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Back in the starting lineup, Lexi Sun opens up about 'challenging, but also one of the best seasons' for her

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Illinois vs. Nebraska, 10.16

Nebraska players celebrates a kill by Lexi Sun (11) in the third set against Illinois on Oct. 16 at the Devaney Sports Center.

For now, Lexi Sun appears to be back in the starting lineup for the Nebraska volleyball team.

That wasn’t the case for about seven weeks. Sun was healthy, she just wasn’t chosen when coach John Cook picked two outside hitters from a group of three that had played to start the season.

Sun returned to the lineup last week, and had one of her best matches of the season with 11 kills and only one hitting error for a .303 hitting percentage in a win against Illinois.

Two days later, she seven kills and hit .174 in a loss at Ohio State.

Earlier in the season, both Ally Batenhorst and Sun played at outside hitter, where Madi Kubik is the other starter. But when Cook made the decision that the Huskers needed to settle on a lineup when Big Ten play began, Sun was the player left out.

That was a surprise to some people because Sun is a two-time All-American, but she hadn’t played at that level to start this season.

On Thursday, Sun opened up about losing a starting spot, and what she did to try and get back in the lineup.

Batenhorst left the door open for Sun to get another chance when Batenhorst went several matches without hitting above .100. And about the same time, Sun had turned it up in practice.

Recently Cook said Sun looked like she was "on a mission."

“She just comes in and gets after it every day,” Cook said. “That’s been a challenge for her in the past. I think she senses that we’re getting down to the end of her super-senior year and she wants to be on the court and have an impact.”

Sun agrees with Cook that’s she on a mission. She’s taking care to not "go through the motions" and thinking about what she sees from the opponent on the court, and what she needs to do to get kills.

“I think I’ve been trying to be super-intentional and really going for it when I’m playing, and in practice,” Sun said. “That’s kind of something we’ve been working on as a team. That’s something I’m trying to take ownership of.”

This is Sun’s final season of college volleyball. Nebraska hosts Maryland on Friday, and after that the Huskers only have two more regular-season home matches.

“I would say the biggest thing for me now is just being really grateful for every opportunity that I do have to play and be out there with the girls and to play in a full Bob Devaney Sports Center, because it’s almost over for me,” Sun said.

Sun has experienced a lot in five years — transferring from Texas after one season, playing in the national championship match in her first season at Nebraska, becoming an All-American in her third college season — and has experienced something different this season when she went from Nebraska's leader in kills the previous two seasons to the bench.

“Honestly, I could say this has been the most challenging, but also one of the best seasons for me just because I’ve been able to take a new perspective and really just learn how to be a good teammate and (supportive) no matter what role that is,” Sun said. “I think a lot of the time I talk about how there is more to life than just volleyball. And I think that’s really put that to the test this season for me.”

Sun tried to remain supportive when she wasn’t playing as much.

“It was a new position for me to be in, so I think at first it was really hard,” Sun said. “But just sticking with it and not losing hope in just the player I can be and how I can help this team on and off the court.”

This season when the team added some talented freshmen, Sun knew she’d have more competition to play.

“The best players play,” Cook said. “We gave everybody an opportunity in nonconference. We kept mixing up lineups and they all had opportunities and we went with what we wanted. And now we’re adjusted. It’s a long season and this year we do have some other players that can play, so it’s been good.”

Now the No. 11-ranked Huskers could really use Sun to produce. Nebraska needs Sun to recapture the moments when she’s been at the best during her career.

“Lexi is like a great baseball hitter,” Cook said. “They got power, they can go singles, and they can bunt. When she’s doing all of those things it makes her hard to defend. If she’s just doing the same shot over and over, she’s easy to defend. So having her have all of those different looks, that’s what her skill is.”

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


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Husker volleyball/women's basketball 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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