In her third and final season as the starter, Kelly Hunter is considered the best setter in the Big Ten Conference. And in her only season as a starting outside hitter, senior Annika Albrecht is one of the 19 best players in the conference.
Hunter and Albrecht highlighted the Huskers’ selections to the All-Big Ten volleyball teams, which were announced Tuesday. There were plenty of awards to go around for the Huskers, with almost all of Nebraska’s regular starters getting an award.
Junior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke, Hunter and Albrecht made the All-Big Ten team. Foecke and Hunter were among the 10 unanimous selections.
Senior middle blocker Briana Holman earned honorable mention honors. Right-side hitter Jazz Sweet and middle blocker Lauren Stivrins were named to the all-freshman team.
Nebraska’s John Cook was named the coach of the year in a vote of the league coaches. Senior defensive specialist Sydney Townsend is the Huskers’ sportsmanship award honoree.
After missing the first two matches of the season with an injury, Hunter came back to lead the Huskers to 26 wins in the final 28 regular-season matches with 10.74 assists and 2.62 digs per set. Hunter has a team-high 12 double-doubles this season, and has climbed to third in career assists at NU with 3,891. A three-year team captain, Hunter is the Huskers' first-ever Big Ten setter of the year since the award was established in 2012.
There were three setters on the All-Big Ten team, including Minnesota’s Samantha Seliger-Swenson, who was the setter of the year last season. Setter of the year is one of the four major awards, along with player of the year, defensive player of the year and freshman of the year.
“I am extremely honored to be the Big Ten setter of the year in a conference that has some amazing setters," Hunter said in a statement. "I feel like that award could have gone to a handful of players, so I am humbled that the coaches hold me in that regard. I am so thankful that I get to play with so many talented hitters that make my job easier every day. Coach Cook has been such a great mentor for me throughout my career, and I also owe a thank you to the all the assistants who have helped me throughout my Husker career.”
Albrecht has had a breakout season as a six-rotation outside hitter to earn her first All-Big Ten honor. She had been a defensive sub her first three years on the team. Albrecht is one of the Huskers' most versatile weapons with 2.98 kills and 2.77 digs per set along with 28 ace serves. Albrecht was the AVCA player of the week, espnW Player of the Week and Big Ten player of the week on Sept. 26 after having a career-high 19 kills in a sweep at Penn State.
While Albrcht's success as an outside hitter, despite being just 6-feet tall, comes as a surprise to some, Cook expected her to be successful this season.
“She’s been waiting all offseason and summer for this,” Cook said. “I think she’s really embraced the opportunity and she does a lot of things for us and I think she’s been waiting three years for this opportunity. She’s enjoying it and she’s embracing it and she’s a really good volleyball player.”
Foecke earned her first career All-Big Ten selection after receiving honorable mention honors last year. The West Point, Iowa, native has produced all over the court for the Huskers in her first season as a full-time six-rotation player. Foecke leads NU in kills with 3.50 per set and adds 2.23 digs per set. She leads the team in ace serves with 33. Foecke has sparked Nebraska's current 13-match win streak, posting double-digit kills in 10 of the 13 wins and averaging 4.02 kills per set with a .391 hitting percentage.
Holman, a middle blocker from DeSoto, Texas, received honorable mention honors after leading the Huskers in the middle with 2.42 kills and a team-high 1.12 blocks per set with a team-best .354 hitting percentage.
Stivrins earned all-freshman team accolades as a redshirt freshman after posting 2.10 kills and 0.98 blocks per set in her first year on the court. She was joined by Sweet, a true freshman who came in and immediately made an impact with 2.21 kills per set.
Cook was a repeat winner as coach of the year by the coaches. Penn State’s Russ Rose was the coach of the year by the media. Nebraska and Penn State were co-champions of the league this year, each finishing with a record of 19-1.
Cook guided the Huskers to a second straight league title with seven freshmen on the roster and replacing three All-Americans from last year's Big Ten champion and NCAA Final Four team. NU has won 12 conference titles in Cook’s 18 seasons, and he holds the nation's best winning percentage (.884) since 2000.