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Star volleyball athlete Morgan Broekhuis adapts to NU sand play

  • Andrew Ward
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Morgan Broekhuis noticed something different when she first stepped onto a sand volleyball court as a member of Nebraska’s newest sport.

She couldn’t move. That is, she couldn’t move quickly.

“It’s hard to move in the sand,” Broekhuis said.

Broekhuis is one of Nebraska’s best volleyball players. Her honors and statistics over the last three years as a member of Nebraska’s indoor volleyball team back this statement.

She has had significant playing time for the indoor squad as a starter for the past two seasons. She earned AVCA All-American honorable mention along with same award in the Big Ten in 2011. In 2012, she notched 15 kills in Nebraska’s win against defending champion UCLA.

However, when Broekhuis stepped in the sand for the first time as a member of the Huskers’ sand volleyball team, she struggled. She hadn’t played in a competitive sand match before, only pickup games.

She couldn’t move as quickly. Kills that Broekhuis and her teammates would normally dig fell to the ground at their feet. Instead of six players on the court, there were two. When Broekhuis jumped to block a shot, she felt like her fingers could barely reach the top of the net.

That’s what happens when moving in a foot of sand.

“It’s a lot different, it really is,” Broekhuis said. “Skills that would be easy on the court are so much more difficult in the sand. Everything requires a little more energy.”

Broekhuis doesn’t care how difficult it is to move quickly or jump in the sand, though. She is just excited to play.

The spring indoor season was about to start, and Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook called a team meeting. Broekhuis and her teammates assumed the gathering would be about the squad’s schedule over the next few weeks.

However, Cook had something different in mind.

“Coach was like, ‘We have a sand team, so we are in sand season,’” Broekhuis said. “Everyone was excited. We all knew it was coming but we didn’t expect it to be this spring. We knew it was in the future, but it was sooner than we thought.”

“It’s something new, it’s exciting, it’s fresh,” senior Hayley Thramer said.

The Huskers now take a different approach to the spring. Practices will be either at the Hawks Championship Center indoor sand court or outside at the Spikes Beach Bar and Grille courts.

For Broekhuis, the sand is not the only thing she has been getting used to.

Two weeks ago, Cook announced the Huskers’ partners for the sand season. He paired Broekhuis, a senior-to-be, with freshman newcomer Kadie Rolfzen. The duo will enter the season as Nebraska’s No. 3 pair, despite only playing with each other the last couple weeks.

“We’ve played enough,” Broekhuis said. “We’ve played a lot over the last week to prepare for this next week.”

The lack of experience with her partner doesn’t faze Broekhuis, though.

She said she and Rolfzen have similar competitive natures. The pair feeds off each other on the court, according to Broekhuis, as they give each other positive feedback.

The players also have different styles. Broekhuis is left-handed and 6 feet 5 inches tall, while Rolfzen is right-handed and stands 6 foot 3 inches. Broekhuis will be a senior starter on a nationally ranked team, while Rolfzen is an unproven freshman, just beginning her career in an elite program.

However, this makes little difference to Broekhuis.

“I think we understand each other,” Broekhuis said. “I think we know how to give positive feedback with each other. Saying things like, ‘Hey, try this shot next time,’ or, ‘this shot might be open.’”

Broekhuis doesn’t care if she plays with a freshman. She said sand volleyball makes her feel free no matter who she is partnered with.

“I kind of view it as a pickup basketball game,” Broekhuis said. “You just kind of go out there and compete.”

That’s exactly what Broekhuis and her teammates will be doing over the next week. Competing in a foot of sand.

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