Husker volleyball finished as the #2 ranked team in the AP poll after falling to Wisconsin in five sets in the national championship game. Nebraska was at number 12 at one point in the season and rose to the end of the NCAA tournament.
In this series, HuskerOnline will break down Nebraska’s season by ranking group based on stats and national rankings.
Outside hitter observations:
In Madi Kubik’s first season as the No. 1 left side outside, she led the Huskers with 412 kills and 3.49 kills per set. Kubik’s kills by set were number 138 in the NCAA in the 2021 season.
Six-year old batter Lexi Sun played inconsistently after the preseason, making Kubik the most experienced outside hitter on the field. Kubik had 22 games with double-digit kills and seven double-doubles.
The West Des Moines native had a .202 pass rate during the season and hit .219 during the Big Ten season. During the conference game, Kubik was ranked #3 in the Big Ten with 4.11 average kills per set and #5 with 4.59 points per set.
To take smart photos:
Nebraska’s outside hitters batted .187 as a group compared to the team’s .222 batting percentage.
The Huskers were ranked No. 13 in the Big Ten in opponent’s blocks with 2.48 blocks allowed per set. Iowa, who finished second to last in the conference, was behind Nebraska with 2.51 opponent blocks per set.
Nebraska was also number 12 with an average of 15.59 opponents per set in the 2021 season.
These stats tell us that the outside batters struggled to kill balls effectively. They were blocked or dug more times than most Big Ten teams and more than all elite Big Ten teams except Minnesota, who finished last with 16.41 opponents per set.
The 2021 season featured some of the best floor defense the Big Ten has seen and that can be reflected in Nebraska’s numbers, but every Big Ten team faced the same challenge.
One factor of Nebraska’s less effective kill was that NU had two freshmen starting and one playing halfway through their sets. All three of these freshmen hit hard enough to get balls down, but there’s also a degree of intelligent floor placement and situational shots. Like all skills, this develops with experience and it showed during the NCAA tournament.
Nebraska’s outside batters improved at the end of the season, hitting .193 in the postseason and .225 when excluding the game in Wisconsin.
Big moment for big plays:
Nebraska’s aspiring freshmen, Ally Batenhorst on the left and Lindsay Krause on the other, stepped up and dominated in the postseason.
Krause hit .285 during the tournament with 55 kills and 20 errors. Against Wisconsin, she hit .081 with 12 kills and nine errors. Until the national championship, the 6-foot-4 hitter had a .372 batting percentage in the postseason.
During the tournament, Batenhorst hit .183, an improvement from the .155 clip she had this season. The 6-foot-4 athlete’s hit rates fluctuated throughout the season, but she was more consistent in the postseason.
Both Krause and Batenhorst dominated in Nebraska’s four-set win over Texas in the regional final. Batenhorst had a seasonal 15 kills and hit .406 with two errors. On the other hand, Krause hit .500 with 13 kills and five blocks.
Playing on the left side at Omaha Skutt High School, Krause had to adapt and learn from the right side. Batenhorst struggled with consistency but had several good performances throughout the season.
Both batters were thrown in Big Ten volleyball as freshmen, stepped up massively, and ended up playing not as freshmen but playing like champions.
Big hit Whit:
Behind Krause on the right was fellow freshman Whitney Lauenstein, whose nickname is “big hit Whit.” Lauenstein often played in the preseason when Head Coach John Cook was shuffling players to find the starting lineup. She started against Creighton and Stanford and then Krause won the runway in the Big Ten season.
When Krause was struggling, Lauenstein usually provided a boost for the Huskers. The 6-foot-2 hitter occasionally filled in as a blocking sub for setter Nicklin Hames when setter Anni Evans was serving.
She hit .130 during the season, but getting off the bench when your team is struggling is a tough job. For example, Lauenstein hit -.500 against Minnesota, but had two swings, no kills and a foul.
Lauenstein said she’s still in the process of adding more types of shots to her tool belt. On the Up Close podcast, she shared: HuskerOnline that she needs more time to develop and learn a new skill, but she said that when she learns the skill, it sticks.
The 2021 season allowed her to learn new skills, use those new skills in a game and gain valuable playing experience.
Incoming outside batter: Hayden Kubik, Madi’s younger sister, comes to Nebraska as the No. 18 overall 2022 prospect by PrepVolleyball.com. Hayden, a 6-foot-1 hitter, will bring depth to Nebraska’s young outside hitter group.
This article is about how the Huskers performed by position in 2021, HuskerOnline will split each position group for the 2022 season closer to the start of the season.