While most people were enjoying a three-day weekend, John Cook was making moves.
On Saturday, Nebraska announced that Nicole Drewnick, originally committed to Nebraska for the 2020 class, graduated early and will be arriving in Lincoln and enrolling at Nebraska this week.
Drewnick is a 6-foot-2 athlete from Carrollton, Texas who could end up playing a variety of positions at Nebraska — including setter.
“We recruited Nicole because she’s a great volleyball player, not just a great setter,” Cook said in a release. “Like a lot of great setters we have had, she can do everything. She can block, hit, serve and pass. She fits the mold of the type of setter we like to recruit to Nebraska.”
Nebraska is set at the starting setter spot with Nicklin Hames heading into her sophomore season, but Drewnick should be able to add some much-needed depth. Mari Kurkova, one of Nebraska’s back-up setters last season, has left the program and will complete her Master’s degree at Nebraska this season before returning to her native Czech Republic, where she has been accepted into a graduate program that begins in October.
Drewnick joins a 2019 recruiting class that was already ranked second in the country by PrepVolleyball.com. Outside hitter Madi Kubik (ranked No. 4 overall) and libero Kenzie Knuckles (ranked No. 37 overall and No. 3 at her position) both enrolled early and competed with the Huskers during the beach season in the spring. Colorado outside hitter Riley Zuhn (ranked No. 32) and in-state recruits Fallon Stutheit (a middle blocker from Johnson-Brock) and Emma Gabel (a defensive specialist from Lincoln Pius X) have joined the program as well.
As for Drewnick, her high school years have been a bit unconventional. She won state titles at Hebron High School in Texas as a freshman and sophomore, However, she spent most of her junior year in Brazil competition with the Brazilian youth national team. Her parents — Cilene and Eduardo — are from Brazil. Cilene played for Brazil in the Olympics, and she and Eduardo currently run the Texas Impact club program.
While competing with Brazil, Drewnick took online classes, making an early graduation a possibility.
“We started talking about it over a year ago, especially with the upcoming Asia trip and the opportunity to be a part of that,” Cook said. “We kept having conversations last summer, over Christmas break, and monitoring whether it would be possible. She’s been working really hard to graduate, and she’s going to be a player who can contribute in a lot of different ways.”
Drewnick will arrive just in time to join the Huskers as they began practice next week for their trip to China and Japan. They’ll spend two-and-a-half weeks overseas, part of the international trip college programs are allowed to take every four years.
The trip is well-timed with six newcomers and 11 underclassmen in total. Kurkova’s departure leaves the Huskers without a senior on the roster. The Beach season and spring exhibition for the early enrollees and the Asia trip give Cook a chance to see what the newcomers can do before the season arrives.
Speaking of international volleyball, week two of the Volleyball Nations League begins on Tuesday and the U.S. Women’s National team will be in Italy. However, there won’t be any Husker flavor on the roster this time.
Former Husker Mikaela Foecke made her Team USA debut last week, helping guide the U.S. to a 3-0 record with wins over Belgium, Japan and Bulgaria in Bulgaria. The U.S. is one of just two undefeated teams after one week of play, with Italy being the other.
However, Foecke has a prior engagement this week — she’s getting married. Karch Kiraly is opting to roll with the same roster as last week minus Foecke, dressing just 13 players. Kiraly has chosen to go with a young roster for the first two weeks as Foecke was just one of eight players who made their FIVB debuts last week. Veterans like former Huskers Jordan Larson and Kelsey Robinson are part of the 25-player pool from which Kiraly chooses up to 14 players for each week of the VNL but they have not been active yet after helping guide the U.S. to the VNL title last year in its inaugural season.
The U.S. will take on Serbia, Italy and Dominican Republic this week. Next week the VNL will come to Lincoln.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.