Five storylines to watch in Nebraska volleyball's exhibition match
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Five storylines to watch in Nebraska volleyball's exhibition match

Husker volleyball will be back in front of fans for its exhibition match against Kansas at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Neb. on Saturday, April 23.

The game will be televised on Nebraska Public Media and nebraskapublicmedia.org at 5 p.m. It can also be heard on the Huskers Radio Network.

Here are five storylines to watch during the Huskers' exhibition match:

Nebraska volleyball
Nebraska volleyball (Getty Images)

1. Kennedi Orr and the setters

Sophomore setter Kennedi Orr might be the most intriguing part of the Huskers' spring exhibition. With four-year starting setter Nicklin Hames in a new role this season, it is basically Orr's job.

Husker Head Coach John Cook said Orr missed the back part of the beach volleyball season but is back in the gym. He did say she is a little behind. Orr suffered from a major knee injury during the fall of 2020 before she enrolled at Nebraska.

While Orr will most likely get a chance to lead Nebraska's offense on Saturday, it's hard to say how long she will or can play. And if she does spend a lot of time on the court, keep in mind her setback.

Orr was the No. 1 recruit in the 2021 class by PrepVolleyball.com and has a very high ceiling at Nebraska. Husker fans might get a glimpse of that during the game.

Husker volleyball player Nicklin Hames
Husker volleyball player Nicklin Hames (Getty Images)

Nicklin Hames's new role

Hames announced that she would be in a different role in 2022 during her fifth season and will have a focus on coaching.

What will her role look like during the exhibition match? It is likely she will be a serving specialist, a defensive specialist and/or the backup setter in the back row. Keep an eye on how she is used but also be aware of the impact of trying to play so many players and having a limited Orr could have.

Hames's role won't be on full display on Saturday but Husker fans will have to get used to her not running the show.

Cook said after Tuesday's practice that he's never seen Hames so happy.

"She's playing really, really well," he said. "She's being a great leader and I think she's excited about her fifth year."

Freshmen's first outing

Nebraska added three freshmen during the offseason: middle blocker Bekka Allick, outside hitter Hayden Kubik and setter/defensive specialist Maisie Boesiger.

Cook said he intends for everyone to play on Saturday including the freshmen.

"All three of them have made big jumps and they did the same thing in beach," Cook said. "They started off like they've never played beach before and then by the end of the beach season, they were doing some really nice stuff and same thing indoor here. But this is a hard gym to come into, it takes a while to adjust and they've had a great mindset."

There will likely be some nerves as this is their first game in front of Husker nation but it's important for them to learn to control the nerves and settle in.

Nebraska middle blocker Kayla Caffey
Nebraska middle blocker Kayla Caffey (Getty Images)

The Husker middle blocker situation

Nebraska's middle blocker position group is probably as complicated as it gets.

Kayla Caffey submitted a waiver to the NCAA to return for her seventh year of college volleyball. Her waiver has not been granted and Cook is unsure if she will be available on Saturday because of that.

Callie Schwarzenbach will play against Kansas after announcing in January that she will be transferring to Long Beach State. She is still on a volleyball scholarship at Nebraska until the end of the semester so she has been practicing with the team.

Penn State transfer Kaitlyn Hord is finishing up her undergraduate degree before coming to Nebraska this summer.

The Huskers had two middles leave the program during the offseason, Rylee Gray medically retired and Kalynn Meyer will be focusing only on track and field.

With the complications of the position group, freshman Bekka Allick will likely get a lot of playing time as she could be one of the two middles available for the exhibition. Cook said Allick has been making "huge progress" across the board.

Cook previously mentioned that freshman Maggie Mendelson, who is not on campus yet, could potentially be used as a middle blocker/opposite hitter hybrid to add depth.

As for now, Allick will have a great opportunity to showoff in front of her home state on Saturday.

Nebraska outside hitter Lindsay Krause
Nebraska outside hitter Lindsay Krause (Getty Images)

Outside hitters

One of Nebraska's most consistent weaknesses during the 2021 season was its outside hitters, who became better towards the high stakes of the end of the season.

All three starters are returning in senior Madi Kubik and now sophomores Lindsay Krause and Ally Batenhorst. The Huskers also have a big arm in sophomore Whitney Lauenstein who appeared in 27 matches as a freshman.

Freshman Hayden Kubik, Madi's younger sister, will have an opportunity to showcase her skills as well.

While Krause played opposite last season, Cook is not opposed to moving hitters to a different side. However, he has said in the past that Madi and Batenhorst are both naturally left sides. So NU would need to find an opposite, potentially Lauenstein, if it wanted to move Krause.

I'll be interested to see how they use the outside hitters and if Krause will get a shot at playing on the left side as she did in high school.

With many lineups to include all the players, it could be hard for the setters and outside hitters to build up chemistry against Kansas.