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St. Mary's vs. Nebraska volleyball, 9/2/17

Nebraska's Hunter Atherton sets the ball during the Ameritas Players Challenge final against St. Mary's at the Devaney Sports Center on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017.

The Nebraska volleyball spring road show won’t be leaving the garage this spring.

Most years in April the Huskers have headed out and played one spring match somewhere outside of Lincoln, with Kearney, Ogallala, Grand Island and Wayne being some of the recent destinations.

But because the Huskers don’t have any returning setters on the roster, the Huskers won’t be playing against another college team during the spring season, coach John Cook said.

Kelly Hunter was the Huskers’ setter last season, but she’s used up her eligibility, and due to NCAA rules can’t play in a public spring match. Hunter Atherton, the Huskers’ backup last season, plans to transfer to a new program and isn’t training with the Huskers this spring.

Once summer comes, freshman setter Nicklin Hames will arrive. She may end up being the starter for the 2018 season, but the Huskers probably will add a transfer setter so there are at least two setters on the roster.

The good news is that Hunter is still enrolled at UNL, can practice with the team during the spring season, and has agreed to do so.

Assistant coach Kayla Banwarth played setter in practice last preseason, and may do so again so the Huskers can still scrimmage.

Nebraska has several freshmen who didn’t get to play a lot during the Huskers’ national championship season in 2017. While Cook enjoys taking the team on the road in the spring to give fans access to the Huskers that they can’t always get in the fall, he’s excited that the team will be able to spend a lot of time in the gym training this spring.

“I love it,” Cook said. “We got a lot of kids that we need to train and really break things down. It will be a really nice training block.”

The practice will also be good for Hunter because after school is over, she plans to go train with the U.S. national team in California. Next fall she’ll try to find a professional team to play with overseas.

Annika Albrecht also plans to train with the national team this summer, but she’ll do so as a libero, and not as an outside hitter like she was last season. She also hopes to play pro volleyball.

Search on for new assistant: Cook is busy in his search for a new assistant coach after Tyler Hildebrand recently resigned to work with USA Volleyball helping to lead its beach volleyball teams.

Cook was disappointed with the news because he’d asked Hildebrand for a three-year commitment, and he only got one. But Cook said this was a unique situation because it’s a new position, and Hildebrand isn't leaving for another college job.

The timing wasn't good either, Cook said, because many of the top college programs have hired assistant coaches since January who aren’t likely to leave again right away.

But shortly after Hildebrand’s resignation became public Cook had already done two interviews, including traveling to meet with a candidate. Cook said candidates will include coaches who he spoke with during the previous times he’s hired assistants in recent years, and new candidates.

He’d like to find someone who could handle Hildebrand’s duties, which included being the defensive coordinator, coaching the middle blockers and coaching the Huskers’ beach volleyball team.

Cook said he’s looking for somebody who really wants to be at Nebraska, and a coach who will do whatever it takes for that to happen.

“I want somebody that wants to bleed Husker,” Cook said. “Kayla bleeds Husker. I’m not saying Tyler didn’t, but I want to find somebody who does.”

Hildebrand will still be with the program through the end of the beach season.

Briefly

* One head coach traded one Big Ten Conference school for another during the offseason. Steve Aird is now the head coach at Indiana. He was the head coach at Maryland the past four seasons, and was an assistant coach at Penn State before that.

* Ex-Husker Megan Pendergast made a move in the offseason, going from being an assistant coach at Tulsa to an assistant at Oklahoma. She played at Nebraska in 2009 and ’10,  before finishing her playing career at Texas A&M.

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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