2017 is a transition year for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. While a team like Nebraska that brings in impact freshmen in every class and regularly earns commitments from 8th graders is never truly ‘rebuilding,’ this season will see a lot of new faces on the court for the 2015 NCAA Champions.
The Rolfzen twins have both run out of eligibility, as has the nation’s best libero Justine Wong-Orantes.
Nebraska did expect to have one anchor, though, in the middle of their lineup. Setter Kelly Hunter, a senior and 3rd-year captains, returns as the starter in the middle of the lineup after starting all 34 matches for Nebraska last season. That status is now in flux, though, as Nebraska coach John Cook says that she’s picked up an injury that will limit her availability.
The injury, which Cook didn’t disclose after Saturday’s scrimmage, will limit her from playing in both of Nebraska’s matches next weekend in the team’s first competitive matches.
“She can play, the question is how long, and we got to figure that out. She can’t play two matches back-to-back next week,” Cook said. “So we’re risking potentially fatiguing her out, and having her get hurt or reinjured.”
Hunter didn’t play in the scrimmage, though she was on the bench.
Last year, she had 1315 assists for Nebraska, 11.24/set, and the team scored on 63.6% of her sets.
In her absence, redshirt freshman Hunter Atherton becomes the starter.
“She’s kind of feeling her way, you know, and we’ve got to get her to embrace being the starting setter,” Cook said. “I thought the longer the match went on she a got a little more comfortable, but she’s got to take another big step in that direction, and being more comfortable and knowing she belongs, and that she can do it.”
She’s the only other listed setter on the team, with assistant coach and former U.S. Olympian Kayla Banwarth serving as the ‘white team’ setter in Nebraska’s scrimmage. Banwarth actually led all players with 14 digs in the match.
Nebraska, who are ranked #5 in both the AVCA and VolleyMob preseason polls, formally open their season next week at the VERT Challenge in Gainesville, Florida. There they’ll play #9 Florida and #15 Oregon, leaving no obvious choice for where to rest Hunter.
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