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'Nicklin is as tough of an athlete as I’ve ever been around': Hames leads Huskers into second half of Big Ten season
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'Nicklin is as tough of an athlete as I’ve ever been around': Hames leads Huskers into second half of Big Ten season

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Nebraska setter Nicklin Hames was a game-time decision for the team's match against Indiana last week.

She was ill, and missed practice. There was discussion that she could sit out against Indiana and play the following night at Purdue.

Bottom line: Hames wanted to play, and she did.

“I love this game, and I love this team,” Hames said. “I felt like I owed them to go out there and give it my all and try my hardest.”

Hames led the Huskers to a four-set win against Indiana on Friday, but, 24 hours later, Nebraska's offense committed too many errors and dropped its second Big Ten match of the season to Purdue.

This week, Hames leads the eighth-ranked Huskers into the second half of the Big Ten Conference season, beginning with home matches against Rutgers on Friday and No. 7 Penn State on Saturday.

Wisconsin is rolling in the Big Ten with an 11-0 record, even winning two matches when All-America middle blocker Dana Rettke was out with a foot injury. So if Nebraska has hopes to contend for a Big Ten title, it will have little margin of error in its remaining 10 league matches.

The Huskers will get another shot against Wisconsin on Nov. 24, and the Badgers also have matches remaining against Minnesota and Penn State.

Nebraska (16-3, 8-2 Big Ten) is in fourth place in the Big Ten standings.

Hames wants the Huskers to go to the next level in the second half of the Big Ten season.

“I think just going out there and dominating,” Hames said. “Because in spurts we do really well, and then in other spurts we don’t. We make a lot of errors, and service errors and just give the other teams easy points.”

Hames, along with the consistent hitting of Lauren Stivrins and Lexi Sun — and the improved play of freshman outside hitter Madi Kubik — has the Nebraska offense operating at a higher level over the past few weeks. Nebraska’s hitting percentage during the nonconference season was .235, but the Huskers have improved to .279 within the conference.

Nebraska coach John Cook wasn’t surprised that Hames wanted to play last week.

“She was really sick all week,” Cook said. “She’s tough. Nicklin is as tough of an athlete as I’ve ever been around. Almost to the point of where she almost pushes it too hard.”

Winning streak: Joining the Big Ten Conference in 2014 hasn’t been easy for the Rutgers volleyball program, but the Scarlet Knights come to Lincoln with a better feeling after winning their last match against Northwestern. Before that, Rutgers had lost 80 consecutive league matches over four seasons.

When Rutgers joined the Big Ten, it was using only eight scholarships, four under the limit, but now the Scarlet Knights are using all 12.

“This is not an easy conference to try and build a program,” Cook said. “I think they’re slowly working at it, and they’re supporting it.”

Players traveling to New York: The volleyball program is sending four representatives — players Chen Abramovich and Emma Gabel and graduate managers Joby Ramos and Kelly Hunter — to New York for the funeral of Dane Leclair on Friday. Leclair, who was a graduate manager for the Huskers this year, died on Sunday. Ramos was Leclair’s roommate.

Zuhn is top backup: With Capri Davis not with the team due to a medical leave of absence, freshman Riley Zuhn is now the top backup at outside hitter.

“I have total confidence (in Zuhn),” Cook said. “I’ve been looking for opportunities to get Riley in games. I was really going to try and do that in the second half (of the season), so this will give her a little more opportunity to do that. She’s been doing really well.”

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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