A trio of new names are joining the Nebraska women’s volleyball roster for 2018. Previously the team was devoid of some depth at positions like setter, but with two at that position coming on along with a defensive specialist/libero, the Huskers roster seems set for the fall when they look to defend their National Title.
Headlining the newcomers is a familiar face for Big Red in Brooke Smith. The 5’10” setter was most recently at Kansas State, but prior to that stint was a backup setter and serving specialist with the Huskers.
“Brooke found out she missed Nebraska and the relationships she built in her first two years here,” Nebraska head coach John Cook said in the team’s release of the new trio. “She is a great addition to our team because she is such a hard worker, great teammate and a player everyone really respects. We are very excited to have Brooke back for her final season.”
In her time with Nebraska, Smith won a National Championship in 2015 and totaled nine aces in 18 matches over the course of her two seasons of limited time. With the Wildcats last season, she was part of a 6-2 system and produced per set numbers of 4.71 assists and 1.71 digs. Her serving ability transferred over as well with 27 aces, good for second on the team. She will be a senior in the fall with one year left of play, and like the other two players is immediately eligible.
The other setter coming on will be a junior in 5’11” Mari Kurkova. A native of Opava, Czech Republic, Kurkova attended Přípotoční High School. She has also played with the Czech Republic Women’s National Team at the 2014 and 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix, with more action at the U20 2015 World Championship. Kurkova, along with Smith, join highly-touted freshman Nicklin Hames to give Nebraska three setters on the roster.
“After Hunter Atherton’s transfer we began looking for another setter, and we found out about Mari and started the process,” Cook added in the release. “She is unique in that she is a grad student, so she will be working on a master’s degree for the next two years. We felt that she would be a good fit at Nebraska because she has experience, she knows what she wants, and there is also a great Czech population in the state of Nebraska.”
Rounding out the trio is an incoming freshman in 5’6″ DS/L Chen Abramovich, a native of Kfar Saba, Israel. She, like Kurkova, participated for her nation in international play as part of the Israel Junior National Team at the 2016 European Championship. Her club team, Hapoel Kfar Saba, won the ISR National Championship with her patrolling the back row defensively and also finished 16th in the CEV Volleyball Cup.
“Chen approached us about playing volleyball at Nebraska once she completed her army commitment,” Cook said. “Chen comes from a strong volleyball family, and her mom is a national hero for starting the Mother’s Volleyball League in Israel, and now it has spread all over the world. Chen played in a league that played with international rules where the libero is not allowed to serve, but she has seen a lot of tough serves and will be a great addition to our back row.”
Nebraska finished 32-4 in 2017 and won the Big Ten at 19-1 en route to their second National Championship in three seasons. Their 2018 campaign of defending their crown begins on August 24 against Florida for a National Title rematch in the VERT Challenge.