After leading Husker volleyball for four seasons, Hames is ready for a new role

When Nicklin Hames arrived in Nebraska after the 2017 season, expectations were high for the freshman setter taking over from two-time National Champion Kelly Hunter.

Hames led Nebraska for four seasons and left the program as the all-time assist leader.

The three-time team captain marched her team to two national championships and two elite eight appearances. Hames returns for her fifth season as a Husker, but in a new position, a defensive specialist, in 2022 and a graduate assistant in 2023 to eventually coach the sport she loves.

Hames said on a podcast on Huskers Radio Network that she doesn’t have “high hopes” for her new position on the court, leaving her more time to focus on her leadership role.

Jason and Christine Hames, Nicklin’s parents, are the founders and directors of K2 Volleyball Club in Louisville, Tennessee. She said this fueled her love for the sport and the dream of coaching.

“I just saw the impact they had on the lives of young girls and the community in general,” said the 6-foot athlete. “I want to be able to do that and give back. I’ve gained so much knowledge from playing here at Nebraska and my whole career, and I want to give that back. I’ve had those great coaches who have that impact on you for life and I want to I can do.”

Hames has a chance to influence the Huskers’ next starting setter.

Redshirt freshman Kennedi Orr, who was the top contender in the 2021 class, will be Nebraska’s next starting setter. In her new role, Hames can help Orr and setter Anni Evans deal with the pressure of being a young Nebraska setter.

“I have full confidence in Anni and Kennedi,” said Hames. “They’re going to be amazing and I’m excited to be able to help them really understand what it’s like to get into that role because I went in my freshman year, and it was a lot, it was stressful.”

As for Orr, who played in two games at the start of the season, Hames said her ceiling is “so high”.

“She’s so talented,” she said. “Me and Anni are always so jealous of her because she has the biggest hands and so the ball just comes out beautifully.”

Orr tore her ACL during her senior year of high school and did much of her rehab in Nebraska in the spring of 2020 as an early enrollee. Hames said Orr was working so hard to get back.

“It was a really tough journey for her with her ACL and getting back from that,” Hames said. “I’m just excited to see her in that position. And knowing that, she can just go for it and not feel held back by anything. I’m also excited because she’s the stud. She’s also just such a great athlete. I’m excited to see where she can reach.”

While Hames doesn’t have high hopes for her role on the field, center blocker Kayla Caffey, who filed an NCAA waiver to return for her seventh season, said she wouldn’t be surprised if Hames found herself on the field.

“When she’s on the court, Nicklin is just a great volleyball player,” Caffey said. “She’s so knowledgeable, I think she can honestly play any position she wants on the pitch and make it look good. She’s already a great defensive player.”

Having her on the field is also a boost in leadership, Caffey said.

“She’s a leader,” Caffey said. “I think it would be good for her to somehow find her way on the pitch because we always look to her in those difficult moments.”

Although the Huskers had their share of “tough moments,” Hames said they showed growth, resilience and struggle during the 2021 season. She said that even though Nebraska lost to Wisconsin in the national championship, they played the Badgers the best they had in had her career at NU.

After learning about herself and her team last season, Hames is ready to learn more from Cook and assistant coaches Jaylen Reyes and Kelly Hunter.

Some of the most successful coaches in college volleyball have coached and learned from Cook under Cook. For example, Louisville head coach Dani Busboom Kelly took her team to the first-ever Final Four in 2021 and Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner won a national championship in 2020.

Hames said Cook’s growth mindset encourages those around him to constantly learn and grow.

While Hames will not lead the team on the track in the setter position, she said she will do everything she can to help her teammates.

“I don’t have all the high expectations for my role, I’m going to be a leader, someone that people can lean on and talk to, and if that means sitting on the bench cheering my teammates on, I’m glad I I do,” said Hames. “I’m excited about this new role because I think it will give me a different perspective than I’ve had for the past four years.”

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