NU Volleyball, 9.21

Nebraska’s Hayley Densberger bumps during a game against Wichita State on Saturday at the Devaney Sports Center. 

This season for the Nebraska volleyball team there is only one player from the state, junior defensive specialist Hayley Densberger from Malcolm, who plays.

Freshmen Emma Gabel from Lincoln and Fallon Stutheit from Johnson are also on the team.

But many of the best teams in program history have had in-state players. And in a few years Nebraska may again have several in-state players playing when recruits such as Kalynn Meyer (Superior) and Lindsay Krause (Omaha Skutt) join the Huskers.

Several of Nebraska’s All-Americans are from the state, including Kelly Hunter (Papillion), Jordan Larson (Hooper) and Laura Pilakowski (Columbus). Of Nebraska’s 45 players to earn All-American honors, 17 were from Nebraska.

Nebraska coach John Cook was asked on Tuesday during the Nebraska volleyball radio show on the Husker Sports Network why he thinks so many high-level female athletes have come from the state, and how that has helped the women’s sports teams at Nebraska be successful.

Cook thinks the number of multi-sport athletes in the state has helped the athletes develop, but said that that many boys in the state also play multiple sports. Many of players probably have parents that were good athletes, Cook said.

Cook also thinks that it helps that girls in Nebraska have grown up watching Nebraska sports. In some areas of the country, women’s sports aren’t something that athletes are exposed to from a young age.

“They grow up with Husker volleyball, Husker basketball. So I think girls here are dreaming big," Cook said.

It also helps that high school sports are so big in the state, Cook said.

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“Volleyball, basketball, softball … girls sports are really big in this state. Really big,” he said. “In fact, I’ve talked to people who have come and watched our state tournament and they’re blown away. They go to state tournaments all over the country and they come and see the state tournament here for volleyball and they’re just blown away. I mean, it’s televised.”

In volleyball, young players benefit from there being great high school and club coaches.

And even if all the good players aren’t able to play for the Huskers, they can go to other colleges. Sabrina Starks from Springfield plays for Pittsburgh, which is ranked No. 3 in the AVCA poll, two spots head of Nebraska. Malcolm graduate Jaela Zimmerman starts for No. 10 Creighton.

“We got good athletes, they dream big, we got great examples for them, and it’s pretty cool,” Cook said. “And I think in volleyball per capita we sign as many Division I players as any state in the country.”

Still hoping for Ireland: During a previous radio show a caller suggested that the Nebraska volleyball team should also travel to Ireland the same week the Nebraska football team will play a game there against Illinois during the 2021 season.

So Cook asked Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos if that was possible, and Moos said he’d work on it.

Right now there are no plans for a volleyball match in Ireland, but Moos also hasn’t said no. And Cook thinks he could get other college teams that would want to make the trip, with Illinois and Pittsburgh interested. Cook even got a surprise text message from the coach at Pittsburgh.

“Their coach texted me," Cook said. "I’m not buddies with him. I’ve met him a couple of times, and he says, ‘Hey, we want to go to Ireland with you guys.’ So get Notre Dame and Boston College and it could be a heck of a tournament over there.

“So the ball is in Bill Moos’ court right now to see what they can do. We have to find a facility, and see how we coordinate that. But it would be epic.”

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


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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