Nebraska volleyball is still as dominant as ever but their roster looks a little different this year; there is not a single senior on the roster.
After being runner-ups in the 2018 NCAA National Championship game and losing one of the greatest outside hitters in Nebraska history, Mikaela Foecke, strong leadership would be necessary.
Head coach John Cook knew exactly who he would want to choose as captains for the 2019 team: junior middle-blocker Lauren Stivrins and sophomore setter Nicklin Hames.
Cook was confident in what they could do for the team. He says Stivrins reminded him of former Husker setter Kelly Hunter.
“I think she has a whole other level of leadership, both her and Nicklin [Hames], that will continue to develop and these are the times they can work on it,” said Cook. “Kelly Hunter was the same way, it just takes them a while to adjust and grow up.”
Cook and Stivrins have been working on developing her leadership for the team to become captain since January, following last year’s NCAA tournament. Filling the big shoes of Foecke, the former All-American middle-blocker, could be a daunting role to step into, but Stivrins seems to welcome it.
Her fiery spirit has helped rally the team in times when they need it most. Like in the fifth set in the game against Minnesota on Nov. 22. She gave a very emotional speech in the huddle prior to the fifth set and fired up the team to then take Minnesota 15-3, and the Huskers won the match 3-2.
“She was talking from her heart,” Cook said. “You could just see our team was glued to her, that is something I want to show her because I think that should really validate all of the work she has done this year and our team really believes in her.”
Stivrin’s co-captain Hames seems to be the team’s hype-woman. Hames is one of the younger captains in the history of Nebraska, but she knows exactly how to pump up her team.
Cook is pleased with Hames and her knowledge of the game. And with her ability to read the floor and get the ball to every hitter on the team, the team statistics are fairly even across each player.
“Technically she is much better this year,” said Cook. “This year she is running an offense. I think she is elevated in every area and she understands game plans.”
Nebraska is currently fifth in the Big Ten in assist per set, 12.80, and Hames is 43 sets away from 1200 career sets in two seasons.
“She has just grown as a player and a leader.”
Hames has accounted for 101 of Nebraska’s 1825 points this season while averaging 10.28 assists per set. She has the second-highest service aces (21) right behind outside-hitter Lexi Sun with 24.
Going into the tournament this week, the youth of the team may hinder Nebraska but Cook said the team knows how they need to play to finish off the season and get started in the tournament. Before the final week of the regular season, Cook said his team will be ready.
“I think especially for our young players they’ve got a feel for the kind of level we’ve got to go to now, this week and next week going into the tournament,” said Cook.