The libero position was introduced to the indoor game back in 1989 and to this day it still does not receive the recognition the position deserves. Outstanding liberos have played at multiple Division 1 schools across the country and Nebraska libero, Justine Wong-Orantes, has done her part to bring more attention to the libero name.
“I think people are now starting to realize that the libero position is very important with all of these upcoming great liberos,” stated Wong-Orantes. “I mean there are so many schools that have a ton of little people (is what I call them) and people are now starting to realize the importance of the position.”
Wong-Orantes played four years for the Huskers under head coach John Cook and has developed quite a name for herself. During this year’s selection show on ESPNU, Cook stated that he wasn’t sure about the value of the libero until Wong-Orantes.
Among all her accolades as Husker, Wong-Orantes is the first Husker to win All-American honors as a libero and is one of three liberos to ever earn All-American honors and has also been named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year twice (2015 and 2016).
“I have played against the best teams and best players, not only in division 1 volleyball but more specifically the Big Ten conference,” says Wong-Orantes. “It’s really challenged me as a defensive player and allowed me to improve from my freshman to senior year!”
In high school, Wong-Orantes was a four-year starter setter for Los Alamitos and transitioned to the libero spot during her club season where John Cook recruited her to become a Husker. Only being recruited to play libero from Nebraska, it was an easy choice for Wong-Orantes and she considered it a “no brainer”.
“I think one of the biggest challenges I have faced being a libero is that sometimes all you have to contribute is your voice. A lot of times the libero doesn’t get served so all you can do is communicate well with your teammates and make sure you are allowing them to feel comfortable and good.”
When asked what would be two words her teammates would use to describe her, she said “energetic and relentless”. The libero position is more cut-throat than portrayed and is considered to be the role model for how the defense is to be played on a team, and that is what Justine did.
“I think my teammates would say that I work hard and give all my effort whenever I’m needed to.”
Her indoor career may be done as a Nebraska Husker but Wong-Orentes will be playing beach volleyball in the spring for her last semester. After graduation she has hopes to train in the USA gym and if the opportunity presents itself for her to play overseas she would definitely take it.
“I was so fortunate to end my career with a national championship, Big Ten championships, final four appearances this past season, and two-time all-American. These are all great accolades but I want to be remembered as a leader and a great teammate at Nebraska.”