Fans packed the Devaney Center on Saturday night for the annual Red-White Scrimmage. Five newcomers made their debuts at the Bob for the preseason No. 1 Huskers, including foe-turned-friend Kaitlyn Hord.
The former Penn State middle blocker received the loudest ovation during player introductions and then went on to record nine blocks and four kills for the Red team.
“It was totally different,” Hord said. “When I first got out there, I was like, ‘Wow, this is such a different vibe than when we’re warming up and they say our names and the fans don’t cheer at all. So it was nice to have them cheer for me this time and it was very welcoming. It was a very great experience.”
The other four newcomers were all freshmen, though three of them — Bekka Allick, Hayden Kubik and Maisie Boesiger — enrolled early and played in the team’s spring exhibition match against Kansas in Grand Island. All four of them had their moments and showed why they made up one of the best recruiting classes in the country.
“They compete,” Cook said about the freshmen. “The other person I wasn’t sure about was Hayden, and Hayden looked like she’s not a freshman. I just thought she played really solid, moved the ball around, mixed up shots, passed great. Maisie on our passing scale passed really, really well for her first time out there. Maisie’s got a great serve. I don’t even feel like Bekka’s a a freshman; I feel like she’s been around forever, so I feel like she’s a veteran. And then Maggie just competes. You don’t get to be a dual-sport athlete at that level in two sports if you don’t have something special in you, and she competes.”
Announced attendance was 7,946 for the scrimmage, giving the newcomers a taste of what a home match really looks like at Nebraska.
“It’s hard to put into words because you never think you’re going to pack a Red-White game, so I walked in today and I was just blown away,” Cook said. “The difference today was, I don’t know if it had to do with COVID, but the last couple of Red-Whites we’ve had, it’s been like a Love Library, super quiet. That’s a [John Baylor] quote. Today, people were fired up, they were into it, and it was loud down there. We’re just very thankful and that’s why there’s no place like Nebraska.”
The starting Red team included Kennedi Orr, Madi Kubik, Lindsay Krause, Whitney Lauenstein, Hord, Allick, Lexi Rodriguez at libero and Nicklin Hames off the bench as a defensive specialist.
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The White team included Anni Evans, Hayden Kubik, Kenzie Knuckles, assistant coach Jaylen Reyes, Maggie Mendelson and Boesiger at libero.
Sophomore Ally Batenhorst did not suit up because of a minor abdominal injury, which Cook called a “bummer.” He said the plan is to have her ready to go next week.
The Red team controlled play for most of the night with just four lead changes, all in the first set. The A side swept the match 25-21, 25-15, 25-18 while hitting .311 and holding the White to .092.
“I thought we had a really good night tonight,” Orr said. “I think our pins did a wonderful job and our middles stuck with me. We were trying to get the middles a lot of reps and it was hard at first, but we kept talking about it and they stuck with me. So I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I just love the way we communicate on the court; it makes the offense so much easier.”
Madi Kubik dominated the first two sets and finished with a match-high 13 kills on .385 hitting, seven digs and four blocks. Lindsay Krause got going in the last two sets and put up 12 kills on .407 hitting and seven digs. Whitney Lauenstein chipped in nine kills on .238 hitting
Orr did a bit of everything for the Red team, finishing with 35 assists, nine digs, four blocks and three kills.
“I think the biggest thing [I wanted to show] was just that I can run an offense,” Orr said. “Instead of just being a setter who can just set the ball and put it in a good place, I think I was trying to run an offense during that game and my teammates helped me out a lot and I think it worked out really well tonight.”
Reyes led the White team with nine kills and the younger Kubik added eight kills, though they each hit just .154 going up against the Red team defense led by Lexi Rodriguez, who recorded a match-high 18 digs.
After a back-and-forth start to the match, the Red team created some separation with a 4-1 run that gave them a 13-8 lead. That run included Hord and Orr teaming up for back-to-back blocks on Reyes, the first made possible by a couple of impressive back-row players from Allick to keep the rally alive.
The Red team led by as much as six a handful of times, but the White team put some pressure on them with a 4-0 run that cut the deficit down to two at 23-21. However, after a timeout to regroup, Krause pounded a shot up the line then Hord and Madi Kubik turned back Reyes for the set-point block.
The Red team hit .343 in the first set led by six kills on .455 hitting from Kubik. The White team hit .111. Mendelson shook off a slow start to convert her last four swings into kills, tying her with fellow freshman Hayden Kubik for the team lead with four.
The Red team wasted no time taking control in the second set, ripping off a 5-1 run early to take an 8-3 lead. The White team pulled within two, but Krause caught fire to supplement Kubik’s terrific play and the Red team pulled away again to push the lead to eight, then nine, then 10.
The Red hit .375 while holding the White to .069. Kubik tacked on another six kills on eight swings while Krause added four on six attempts. Hord matched her first-set total with four block assists.
The two freshman middles switched sides during the intermission with Allick joining the White team and Mendelson taking her place with the A side.
The Red continued to roll in the third set, winning four of the first five rallies. The White team pushed back multiple times, cutting the deficit to one a handful of times, but the Red squad never relinquished the lead and closed the match on a 9-4 run. Krause gave her team match point with a kill then Kubik and Hord closed it out with a block.
Madi Kubik slowed down in the third, but Krause and Lauenstein picked up the slack with five kills apiece. The Red team hit .238 and held the White to .091.
With the scrimmage in the books, the Huskers have one more week of practice to sort out position battles and fine-tune everything before the season-opener on Friday at the Americas Players Challenge.
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.