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Eleven top-20 national recruits? That’s possible for the Nebraska volleyball team in 2021
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HUSKER VOLLEYBALL

Eleven top-20 national recruits? That’s possible for the Nebraska volleyball team in 2021

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The Nebraska volleyball team's roster almost never ends up as it projects like it could several months out from the season's beginning.

Take last season, when Nebraska didn’t have any seniors on the team, and could have had most of the team back.

That didn’t happen, with Megan Miller, Capri Davis, Anezka Szabo, Chen Abramovich and Fallon Stutheit each transferring in the offseason.

And then Nebraska had some unexpected additions to the roster with graduate transfer Kayla Caffey, a standout middle blocker in the SEC while playing for Missouri, and freshman defensive specialist Keonilei Akana, the Hawaii high school player of the year who previously signed with USC.

But, whew, it’s wild to look ahead and think about what the Huskers’ roster could be in the fall of 2021, even if you know the odds aren’t good that it will look exactly like that.

Before then the Huskers are hoping to play in Big Ten matches and in a rescheduled NCAA Tournament sometime after January. That’s because the 2020 season was postponed from its regular slot in the fall due to COVID-19.

But the NCAA has already decided that fall sport athletes will maintain their currently eligibility for next season, meaning that seniors may have the option to come back in the fall of 2021 if the Nebraska Athletic Department allows it.

So Husker seniors Lauren Stivrins, Lexi Sun, Jazz Sweet and Hayley Desnberger could each return, although it’s unlikely that all four will.

And then a roster already loaded with several of the nation’s best players would be joined by what is projected to be the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country.

According to the rankings by Prepvolleyball.com, each of the nation’s top-three recruits in the 2021 class will be Huskers: Kennedi Orr (setter from Eagan, Minnesota), Lindsay Krause (outside hitter from Omaha Skutt) and Ally Batenhorst (outside hitter from Katy, Texas).

The other players in the recruiting class are Lexi Rodriguez (libero from Sterling, Illinois), Whitney Lauenstein (outside hitter from Waverly) and Rylee Gray (middle blocker from Elkhorn South).

So if the seniors stay, none of the underclassman transfer, and all of the high school seniors maintain their current recruiting ranking, Nebraska would have 11 top-20 national recruits on its roster in fall 2021: Sun, Orr, Krause, Batenhorst, Madi Kubik, Nicklin Hames, Stivrins, Rodriguez, Callie Schwarzenbach, Sweet and Lauenstein.

Nebraska coach John Cook recently said on his monthly podcast — hosted by his daughter, Lauren West, and produced by the Husker Sports Network — that it will be interesting to see how everything shakes out with the roster because of the eligibility changes.

But it’s intriguing to think of how much talent Nebraska could still have on its roster next fall.

“Our practices could be like Big Ten matches,” Cook said.

Cook doesn’t know what Nebraska’s seniors will decide to do.

“I think it’s going to be determined on what kind of spring season we have,” he said.

Stivrins, Sun and Sweet will each probably be weighing options for professional volleyball careers, and would have to remain a college student for 12 months longer than they had planned.

Those decisions could affect how many players Nebraska recruits for future classes. And some high school recruits make college decisions based on what starters will be graduated when they get to college.

“This is going to be roster management nightmares,” Cook said.

Worth quoting: “We had four great practices and then I get a call from (volleyball administrator Pat Logsdon) saying, ‘Hey, you either need to cancel practice or go light.’ I’m like, ‘Pat, we’ve never had a light practice in my entire coaching career. What do you mean light?’” — Cook on the week in August when the Huskers’ season was postponed.

Briefly

* For college conferences that are planning to play in the fall, such as the SEC, teams will play eight matches in the fall, and then resume the season in the spring, which would allow them to play in a rescheduled NCAA Tournament.

* Nebraska stopped practicing when the season was postponed and allowed the players to go home for a few weeks, but is scheduled to resume a limited practice schedule this week, along with normal strength and conditioning workouts.

* Former Nebraska walk-on middle blocker Abby Johnson, who left Nebraska during the first week of practice, has transferred to Bradley, where she’ll have a chance to be on scholarship.

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