John Cook signed the second-ranked recruiting class in 2022 according to PrepVolleyball.com, and three of the four commits have already been on campus for a few months.
Waverly middle blocker Bekka Allick, West Des Moines Valley outside hitter Hayden Kubik and Norris setter/defensive specialist Maisie Boesiger all enrolled early and went through both the beach and indoor spring seasons with a large group of returning Huskers.
On Saturday evening, the three newcomers might get a chance to show the fan base what they can do. Cook said his goal is to play everyone in Nebraska’s exhibition mach against Kansas in Grand Island.
Cook said the three freshmen have fit in “great” so far.
“Those guys, they feel like they’ve been here a long time,” Cook said. “They still do freshman things, even though they’re really not freshmen yet, but they learn from it and they get better and I’m just seeing a lot of improvement … Maisie, Hayden and Bekka, all three of them have made big jumps, and they did the same thing in beach. They started off like they’ve never played beach before and then by the end of the beach season they were doing some really nice stuff, and same thing indoor here. But this is a hard gym to come into. It takes a while to adjust and I think they’ve had a great mindset.”
Allick is the most highly-ranked member in the class, coming in at No. 2 in Prep Volleyball’s final 2022 rankings. She also might have the easiest path to playing time as John Cook called Kayla Caffey a “match-time” decision for Saturday. If Caffey doesn’t play, that leaves Nebraska with just Allick and senior Callie Schwarzenbach at middle blocker. Schwarzenbach is planning to transfer to Long Beach State for her fifth season but has still been training with Nebraska while completing the semester.
“She is a really good competitor,” Cook said of the 6-foot-3 Allick. “For a freshman, she’s very vocal. She has a great presence. She competes really hard, and she’s making huge progress. She still has her freshman days where she’s gonna take somebody out blocking and not knock somebody’s pin blocker out or she’ll do something freshman-like. But she serves great, she can play defense, she’s a really good volleyball player and she’s learning the speed and the blocking level and the physicality at this level. She’s made some big improvements the last few weeks. I just love how she goes after it.”
Allick played outside hitter this season for Waverly, giving her a chance to work on her all-around game in live action, but she’ll return to her natural position for the Huskers and has plenty of upside.
Kubik, the younger sister of Nebraska veteran pinhitter Madi Kubik, finished at No. 11 in Prep Volleyball’s rankings. She averaged 5.2 kills on .296 hitting and 2.8 digs asa senior for Valley. Cook has been moving most of his pins around from left to right this spring, but Kubik is playing strictly on the left side. She’ll be one of five pins available for the Huskers on Saturday, along with her sister, Ally Batenhorst, Lindsay Krause and Whitney Lauenstien.
Boesiger, a walk-on, broke multiple school records while playing for her mom, Christina, at Norris. She played setter for the Titans but will slide into a defensive specialist role for the Huskers. She’s also apparently the team’s go-to baker.
Speaking of role adjustments, one thing to keep an eye on beyond the freshmen on Saturday will be where veteran setter and team captain Nicklin Hames plays. When she announced that she will return for a fifth season at Nebraska, she said she’ll be playing in a new role. After four years at the helm running the offense, it appears as if she might be passing the baton off to sophomore Kennedi Orr, the No. 1 recruit in the 2021 class. Orr missed a couple of weeks during the beach season with knee swelling (she suffered a torn ACL during her senior year of high school) but will be available on Saturday. Hames is an elite defensive player and Cook could look for ways to capitalize on that even more if she’s not setting full-time.
“Nicklin has been jumping around different positions,” Cook said. “She’s doing a fantastic job. I’ve never seen her so happy. She’s playing really, really well. She’s being a great leader. I think she’s excited about her fifth year and then also, she talked to me today about when she could start being in coaching meetings and things like that. So she’s getting excited about her future, to go into coaching and get her master’s program here finished, so we’re going to be starting on that this summer. So I think she’s just excited for this next chapter of her life and giving it everything she’s got, whatever role that is for the fall. It’s been awesome.”
Orr only played during the first weekend of the 2021 season when Hames was recovering from an ankle injury. Orr split time at setter with Anni Evans during those two matches and racked up 51 assists and 20 digs. Cook said she’s a bit behind after the time that she missed but has shown some flashes recently. Saturday could be our first real look at what the the Huskers look like with Orr running the show.
Finally, the key to the 2022 season very well might be how much progress the sophomore pins can make. Each of Krause, Batenhorst and Lauenstein showed flashes of their immense talent as freshmen, but they all struggled to find consistency to varying degrees. Can someone emerge as a go-to hitter next to or opposite Kubik?
First serve at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island is set for 5 p.m. and the match will be televised on Nebraska Public Media.
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.