The good news for the Nebraska volleyball team is that Lauren Stivrins has two more years left to play college volleyball.
And the good news for Stivrins is that when her college playing days are over she’ll probably have options if she wants to play professional volleyball.
Stivrins has athleticism and all-around volleyball skills not always seen from a 6-foot-4 player who plays the middle blocker position, and she’ll probably be able to decide if she wants to continue to play indoor volleyball with a professional team or make a change and become a beach volleyball player.
Playing beach volleyball full time is something that Tyler Hildebrand, a former Nebraska assistant coach who now works with the U.S. beach volleyball teams, previously told Stivrins she should consider after college.
Nebraska also has a beach volleyball team, although they don’t put as much time and resources into the sport. Beach matches begin later this month.
Nebraska coach John Cook can understand why Hildebrand would see the potential for Stivrins to become a good beach volleyball player if she could put a lot of time into it.
“Lauren is a 6-foot-4 player who is coordinated and can pass and play defense and serve, and that’s what you need in beach. A lot of these middles never serve,” Cook said. “When you see a girl who is 6-4 and can do all of that, and coordinated and athletic, that’s what you got to do on the beach. Because the beach is only two people. You can’t hide.
“I think she’d be a great beach player. I also think she could be a great indoor player, too, for a pro team or the national team.”
Stivrins wows the Nebraska fans with her athleticism when she sprints outside on a slide attack, elevates and smashes down a kill to parts of the court where the defense has little chance of being able to dig it.
She'll be a junior for the 2019 season. Nebraska currently only has one player on the team who will be a senior in 2019 in backup setter Mari Kurkova, so Stivrins will be a team leader for the next two years. Stivrins has already played on one national championship team in 2017, and would have a chance to end her college career in Omaha when the city hosts the NCAA Tournament Final Four in 2020.
Stivrins is focused on college now, but it gives her confidence that Hildebrand thinks she could be a professional beach volleyball player.
“It’s always been something that I’ve kind of wanted to do," said Stivrins, who is from Scottsdale, Arizona. “Tyler is an incredible beach coach, and last year he took my beach game to a whole different level. Hopefully if I can, I’ll go out there (to California) and train with him, but I have a long ways to go before that happens. I’ll probably play indoor for as long as I can and then make the transition over to beach.”
Stivrins made an impressive jump as a sophomore, from not being an all-conference player in 2017 to a first-team All-American in 2018. Nebraska’s last first-team All-American at the middle blocker position was Brooke Delano in 2010.
From 2017 to 2018, Stivrins improved her hitting percentage from .309 to .421, her kills per set average from 2.07 to 2.36 and her blocks per set from 1.02 to 1.17. She also had 25 ace serves. Her hitting percentage was third-best in the nation.
In the national championship match — a five-set loss against Stanford — Stivrins was nearly unstoppable, putting down a career-high 19 kills on just 26 swings.