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Nebraska setter Hunter Atherton is planning to transfer to a different program, coach John Cook said in a news release on Thursday.

Atherton, a sophomore-to-be from Prospect, Ohio, was the backup setter for most of the 2017 national championship season. She was the starter for the first two matches of the season when Kelly Hunter was injured. Atherton finished the season with 137 assists, 13 ace serves and 46 digs.

Atherton graduated from high school early and joined the Huskers for the spring season in 2016. She redshirted her first season at Nebraska.

“I want to thank Hunter for her contributions to our team this season, which included setting two very tough matches in her first career college action to start the season for us, and also playing a key role as a serving sub throughout the season, especially during big moments of the Final Four,” Cook said in a news release. “I wish her all the best as she moves forward in her career.”

Hunter has used up her eligibility. Atherton would have been the only setter on the roster for the spring season, but would have been in a competition with incoming freshman Nicklin Hames to be the starter for the 2018 season.

“I really love our team, and they are an amazing group of individuals. I will miss them more than anything,” Atherton said in a news release. “I have made some of my best friends at Nebraska and I will forever be grateful for that. I also want to thank our fans for their support. Being able to experience this has been life changing, and I want to thank all the fans for everything they do for the program.”

None of the four incoming freshmen are graduating from high school early to join the Huskers next week for the spring semester.

Cook said on Thursday evening that he does not plan to add a transfer setter for the second semester.

The Huskers could still add a transfer before the start of next season who would be eligible to play in 2018. Prior to the 2013 season, the Huskers added transfer setter Mary Pollmiller, and she played right away and started two seasons.

Cook said he wasn’t ready to announce who the Huskers will play at setter for the spring season. In recent years Nebraska has only played one spring match and focused more on the beach volleyball season.

When Hunter was injured, assistant coach Kayla Banwarth did some setting during practice.

In an interview in November, after the incoming recruiting class signed, Cook said Hames could be a great college setter.

“She has great location, she has a great volleyball mind, she is one heck of a competitor,” Cook said. “She’s kind of a combination of Lauren Cook and Kelly Hunter.”

Hames, from Knoxville, Tennessee, is the No. 4-ranked overall player in the 2018 class and the No. 1 setter according to PrepVolleyball.com. Last month she played in the Under Armour High School All-American match in Kansas City, Missouri, during Final Four weekend.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.

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Sports reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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