HUSKER VOLLEYBALL: Nebraska Dominates Big Ten Postseason Awards

LINCOLN–(NU Athletics Nov. 30)–Seven members of the Nebraska volleyball team, as well as Head Coach John Cook, received Big Ten Volleyball Postseason Honors, which were announced on Thursday after a vote by the league’s head coaches.

The Huskers took home four of the five individual awards handed out on Thursday. Junior libero Lexi Rodriguez was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in her career, becoming the fifth player in Big Ten history to receive that honor twice in a career. Freshman setter Bergen Reilly was chosen Big Ten Setter of the Year, becoming the first ever freshman to earn the award since it originated in 2012. Freshman outside hitter Harper Murray was voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year, making her the second ever Husker (Madi Kubik, 2019) to receive that distinction. And Cook was named Big Ten Coach of the Year by both his fellow coaches and the media. It’s his fourth career Big Ten Coach of the Year accolade and eighth all-time conference coach of the year honor.

In addition to the individual awards, Merritt Beason, Murray, Reilly and Rodriguez were selected to the 18-player All-Big Ten First Team. Beason and Rodriguez were two of seven unanimous selections. Nebraska’s four first-team honorees are tied for its most since joining the conference in 2011.

Middle blockers Bekka Allick and Andi Jackson were selected to the All-Big Ten Second Team, giving the Huskers six total All-Big Ten honorees, the most all-conference selections in a season in program history.

Jackson, Murray and Reilly were on the seven-player All-Freshman Team, with Murray and Reilly earning unanimous selections. Finally, sophomore middle blocker Maggie Mendelson was Nebraska’s Sportsmanship Award honoree.

Rodriguez, who averages 3.60 digs and 1.24 assists per set with a .979 serve reception percentage, leads a Husker defense that ranks third nationally in opponent hitting percentage. The junior from Sterling, Ill., was twice named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week this season despite opponents frequently tailoring their game plans to avoid Rodriguez on the court. Rodriguez was a first-team AVCA All-American in 2021 and a second-team AVCA All-American in 2022, as well as an All-Big Ten libero both years. Rodriguez was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman in 2021 and also excels academically, earning Academic All-America honors in 2022.

Reilly, just the second true freshman setter to be the starter at Nebraska under head coach John Cook, is putting up 10.74 assists and 2.60 digs per set and has 12 double-doubles this season. The Sioux Falls, S.D., native leads all Big Ten players in assists per set and ranks 13th in the nation. Reilly was named Big Ten Setter of the Week four times this year and Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice. She paces a Husker offense that ranks in the top 15 nationally in hitting percentage (.282) and kills per set (14.16). Reilly posted her career high of 54 assists in a 3-2 win at then-No. 17 Purdue on Sept. 29. She also recorded 12 digs and a career-best five kills in that match.

Murray, a freshman outside hitter from Ann Arbor, Mich., ranks second on the Huskers in kills with 3.29 per set on .250 hitting and adds 2.10 digs per set with a team-high 31 service aces. Murray was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times this season and has seven double-doubles. She hit a career-high 21 kills in a 3-2 win at then-No. 17 Purdue on Sept. 29.

Beason, a junior opposite hitter who transfered to NU from Florida, has stepped in as a team captain and is contributing a team-leading 3.81 kills per set this season with 2.08 digs per set and a .284 hitting percentage. A native of Gardendale, Ala., Beason earned four Big Ten Player of the Week honors this season and was the AVCA National Player of the Week on Oct. 24 following 21 kills in a 3-2 win over then-No. 1 Wisconsin. Beason had a career-high 27 kills on .426 hitting in a 3-2 reverse sweep at then-No. 16 Penn State on Nov. 3. As a sophomore at Florida in 2022, Beason was an All-SEC and AVCA All-Region selection.

Allick, a sophomore middle blocker from Lincoln, Neb., has been Nebraska’s top defensive presence at the net with a team-best 1.35 blocks per set this season. Offensively, Allick adds 1.82 kills per set on .324 hitting. Allick had a career-high nine blocks in the regular-season finale at Minnesota. Allick was also an All-Big Ten Second Team selection last year.

Jackson, a freshman middle blocker from Brighton, Colo., averages 2.10 kills per set and 1.06 blocks per set and has a team-high .408 hitting percentage, which ranks second among Big Ten players and 15th nationally. Jackson was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week in November and has hit .500 or better in 12 matches this season.

Cook led a young Nebraska team with no seniors to its first Big Ten title since 2017. The Huskers finished the regular season 28-1 overall, their best regular season record since going 28-1 in 2005.

After going 26-6 last year and missing the NCAA Regional Finals for the first time since 2011, the Huskers started over with a starting lineup featuring four true freshmen and a junior transfer (Beason). Cook’s Huskers won their first 27 matches of the season and held the No. 1 ranking from Oct. 23 through the end of the regular season.

Despite having no seniors on the roster for just the second time in Cook’s 24 years at Nebraska – as well as starting a true freshman at setter for only the second time in Cook’s tenure – the Huskers earned the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016 and the sixth time overall under Cook.

2023 BIG TEN VOLLEYBALL POSTSEASON HONORS
Player of the Year: Sarah Franklin, Sr., OH, Wisconsin
Defensive Player of the Year: Lexi Rodriguez, Jr., L, Nebraska
Setter of the Year: Bergen Reilly, Fr., Nebraska
Freshman of the Year: Harper Murray, OH, Nebraska
Coach of the Year (Coaches & Media): John Cook, Nebraska

FIRST TEAM ALL-BIG TEN
Raina Terry, Sr., OH, Illinois
CAMRYN HAWORTH, Jr., S, Indiana
Taylor Landfair, RS-Jr., OH, Minnesota
Kylie Murr, Gr., L, Minnesota
MERRITT BEASON, Jr., OPP, Nebraska
Harper Murray, Fr., OH, Nebraska
Bergen Reilly, Fr., S, Nebraska
LEXI RODRIGUEZ, Jr., L, Nebraska
Julia Sangiacomo, Sr., OH, Northwestern
EMILY LONDOT, Sr., OH, Ohio State
JEZZ MRUZIK, Sr., OH, Penn State
Mac Podraza, Gr., S, Penn State
EVA HUDSON, So., OH, Purdue
Raven Colvin, Jr., MB, Purdue
Chloe Chicoine, Fr., OH, Purdue
SARAH FRANKLIN, Sr., OH, Wisconsin
Carter Booth, So., MB, Wisconsin
Anna Smrek, Jr., OPP, Wisconsin

SECOND TEAM ALL-BIG TEN
Ramsey Gary, Fr., L, Indiana
Kaley Rammelsberg, Gr., MB, Indiana
Amani McArthur, Gr., MB, Michigan State
Taylah Holdem, Fr., OH, Michigan State
Melani Shaffmaster, Sr., S, Minnesota
Lydia Grote, Jr., OPP, Minnesota
Andi Jackson, Fr., MB, Nebraska
Bekka Allick, So., MB, Nebraska
Rylee Rader, Sr., MB, Ohio State
Camryn Hannah, Sr., OH, Penn State
Maddie Schermerhorn, Gr., L, Purdue
Alissa Kinkela, RS-So., OH, Rutgers
Devyn Robinson, Sr., OPP, Wisconsin

ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
RAMSEY GARY, L, Indiana
Taylah Holdem, OH, Michigan State
BERGEN REILLY, S, Nebraska
HARPER MURRAY, OH, Nebraska
Andi Jackson, MB, Nebraska
CHLOE CHICOINE, OH, Purdue
Taylor Anderson, S, Purdue

SPORTSMANSHIP HONOREES
Kennedy Collins, Gr., MB, Illinois
Candela Alonso-Corcelles, So., OH, Indiana
Bailey Ortega, Sr., S, Iowa
Zoe Huang, Jr., S, Maryland
Brooke Humphrey, Sr., DS/L, Michigan
Lydia Grote, Jr., OPP, Minnesota
Julia Bishop, Jr., S, Michigan State
Maggie Mendelson, So., MB, Nebraska
Natalie Chizzo, Sr., OH, Northwestern
Sarah Sue Morbitzer, Sr., DS, Ohio State
Macy Van Den Elzen, Sr., OPP, Penn State
Lizzie Carr, R-Fr., MB, Purdue
Kristina Grkovic, Sr., MB, Rutgers
MJ Hammill, Sr., S, Wisconsin

ALL CAPS indicates unanimous selections