Nebraska volleyball season in review: Setter
Husker volleyball finished as the No. 2 ranked team in the AP poll after falling to Wisconsin in the national championship game in five sets. Nebraska was ranked No. 12 at one point in the season and surged toward the end in the NCAA tournament.
In this series, HuskerOnline will break down Nebraska's season by position group based on statistics and national rankings.
Nebraska's starting setter Nicklin Hames finished the season with 1226 assists. She ranked No. 4 in the Big Ten with 10.75 assists per set and ranked No. 27 in the NCAA. Louisville setter and AVCA First-Team All-American Tori Dilfer sat at No. 28 with 10.74 assists per set.
Hames, who is returning for her fifth season but in a new position, is Nebraska's all-time assist leader with 4636 career assists. In the 2021 season, Hames had her second-lowest assist per set. The first lowest was her freshman season in 2018 when she averaged 10.49 assists per set.
On a recent podcast on Husker Radio Network, Hames said a team can only play as well as their setter. If the setter is having a bad day, everyone is. There were several times during the 2021 season that Hames struggled. Occasionally Husker Head Coach John Cook had to call timeouts to talk with Hames.
Hames had the second most digs on the team with 388 behind libero Lexi Rodriquez's 524. The 5-foot-10 athlete averaged 3.40 digs per set, the most of all the Big Ten setters. Penn State's Gabby Blossom, who is in the transfer portal, was second with 2.98 digs per set.
Cook said Nebraska had four elite defensive players: Rodriguez, defensive specialist Kenzie Knuckles and Keonilei Akana and Hames. Hames announced she won't be Nebraska's starting setter next season. If she does make it on the court, it is likely she will be a defensive specialist and/or serving specialist.
The next floor general:
With Hames stepping down as Nebraska's starting setter, it is likely freshman Kennedi Orr will be the Huskers' setter in 2022. Orr played in seven sets at the beginning of 2021 when Hames missed two games due to an injury at the start of the season.
The No. 1 overall prospect in the 2021 class had 51 assists, averaging 7.29 per set. Orr had one kill on five attacks, 20 digs and three blocks.
Cook said because Orr has big hands, she sets the ball "like a man". Hames described her setting as "beautiful" and that she and setter Anni Evans talk about how jealous they are of Orr's setting abilities.
The "good little setter":
Evans, a sophomore walk-on from Waverly, Neb., started against Colgate along with Orr as Nebraska played a two-setter system during the first two sets and only Orr played in the third set. The 5-foot-6 setter played back row, with Orr in the front, and had six assists and four digs.
In the other game Hames was injured, Orr started as NU ran their typically one-setter system. However, when Kansas State staged a comeback and won the third set, Evans came in and sparked a comeback with 12 assists and the Huskers won in four sets.
Evans served for Nebraska's middle blocker for most of the season. Occasionally, outside hitter Whitney Lauenstein would sub in for Hames while Evans was serving and then Evans would be the lead setter on the court.
Cook has called Evans a "good little setter" several times and her limited time on the floor has reflected that.
Nebraska doesn't have an incoming setter in the 2022 class. Maisie Boesiger, who is a walk-on, was Norris High School's setter but will switch to a defensive specialist for the Huskers.