importance of bringing alumni who have gone on to play college volleyball back to show high school and middle school players what can and has been accomplished by athletes from their community. She was, however, lost for words when trying to describe what it’s like to have three former players on the Husker roster at one time.
“Just to have one kid out of you high school program play at a place like Nebraska is just incredible, but to have four and three at the same time,” Neujahr said “It’s kind of surreal and it’s just thrilling at the same time.”
The 2022 Husker volleyball roster is set to feature six Nebraska natives, 40% of the team’s roster space, including Allick who will see her first season with the team in the fall. Krause is currently competing on the Nebraska beach volleyball team. She said her primary focus for the offseason is improving her back row play, with the hopes to become a six-rotation player for the Huskers.
“All through high school and club that’s something I was working towards,” Krause said. “Now that I’ve come here, that’s going to be my main focus, as only being a front row hitter, is getting consistent in my serving and defense to be able to play the back row and be a six rotation player.”