As a freshman, coming into college can be intimidating, especially if you are playing for the NCAA Volleyball National Champions. Nebraska’s group of freshmen are already making an impact for the team.
Middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach is one of the two freshmen who has started in every match so far this season. She currently leads the team in blocks, with 56 total blocks in the season and averages 1.60 per set. The next-closest Husker to that total is sophomore middle blocker Lauren Stivrins, with 33 blocks on the season, averaging .94 per set.
Schwarzenbach has been a key player in the Husker lineup this season, but sometimes she doesn’t feel like it. Head coach John Cook said sometimes Schwarzenbach doesn’t think she is great, during his post-game press conference on Friday, Sept. 14, after the match against New Mexico. He said he needs to give her constant reminders that she is here and playing for a reason.
“I have told her every day. Like at the end of practice, I say, ‘You know, Callie, you had more touches and more blocks and better efficiency than Lauren [Stivrins] today,’” Cook said. “I have just been trying to pump her up since she is putting up really good numbers.”
The mindset that Schwarzenbach has is one that doesn’t want to get cocky. She said she wants to stay humble and that cockiness can hinder you, so she always has the mindset that she can do better.
“I am definitely too hard on myself sometimes,” Schwarzenbach said. “But I think it also pushes me to get better and not be too confident.”
Schwarzenbach said she and the team have been working to build her confidence and make her an even better player.
“Honestly, the way [the coaches] talked during games has already helped,” Schwarzenbach said. “The way they speak to us during our tight huddles and making eye contact has built more confidence.”
If the team helping her isn’t enough to build her confidence, then the honor of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week that she earned on Sept. 17 should help.
Freshman setter Nicklin Hames is also feeling support from the upperclassmen. Hames was ranked the fourth-best prospect and top setter in the nation by PrepVolleyball last year. With such high accolades come high expectations for her to play well early in her college career.
Hames had a feeling she would get to play early in her first year as a Husker, and it made her work harder to get on the level the team needed her at.
“I came in with a mindset that this may be your job so you need to work as hard as you can to make it your job,” Hames said.
Hames had big shoes to fill as former Husker setter Kelly Hunter graduated last spring. She may be getting to Hunter’s level right out of the gates as Hames recorded a career high of 56 assists against the Creighton Bluejays, one more than Hunter’s season high last year.
She leads the team in assists with 339 in the season, and averages 9.69 per set. Hames also has 15 service aces for the Huskers. With a few years left in her career at Nebraska, she has the potential to be as talented as Hunter.
Hames and Schwarzenbach have started in every game this season, showing promise for those two to continue to do great going into Big Ten play.
Freshman libero Megan Miller started off the preseason strong for the Huskers. She started eight of the nine games she has played in so far this season. Miller brought energy to Nebraska early this season and started off with a season high of nine digs against Florida and three service aces against Creighton. Miller was named one of the top four libero recruits in the nation by PrepVolleyball.
Another freshman, outside hitter Capri Davis, also brings potential to the Huskers. PrepVolleyball ranked her as the No. 21 prospect in the nation. She jumped right into big games against Florida and Oregon and was able to make plays against those tough competitors. She currently has a season high of 18 kills against Creighton.
The talent these freshmen bring to the competitive Nebraska volleyball program can set up the Huskers for a good run this season and seasons to come. Cook told the team these freshmen can make a difference and that he hopes they put in the work to be good athletes at Nebraska.
“Coach said all of you have potential to play so I think we all went in with a mindset that we could play,” Hames said.