The early signing period for college volleyball came to a close on Wednesday. However, Nebraska didn’t need the whole seven days as all four of its 2018 recruits signed, sealed and delivered their letters of intent on the first day of the window.
The class includes four players all ranked inside the top-60 nationally by PrepVolleyball.com, which should give Nebraska one of the best classes in the country.
The class consists of setter Nicklin Hames (5-foot-11; No. 4 overall), middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach (6-foot-4, No. 10 overall), outside hitter Capri Davis (6-foot-1, No. 21) and libero Megan Miller (5-foot-7, No. 55).
“I think all those kids can play as freshmen,” Coach John Cook said. “I think they’re all pretty tough, competitive kids. I think they all have a chance to be elite players depending on how hard they work and how they adapt to college. I think they fit a need at each position — outside, ‘bero/DS, setter and middle. With Liv out, we’re going to have to deal with that situation, but I think they fill needs and they all have a chance to be really good.”
Hames won five state titles (yes, five) playing for the Webb School in Knoxville, Tennessee, as she began her varsity career in eighth grade. She earned most valuable player honors in four of those five championships.
“She has great location, she has great volleyball mind, she is one heck of a competitor,” Cook said. “She is kind of a combination of Lauren Cook and Kelly Hunter.”
That is incredibly high praise considering what Cook and Hunter accomplished during their careers, but Cook wouldn’t throw that comparison out without a good reason. She will have a chance to compete with current redshirt freshman Hunter Atherton for the setter spot next season after Hunter’s eligibility runs out.
The best story from this class, however, is Schwarzenbach, as a bit of farmer’s gossip led to Nebraska discovering her.
Former assistant coach Dani Busboom Kelly was a heck of a setter in her playing days (before switching to libero), but in this case, it was her father who made an assist.
“The farmers get together around the coffee thing, and he was down in Cortland somewhere and these guys were saying ‘Hey, there’s this big girl in Kearney, Missouri’ that they knew about,” Cook said. “So Dani’s dad told Dani about this girl. Of course, we tracked her down and went and saw her at a club tournament. She played on this club team that was absolutely awful. I think I watched a game and she never got set; that’s the level it was.
“But we really liked her, we got her in camp and offered her. Once we got her in camp with some good kids — I think Nicklin was at that camp and was setting her and we had a couple other really top-level kids, this was a couple years ago, and so we offered her at the camp.”
Cook said that perhaps Missouri was the only school that had any idea who Schwarzenbach even was prior to Nebraska extending its offer.
“We got on her really early,” Cook said. “Of course, we offered her and everybody was like ‘Who’s this kid?’ Then she went to a good club team, KC Power — she’s a three-sport athlete, so its hard for her to play on a high level club team — but she played for KC Power and they won the 18-open gold medal this year even though she was a younger player on that team. So she’s really blossomed.”
Nebraska may have its high school class all wrapped up, but that doesn’t mean Cook and company are done recruiting. With Olivia Boender leaving the team and Annika Albrecht set to graduate, junior Mikaela Foecke and freshman Sami Slaughter are the only left side hitters returning next season (with freshmen Jazz Sweet and Anezka Szabo on the other side). Davis will join that group, but Cook said there is “no question” that Nebraska will be active on the transfer market looking to bolster that position even further.
“We’re a little thin, if you look at our roster next year at outside hitter,” Cook said. “So we have to do something.”
Cook brought in Andie Malloy as a graduate transfer from Baylor last season and she finished third on the team in kills.
This year’s recruiting class did not include any local players, but Cook did spend some time scouting at the state tournament last week.
“It’s amazing,” Cook said. “I’m blown away by how good they are and the level of play, especially a couple of classes — B, A, really impressive. For a state of 1.8 million people, it’s really impressive.”
One of the players Cook was keeping his eye on was 2021 commit Lindsey Krause, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter for Omaha Skutt. The SkyHawks won the Class B title.
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.