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Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Volleyball Roster Reviews: Pin Hitters

January 24, 2023

The spring semester has begun and Nebraska’s freshmen are all on campus, which means 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’ve already covered the setters, middle blockers and defensive specialists, which only leaves the pin hitters to break down.

Madi Kubik (senior, 6-foot-3)

2022 stats: 3.11 K/S, .241 hitting, 0.16 SA/S (17 A, 31 SE), 2.54 D/S, 0.40 B/S

The four-year starter and first-year captain closed out her time in Lincoln with the most efficient offensive season of her career. Her kills average took a dip from last season but her hitting percentage climbed to a career-high, and she matched that with a career-high in digs per set as well. She earned her second straight first-team All-Big Ten nod while leading Nebraska in kills. She also earned honorable mention AVCA All-America plaudits and picked up the fourth Big Ten Player of the Week honor of her career in November.

Kubik cracked double-digit kills in 16 of her 33 matches and notched five double-doubles. She posted a season-high 17 kills on .311 hitting and 11 digs in a sweep over Purdue. She saw her role change slightly to spend more time in the back row passing following the season-ending injury to Kenzie Knuckles and posted a season-high 17 digs in the team’s loss to Oregon in the NCAA Tournament.

Kubik still had one more year of eligibility remaining but announced late in the year that she would not return to Nebraska. 

Kubik falls just short of the famed 1000-1000 club Coach John Cook teased her about joining, though she would have cleared the digs threshold pretty easily if it weren’t for the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season. Even so, she ends her Husker career with 1,264 kills (3.07 per set), 983 digs (2.39 per set), 165 blocks and 65 aces as a four-year six-rotation hitter who played in nearly every match and every set during her career. She finished sixth in program history for kills during the rally scoring era and 13th all-time.

Whitney Lauenstein (sophomore, 6-foot-2)

Whitney Lauenstein spikes the ball against the Purdue Boilermakers in the first set during a college volleyball match Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

2022 stats: 2.78 K/S, .238 hitting, 0.26 SA/S (28 aces, 39 service errors), 1.07 B/S

After playing the least of Nebraska’s freshman pins in 2021, Lauenstein made a huge leap over the offseason and emerged as a two-way force at the net to lead Nebraska in total points. She spent most of the season starting at opposite hitter, playing in all 32 matches.

Lauenstein was first on the team in aces and second in kills and blocks, totaling 3.48 points per set during her breakout sophomore year. She notched double-digit kills in 14 or her 32 matches including a high of 25 on .385 hitting in the five-set win against Creighton in Omaha. 

She had a brilliant nonconference, averaging 3.56 kills per set on .321 hitting, but her offensive consistency slipped a bit once the Huskers got into Big Ten play (2.54 kills per set on .206 hitting).

Defensively, Lauenstein recorded multiple blocks in 30 of her 32 matches and had seven outings of more than five blocks, including a season-high of eight set twice (against Penn State and Maryland).

Lindsay Krause (sophomore, 6-foot-4)

2022 stats: 2.26 K/S, .271 hitting, 0.6 B/S

Krause spent her sophomore season bouncing back and forth between the left and right pins depending on who else was in the lineup. Even so, she managed to hit her stride down the stretch of the season, growing into a high-level terminator.

Lindsay Krause spikes the ball against Purdue Boilermakers in the first set during a college volleyball match Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

In the first 19 matches of the season, she was up and down with seven matches above .300 hitting and nine at .200 or below, averaging 1.8 kills per set and .208 hitting overall. She topped 10 kills just once, with 16 against Creighton.

However, over her last 12 matches, she bumped her numbers up to 2.95 kills per set on .359 hitting, notching double-digit kills in seven of her 12 matches. She averaged 3.25 kills per set on .378 hitting in her three NCAA Tournament matches, marking the second straight season she’s upped her gam in the postseason (2.5 kills per set on .284 hitting in six tournament matches as a freshman).

Overall, Krause led all of Nebraska’s pins in hitting percentage and looks to be the team’s top returning attacker, and she’s also showed some promise as a blocker with her 6-foot-4 frame. However, she’s still primarily played three rotations and hasn’t earned a consistent serving role yet.

Ally Batenhorst (sophomore, 6-foot-5)

Ally Batenhorst digs the ball against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second round of the NCAA Volleyball Championships Friday, December 2, 2022, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo by John S. Peterson.

2022 stats: 2.33 K/S, .190 hitting, 5 SA, 6 SE, 1.06 D/S, 0.57 B/S

Batenhorst had to deal with a sore abdominal muscle that limited her heading into the season and then sidelined her for four matches at the tail end of the nocnofnerence slate leading into Big Ten play. She starts 14 matches and played in 26 overall, all at outside hitter.

Batenhorst recorded six matches of 10-plus kills, five of which came in the last eight matches of the season. However, she topped .300 hitting just twice and hit in the negative three times.

Batenhorst spent most of the season playing three rotations, but once Kenzie Knuckles went down with a torn ACL during the final week of the regular season, Cook played her all six rotations and she gained valuable experience in the back row. She averaged 23 digs per set with three double-digit performances after Knuckles’ injury.

Hayden Kubik (freshman, 6-foot-2)

2022 stats: 7 kills, 1 error, 22 attempts (.273 hitting), 7 digs, 1 block

The younger Kubik sister spent most of her freshman year watching and learning from the bench, playing in just four matches and eight sets. 

However, five of those sets came in the win against Creighton in Omaha. With Ally Batenhorst subbing out with an injury early in the first set, Cook called Kubik’s number and she played a big part in the win at CHI Health Center Omaha. Kubik finished with six kills on .250 hitting and five digs playing alongside her sister as the second outside hitter in Nebraska’s 6-2.

With the team’s depth at pin and the strength of the Big Ten, Kubik did not play again until the final rallies of the Huskers’ win against Delaware State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Looking Ahead

Madi Kubik signed to play professionally in Puerto Rico in early January. Launestein also announced last week that she is stepping away from the team for personal reasons.

That leaves Nebraska with three returning pins and some big shoes to fill.

For the second straight season, the Huskers hit the transfer portal to add one proven player to the team as Florida opposite hitter Merritt Beason transferred to Nebraska following two seasons in Gainesville. 

As a sophomore, the 6-foot-3 Beason averaged 3.35 kills per set on .261 hitting, 0.37 aces per set, 1.92 digs per set and 0.88 blocks per set. She notched double-digit kills in 23 of her 28 matches with a high of 21, set twice (against Wisconsin and LSU). She had 10 matches of .300 hitting or better with a high of .588 (with 12 kills) against Virginia. Beason played six rotations for the Gators, recording five double-doubles including a 13-kill, 12-dig performance against Mississippi late in the season. Beason earned a spot on the All-SEC Team and won SEC Offensive Player of the Week twice.

Nebraska also signed two of the top five pins in the 2023 class according to PrepVolleyball.com in Harper Murray (6-foot-2) and Caroline Jurevicius (6-foot-2).

Murray, the second-ranked player in the 2023 class, averaged 6.1 kills per set on .405 hitting and 3.4 digs per set with 86 aces as a senior at Skyline in Ann Arbor, Michigan, earning Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year. She totaled 2,448 kills on .381 hitting in her four-year varsity career.

Jurevcius, the top-ranked right side hitter (and nitnh-ranked player overall), averaged 4.9 kills per set on .360 hitting and 2.5 digs per set as a senior at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin in Chardon, Ohio. The daughter of former NFL wide receiver Joe Jurevicius totaled 1,184 kills on .326 hitting in her high school career.

The additions of Beason and Jurevicisu could mean a (mostly) permanent move to outside hitter for Krause even with Lauenstein’s departure. Krause, Batenhorst and Beason have the edge in experience, but they’ll have to earn those starting spots with the amount of talent the underclassmen possess.

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