The 2021 season was one to remember for John Cook’s Huskers, and before we move on to beach volleyball and the offseason, we’re taking one last look back, position by position.
Freshman Lindsay Krause
With Jazz Sweet going pro and Riley Zuhn retiring from volleyball, Cook was left without a single player with real collegiate experience on the right side. Lexi Sun and Madi Kubik both played on the left throughout their Nebraska careers, and all three 2021 signees — Ally Batenhorst, Lindsay Krause and Whitney Lauenstein — played on the left in high school. Cook had a decision to make, and he ultimately chose to roll with Krause and Lauenstein on the right.
Krause was the top-rated pin-hitter in the country and was dominant on the left for Omaha Skutt, but she had some experience playing on the right with the United States Junior National Team.
Krause played in every match but one, logging 27 starts including one at outside hitter when Cook started all three freshman pins against Stanford. She was third on the team with 2.38 kills per set and led all the pins in hitting percentage at .225 (for reference, Sweet averaged 2.22 kills per set on .273 hitting as a freshman and 2.30 kills per set on .250 hitting for her career). Krause notched double-digit kills 13 times including a season-high of 15, set twice.
Krause averaged 2.58 kills per set on .234 hitting in Big Ten play and 2.50 kills per set on .285 hitting in the NCAA Tournament. She hit .372 through the first five matches before nine attack errors (with 12 kills) in the championship match dragged her percentage down.
She also averaged 0.80 blocks and 0.79 digs per set while playing in the front row. Her blocking prowess is part of what made her a good fit on the right side, evidenced by her 12-kill, 10-block, seven-dig performance early in the season against Omaha.
She made the Big Ten All-Freshman Team, earned one Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor and was on the NCAA Austin Regional All-Tournament team after recording 13 kills on .500 hitting, five blocks and four digs against the Longhorns.
Freshman Whitney Lauenstein
Just like on the left, Cook did some experimentation and rotation on the right. Lauenstein, the raw but athletic freshman from Waverly who was a top-20 recruit in her own right, played in 27 matches with three starts.
The 6-foot-2 Lauenstein averaged 0.93 kills per set on .130 hitting plus 0.36 digs and 0.33 blocks per set. She notched a season-high 11 kills on .529 hitting in three sets against Arizona State which followed an eight-kill, .429 hitting performance in four sets against Georgia. She provided a spark off the bench with five kills on .500 hitting in Nebraska’s win over Penn State late in the season, earning a chance to start the following match at Wisconsin.
Lauenstein only played in Nebraska’s first two NCAA Tournament matches, recording two kills on six swings in two sets against Campbell and Florida State.
Hayden Kubik, the younger sister of Madi Kubik and a top-20 recruit in the 2022 class, is the only newcomer joining the pin-hitter group, replacing the departed Sun. Once again, Cook will have to sort out that group of five and determine what combination gives the Huskers the best shot to win.
From what I understand, Krause’s future lies back at outside hitter, but when will that future arrive? To move her back, Cook would likely have to feel good about Lauenstein’s growth (or else Ally Batenhorst or the younger Kubik would have to emerge as legitimate options on the right) and determine Krause can provide the most value on the left. Another question is whether any of the other pins can join the older Kubik in playing all six rotations on a consistent basis.
There should be plenty of competition once again. Cook expressed regret about how he handled the nonconference slate this past season in terms of the amount of shuffling he did with the lineup, so he might be more inclined to pick a trio of pins and stick with it earlier in 2022. Regardless of what Cook decides, however, Nebraska is going to need more efficient termination from both pins, and the Huskers certainly have the talent in the room to provide that if they can develop chemistry with Kennedi Orr as she takes over as the starting setter.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. 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.