Twenty-eight players traveled to Chicago this week for Big Ten Media Days. Only one of them played for a different program last year: Nebraska’s Merritt Beason.
In just seven months since transferring from Florida and joining the program, the junior opposite hitter has won over her teammates and coaches to the point of being chosen as a team captain and as a program representative at the conference’s second annual Media Days.
“I think at the end of the day, what I want my volleyball career to be wrapped up in is who I am as a person and how I treated my teammates and the legacy that I leave behind, not necessarily how many kills I can record and what awards I can win,” Beason said on Tuesday. “Obviously, those are good goals to strive for, but at the end of the day, I want to be remembered for the kind of person that I am. So I take a ton of pride in that, and being voted captain by my teammates kind of was a testament to that.
“And so for me, it’s really really special because I do take so much pride in that and I’m grateful for my teammates. I’m grateful for my parents for raising me the way that they raised me and things of that sort. There are a lot of people and a lot of things to be grateful for. So I do take pride in it but I also want to make sure that at the end of the day, I’m giving my gratefulness back to those who have helped me be here.”
Beyond the honor of being chosen, Beason said the experience itself at Big Ten Media Days — the interviews, the photoshoots and everything else involved — exceeded her expectations as a newcomer to the conference.
“I think it’s really cool what the Big Ten’s doing for volleyball, obviously, on a day like this,’ Beason said. “It’s really cool to be a part of. I’ve obviously played in a few Big Ten matches but haven’t been through a Big Ten season and played on a Big Ten team yet, so I’m kind of learning day by day what that consists of, but I think today was very mind blowing just because it’s so cool for them to put on an event like this of this level for volleyball. So it’s very cool to be a part of, very cool to experience and something I’ll definitely remember.”
Assistant coach Kelly Hunter has referred to Beason as the mom of the team, a moniker Beason embraces. She’s the one who prepared for anything at all times.
“Like Lexi was talking about today, we were in the car and I was like ‘OK, I’m going to bring Tylenol and I’m going to bring this and I’m going to bring my Tide to Go stick just in case anything happens,’ things of that sort,” Beason said. “If you need anything, I’m going to probably be the one that has it. So that’s kind of why I’m called the mom. I’m a very caring person as well, so if anyone on the team needs anything they know that they can come to me and I will be there. It doesn’t matter what it is or who it is or things of that nature, I’ll be there.”
Her motherly characteristics translate well to being team captain. Lexi Rodriguez and Beason learned they had been chosen in mid-June on the team’s flight back to the United States after its trip to the Bahamas, and since then they’ve worked together to determine how they want to lead, what was important to them in that role and how they were going to make sure the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
“We talked about it daily,” Beason said. “We were literally talking about it yesterday, things of that sort. And so I think we’ve kind of had a solid month under our belt and the summer’s obviously really good for the team just because coaches aren’t around very much, so a lot of the responsibility was on me and Lexi, so we were able to kind of develop that and develop the culture and the standard that we want this team to be at and kind of start implementing that. So it’s been really good for both of us.”
Beason transferred to Nebraska to take the next step in her career, and in addition to developing her leadership qualities she’s made the most of her first seven months in Lincoln to grow both on and off the court.
“Volleyball-wise, I think I’ve grown a lot in passing and things of that sort,” Beason said. “Serve receive I would say is definitely the skill that I’ve probably grown the most in. But as a person and that kind of aspect of things, I think I’ve done a really good job of — everyone always talks about not being defined by your sport, and I think that’s a really hard thing to grasp and to kind of understand until you’re at the level that we’re at. And so I think that’s one thing that I’ve kind of developed the most and that I’m very, very proud of is that I’ve done a very good job of understanding how I practiced that day doesn’t determine how good of a person I am or things of that sort. And so I think I’ve grown the most in that area of my game, kind of the mental. Yes, I’m playing at a very, very high level but not letting that affect my day-to-day life.”
With Whitney Lauenstein stepping away from volleyball and Lindsay Krause moving over to the left pin, Nebraska had a big void at opposite hitter. Once Beason entered the portal, Nebraska moved quickly to win her commitment. The All-SEC performer averaged 3.35 kills per set for the Gators last season, but even beyond her talent, she’s a big addition because of the different dynamic she brings to the team as a right side hitter capable of playing six rotations as she did at Florida.
“That gives us the opportunity to run what’s called a true international system or what the USA team does internationally and the men do is to have a true opposite that hits front row and back row,” Cook said. “We’ve never done it before. I love the system. Ohio State does it. Florida did it last year with Merritt. So we’re thinking really hard about that.”
Whether it’s blasting a kill from the back row or encouraging her teammates through a difficult stretch, Beason transferred to Nebraska hoping to leave her mark at Nebraska. If being chosen as a captain and Big Ten Media Days representative is any indication, she’s off to a great start.