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Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Volleyball Roster Reviews: Middle Blockers

January 18, 2023

With the transfer portal closing, the spring semester about to begin and Nebraska’s recruits all set to officially join the program, now is a good time to look back and look ahead at the Husker volleyball program.

We’re going to break it down position by position to review 2022 performance and preview each group heading into spring ball.

We started with the setters on Monday. Up next is the middle blocker group.

Kaitlyn Hord (senior, 6-foot-4)

2022 stats: 1.40 K/S, .297 hitting, 1.61 B/S

Nebraska landed a big fish in the transfer portal waters last offseason, adding the multi-time All-American from Penn State to replace Lauren Stivrins.

The defense translated immediately as Hord led the country in blocking and was a big part of Nebraska’s nation-leading defense. She logged at least five blocks in 19 of her 32 matches with a high of six set six different times.

However, the offense never quite came around as all three setters struggled to consistently connect with Hord with how high she elevates. She set career lows in kills per set (less than half last year’s average) and hitting percentage (nearly 100 points below last year’s). She cracked double figures just once all season with 13 kills in the four-set loss to Wisconsin late in the season.

Hord failed to earn All-America recognition for the first time in her career, settling for an AVCA All-Region pick and a second-team All-Big Ten nod.

Bekka Allick (freshman, 6-foot-4)

2022 stats: 1.89 K/S, .326 hitting, 1.01 B/S, 10 SA, 51 SE

The freshman out of Waverly enrolled early and started at middle blocker in Nebraska’s spring exhibition against Kansas, and she started every match after that as well (minus the three she missed, two for health-related reasons and one for lineup experimentation).

Bekka Allick (5) tips the ball against Purdue’s Hannah Clayton (20) in the second set during a college volleyball match Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

Allick had a terrific first season, especially as a true freshman starting in the Big Ten. She led Nebraska in hitting percentage while averaging just over a block per game, and she upped her offensive production to 2.02 kills per game in conference play.

Allick notched double-digit kills twice with 12 on .611 hitting at Purdue and 13 on .647 hitting at Wisconsin. She hit over .600 five different times. She had eight games with five or more blocks including a high of eight against Ohio State.

Allick seemed to hit the freshman wall late in the season, hitting .152 over her final seven regular season matches without topping .300 once, but she turned in two strong performances in the NCAA Tournament against Delaware State and Kansas (13 kills on .522 hitting with eight blocks) before a quiet match against Oregon.

Allick also earned a serving role once Nebraska switched to a 6-2, though it came with plenty of growing pains. She served 10 aces and a handful of good runs, but she also led the team far and away in service errors. At times, Cook bit the bullet and used the sub to have fellow freshman Maisie Boesiger serve for Allick.

Allick earned a spot on the All-Big Ten Freshman Team, the All-Big Ten Second Team and the AVCA All-Region Team.

Maggie Mendelson (freshman, 6-foot-5)

2022 stats: 1.12 K/S, .182 hitting, 0.79 BPS, 2 SA, 3 SE

Maggie Mendelson (44) blocks a swing from Ohio State’s Gabby Gonzales (8) in the third set during a college volleyball match Saturday, September 24, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

The dual-sport athlete had an interesting first season with the program. Unlike Allick, Mendelson didn’t enroll early. She split her summer between the volleyball and basketball programs and also left in July to serve as team captain for the USA Volleyball U19 team during the Pan American Cup (playing alongside future teammates Bergen Reilly, Harper Murray, Andi Jackson and Laney Choboy).

Hord and Allick earned the starting middle blocker spots during preseason practice, but Mendelson went on to play a significant role at multiple positions. She bounced back and forth between middle and opposite hitter depending on the state of the roster at the time and who was out of the lineup. She started three matches at middle blocker and also played at opposite hitter in 11 matches, including eight as the second right side in the 6-2 (essentially, a starting position).

Mendelson struggled to contribute offensively most of the season regardless of what position she played. She topped out at six kills, set twice, and hit .300 or better in just four oh her 14 appearances. However, her 6-foot-5 frame — part of why Cook liked her as an option on the right side — allowed her to contribute as a blocker (at least one block in 13 matches with multiple in 11 of them).

Looking Ahead

Hord signed to play professionally in Romania, but the other two will return for their sophomore season looking to take a sep forward.

The basketball season extends into when the beach season is likely to begin (though Nebraska has not yet released its beach schedule), so don’t expect to see Mendelson on the sand in late February. Even so, the chance to spend all her time training at middle blocker (considering Nebraska’s depth at the pins) could lead to more rapid growth for the highly-touted prospect who still hasn’t had her 18th birthday yet.

Nebraska is also adding another bluechip recruit to the middle blocker group as Andi Jackson is enrolling for the spring semester. The athletic 6-foot-3 Colorado native is ranked 13th nationally in the 2023 class according the PrepVolleyball.com, third at her position. She also competed for Team USA over the summer alongside Mendelson. 

Jackson averaged 3.5 kills per set on .398 hitting with 67 aces as a senior this year before showing out in the Under Amour All-America Game across the net from the other four 2023 Nebraska signees.

Nebraska has three incredibly talented middle blockers locked in for 2023 and just two starting spots. The competition promises to be fierce in the middle for the Huskers during the spring and summer.

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