The 2019 volleyball season has come to an end with the Stanford Cardinal reigning supreme for the third time in the past four years.
For the first time since 2014, the Huskers did not play into the final week of the season, falling just short in the regional final to eventual runner-up Wisconsin. The Huskers finished 28-5 overall including 17-3 in Big Ten play.
This week, Hail Varsity is looking back and looking ahead with a position-by-position breakdown of the 2019 Huskers and the reinforcements on the way. On Thursday, we broke down the pin hitters. Up next is a look at the setters.
Sophomore Nicklin Hames
Nicklin Hames walked into a difficult situation as a freshman as she was tasked with replacing a program legend in Kelly Hunter, and all she did was hit the ground running and lead the Huskers all the way to the national championship match. Hames was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team after guiding the Huskers to a .265 hitting percentage while averaging 10.49 assists per set.
This season, the Huskers got off to a slow start offensively in the nonconference, though their defense was terrific and led the way. Hames told Hail Varsity at the end of the nonconference that she wasn’t happy about where the team’s offense was (.235 hitting) and shouldered the responsibility for that, though she still believed the team could be great in that area.
Then Nebraska flipped a switch in Big Ten play, finishing second in the conference in hitting at .285. Hames was third in assists at 11.37 per set, up from 10.11 in the nonconference. For the season, Nebraska hit .267, right in line with last year’s team.
Overall, Hames dished out 10.88 assists per set and averaged 2.87 digs per set. The digs figure is down a bit from last year when she was one of the Big Ten’s leaders as a setter, but that’s not a bad thing as it allowed Nebraska to stay in system more often when hames isn’t the one responsible for digging balls. She made slight improvements as a blocker and an attacker, though not one of those are a big strength. Hames served up 40 aces as a freshman, second on the team, though they came with 49 errors. This season, her aces were down to 26 (from 0.30 per set to 0.22) but she also cut her errors down, finishing with 34.
Hames was named an All-Big Ten first-teamer after guiding the Huskers to a tie for second in the conference. She was also an AVCA All-North Region Team pick and an AVCA All-America honorable mention.
Through her first two seasons as Nebraska’s starting setter, the Huskers are 57-12 (.826) with an 8-2 record in the NCAA Tournament. Not too bad. There are a lot of areas in which hames can continue to polish her game, but it’s hard to ask for more than what she’s given the team thus far.
Freshman Nicole Drewnick
Drewnick was originally slated to join the Huskers as part of the 2020 recruiting class, but after a conversation with Coach John Cook, she decided to speed her timeline up and enroll early. The Texas native had left home during her junior year to train with the Brazilian youth national team and help them qualify for the 2019 FIVB World Championships. Instead of continuing with her journey through the Basilian National Team system, she came back to the United States to provide depth for the Huskers.
In addition to running the B-side in practice all season, Drewnick also saw action in 42 sets across 29 matches. Cook used her as a server and back-row setter when he went with the double-substitution to get a bigger block up front with Anezka Szabo replacing Hames.
Drewnick recorded two aces and six errors on 64 serves, she also dished out 10 assists on 20 sets and she notched three digs as a freshman.
Nebraska added even more depth at the position in the 2019 recruiting class as Waverly product Annika Evans decommitted from Colorado State in order to walk on at Nebraska. Evans started all four years for the Vikings, accumulating 3,294 career assists and guiding Waverly to the state semifinals in Class B in 2018 and 2019. As a senior, she averaged 10.6 assists and 3.1 digs per set with 35 service aces as the Vikings finished 29-4 on the season.
"Anni is an exceptional setter from Waverly,” Cook said in a release. “She took a big risk choosing to be a Husker, and we are proud to add yet another Nebraskan to our roster. She is a great all-around volleyball player with an outstanding court presence and phenomenal work ethic. Anni is a great leader and will look to lead this freshman class.”
The Huskers are set at starting setter with Hames running the show, but they’ve also got quality depth now with Drewnick backing her up and Evans joining the fold as well.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.