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Huskers Welcome Fans Back to Devaney Center for Red-White Scrimmage

August 21, 2021

For the first time since Dec. 7, 2019, the Nebraska volleyball team played in front of a packed Devaney Center on Saturday night as the Huskers hosted the annual Red-White Scrimmage.

Official attendance for the match was 7,940.

“There are no words to describe what it’s like to be back in front of our fans,” Coach John Cook said. “Some of our players emotionally were having a hard time. They were very emotional, walking in there. We all felt it. So that was a highlight for tonight, was seeing our crowd and and being back in Devaney just felt like Nebraska volleyball again.”

The match itself ended in a 2-2 tie as Cook planned for it to go four sets regardless of result, but with players switching sides all night the final result was secondary to the experience for the players and fans.

“It was awesome,” senior Lexi Sun said. “I think before the game we were all shocked that it was actually happening and that we would actually have a full Bob Devaney Sports Center for the first time in two years. I think that we just felt that all tonight, and when I was up there getting introduced it brought me to tears just hearing the crowd, scream and cheer for us. Just to get another opportunity to be able to play this season, it just made me all the more thankful to be here tonight.”

Each of the players had a signed volleyball during introductions and they had the opportunity to go up into the crowd and give them to fans. Jessica Coody also interviewed players court-side between each set.

“The interviews, giving the balls away in the beginning, even with COVID we masked them up and our trainer was not happy about that, but we wanted to show appreciation for our fans,” Cook said. “Those were autographed balls that are really nice balls that we gave out tonight and then the poster thing is really cool. We just wanted to show a great appreciation tonight.”

As for the match itself, Cook traditionally puts the starters on the Red team and the back-ups on the White, but he switched it up and had players swapping back and forth after each set. The White team won the first and third sets (25-22, 25-13) while the Red won the second and fourth (26-24, 25-17).

“We were moving people around because we wanted to do that,” Cook said. “I wanted to see how the how they would do and you know how they would work together and we’re still trying to figure out a lineup. I’m just as perplexed right now so I was before this match today. Lindsey Krause has been dominating practice. Whitney [Lauenstein] has been really up and down; Whitney played great tonight. Lexi’s Lexi; I thought she started off a little tentative but she started doing some really good things. She’s a great blocker. Our middles all did really well tonight. Our blocking was very good for this early in the year. And we’ve got three exceptional libero types, I mean, those guys are exceptional.

“I haven’t been in the situation as a coach in a while. It’s fun but it’s stressful. Last year, that was it; there was nobody else to put in. So this is interesting. I think it’s going to be fun and I think we’re gonna keep mixing up lineups here for a while.”

Nicklin Hames, Lexi Rodriguez, Lexi Sun, Lindsay Krause, Madi Kubik, Kalynn Meyer and Callie Schwarzenbach started for the Red team while Anni Evans, Kennedi Orr, Keonilei Akana, Kenzie Knuckles, Ally Batenhorst, Whitney Lauenstein and Kayla Caffey began with the White squad. All of the pin-hitters and middle blockers bounced back and forth throughout the night.

Sun led the way with 16 kills on .292 hitting. The other four pins hit .200 or below as Kubik and Lauenstein each notched 14 kills while Krause and Batenhorst finished with 12 apiece. Schwarzenbach led the middle blockers with 12 kills on a team-high .393 hitting and six blocks (three solo). Meyer added eight blocks (three solo) and seven kills on .294 hitting. Hames led the way with 32 assists and 11 digs, Evans led the White with 26 assists and Orr added 25 while splitting time between the two teams. Knuckles and Akana finished with 20 digs apiece while Rodriguez led the Red team with 16.

“I thought the Red-White was a very high level,” Cook said. “There were a lot of good things going on. Sometimes the Red-White can get a little bit ugly, a lot of miscommunication, misfires, and there were very few tonight. For the first night playing with so many young players, very few balls dropped with nobody taking it, so their communication was excellent and their court coverage and covering their hitters. Just all those little things that don’t show up in the stats, they did a really, really good job with that tonight.”

Unfortunately, the Huskers did not escape the scrimmage totally healthy. Hames appeared to suffer an ankle injury during the fourth set and had to be helped back to the trainer’s room. Cook did not have any updates immediately after the match.

“The bummer was Nicklin got hurt,” Cook said. “I don’t know how bad it is, and that was kind of a freak play that happened. I really I still really don’t know what happened … She’s a tough kid and she was crying, so I am a little bit concerned. But she’s also a tough kid and she hasn’t gotten hurt for years so it’s pretty unusual deal.”

Freshman middle blocker Rylee Gray suited up but did not play. Cook said she’s recovering from a sore shoulder and that he did not want to put her out there until she was totally healthy.

The star of the first set was Batenhorst as she converted three of her first five swings into kills to give the White team an 8-3 lead early.

“It was so exciting,” Batenhorst said about her first kill. “I’ve been waiting for this since I committed, like, forever ago. So it was really unreal, and I’m really excited about it.”

The Red team got back into it by spreading the ball around, tying it up at 12-12.

However, the White team took control once again with a 7-2 run capped by a Knuckles ace. White pushed the lead to six at 22-16 before a late rally by the Red cut it down to two at 23-21. The set ended on three straight errors as the White team took a 1-0 lead.

Batenhorst led the way with eight kills and Caffey added five as both Huskers hit .300. Lexi Sun led the Red team with four kills on eight swings.

Meyer and Kubik switched over to the Whit team for set two as Caffey and Batenhorst took their places with the Red team.

The second set featured 10 ties and three lead changes as neither side was ever able to get into a good offensive rhythm. The teams combined for 11 attack errors and seven service errors.

The Red team used a 4-0 run to take its first lead at 19-16 but the White rallied to pull ahead with a 3-0 run consisting of a kill, a block assist and a kill by Kubik. After five straight sideouts, an error by Kubik and a kill by Batenhorst closed out the set and tied the match at 1-1.

Kubik led the White team with six kills in the set, but she also had five errors. Lauenstein and Krause had four kills apiece.

For set three, Kubik and Meyer switched back to the Red team, sending Sun and Schwarzenbach to the White.

The Red team struck first in set three with kills by Kubik and Krause, but the rest of the set was all White. They responded with a 5-0 lead served by Akana to take the lead and never gave it back. White blew the game wide open with a 7-0 run served by Lauenstein. The teams traded sideouts until White closed it out with three straight points capped by a big swing from Lauenstein that blasted off of Kubik.

The White team hit .385 with just one attack error while holding the Red to minus-.051.

For game four, Sun went back to the Red team along with Lauenstein while Kubik and Krause switched to White.

The Red team raced out to an 8-2 lead in set four. White responded with three straight kills — one each by Schwarzenbach, Kubik and Krause — but Lauenstein ended the run with a kill of her own. Hames notched a kill herself on the next rally, but she landed awkwardly and had to be helped back to the trainer’s room.

Orr stepped in for Hames and the Red team didn’t miss a beat, stretching the five-point lead into an 11-point advantage at 20-9. White made a small push, cutting the deficit to seven a few times, but an errant serve on set point provided an anticlimactic end to the match.

Attention now turns to Hames’ status as the Huskers prepare to open the season at the Devaney Center on Friday.

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