Lexi Rodriguez added her extensive list of awards on Friday as the AVCA named her National Freshman of the Year.
It's only fitting that the only freshman to be named a First Team All-American is the @AVCAVolleyball Freshman of the Year!
— NCAA Women's Volleyball (@NCAAVolleyball) December 17, 2021
The 5-foot-5 libero from Sterling, Illinois, is leading the Huskers with 4.41 digs per set this season while guiding Nebraska to the ninth best defense nationally, holding opponents to .147 hitting.
Rodriguez is the first libero to ever win the award and just the second Husker, joining four-time All-American Sarah Pavan. On Wednesday, Rodriguez also became the second Husker to become a first-team AVCA All-American; Pavan was the first. She was the AVCA North Region Freshman of the Year and All-Region team member. The Big Ten coaches voted her conference defensive player of the year, first-team all-conference and to the all-freshman team.
“That’s pretty big company that Lexi went in,” Coach John Cook said on Wednesday. “Again, I’ve got to give Kayla Banwarth credit. In ninth grade, she told me Lexi was going to be really good and I was like ‘No way,’ and she made me offer her scholarship in camp as a ninth grader. So I guess one libero can really see what’s great in another libero. To have her be first-team All-American is a major, major accomplishment. Did I think she’d be here? No, but I know she’s really good and we saw that from day one as she arrived on campus. She’s got something special. She’s won a lot of big awards up to this point, and this is probably one of the biggest ones, being so young and becoming a first-team. So I also think that just shows you the amount of respect that she has, because she was also voted Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten, which might be as big an accomplishment as the first-team All-American, because our conference was so good, and there are so many great players.
“But I think that’s also a reflection of we’re a great defensive team. I think we’re considered one of the best defensive teams in the country. We led almost every statistical category in the Big Ten this year, and I think this is a team award that she’s recognized as part of that, but this is a reflection of the defense that we play.”
Rodriguez recorded 13 digs in No. 10 Nebraska’s four-set win over No. 3 Pitt in Thursday’s semifinals. She is sitting on 511 digs — fourth-most in a single season in program history — with one match remaining. She trails Dani Busboom (580), Kayla Banwarth (570) and Justine Wong-Orantes (555).
Nebraska will face No. 4 Wisconsin in the National Championship on Saturday night.
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.