LINCOLN — Kelsey Robinson's scary tumble in Saturday's Red-White scrimmage won't delay her official debut as a Husker.
Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook said Monday that Robinson, a senior outside hitter who left the intrasquad exhibition after falling on her left shoulder, did not receive a serious injury and is expected to play in the team's season-opening tournament in St. Louis this weekend.
Cook said Robinson suffered a subluxed shoulder, not a dislocation, after she landed hard on the court diving for a ball in Game 2 of Saturday's scrimmage. She went to the locker room in obvious pain and watched the rest of the scrimmage from the bench with her left arm wrapped in ice. Robinson, who will play her final season of college volleyball in Lincoln after transferring from Tennessee, lifted weights Monday morning and went through workouts, according to the head coach.
“She's dove like that probably a thousand times in her life on way worse courts, on sticky wood courts, or sport courts where you stick a lot more,” Cook said. “It was just a fluke thing.”
No. 10 Nebraska opens the season with three matches this weekend at the Billiken Invitational. The Huskers play Louisiana-Monroe Friday afternoon, then play two matches Saturday. NU will face Auburn Saturday morning and St. Louis Saturday night.
The left-side hitter position got more good news when Cook announced freshman outside hitter Kadie Rolfzen has been medically cleared to play. Rolfzen, a top-10 nationally ranked recruit from Papillion-La Vista South, suffered an injury to her right (swinging) shoulder this summer and has been limited in workouts.
“Now, it's a question of confidence for her and when she's ready to unleash,” Cook said.
With the injury picture clearing up, Cook said, he needs to decide what offensive system the team will use. Nebraska started Saturday's scrimmage in a 6-2, rotating junior Mary Pollmiller and freshman Kelly Hunter at setter.
Both setters drew praise from Cook Monday for their performance in the scrimmage, but the coach said he likely would not decide which system the team would run, at least for the start of the season, until the middle of this week. Cook said the two setters have tested out nearly identically in workouts, and if Pollmiller gained an advantage, it would likely be because of her two years' starting experience at Tennessee.
“Hunter hasn't been through the wars yet,” Cook said. “That's something to consider, but that's why we're looking at a 6-2 because they're both really good volleyball players.”
Three seniors named captains
Nebraska's three seniors, Hayley Thramer, Morgan Broekhuis and Robinson, were named captains for the season, Cook said Monday.
Two of them were no-brainers. Broekhuis is a two-year starter, and though a newcomer, Robinson has carved out a leadership role and may be the team's most tenacious competitor.
But Thramer? Cook said he wasn't initially planning to name the senior middle blocker a captain, only because she will miss the season after suffering a knee injury in the spring. However, the Ewing, Neb., native, who would likely have been a three-year starter if not for her injury, has been a motivating factor for the Huskers merely with her presence and poise.
“We had our Match Club picnic, there were about 400 people there,” Cook said. “I saw the reaction with those people when she got up and talked, and I felt like here's somebody who had it all taken away. That's probably a greater inspiration than a ranking or some people thinking we're not going to be any good. (The players) see her every day, that here's a kid who worked for four years to be able to play in that Devaney and potentially dream of getting the first block or the first kill, and she can't play. There's great inspiration in that. It's a great reminder for them every day that you've got to put everything you can into it every day.”
New Huskers are competitive
With 10 new players, it's no secret Husker fans may watch some growing pains. However, Cook raised eyebrows Monday when asked to compare this year's team to the 2012 Huskers who reached the Elite Eight and graduated three All-Americans.
“This year's team is more athletic, probably competes a little bit harder,” Cook said. “It's not as skilled yet, nor is it near as polished. Last year, with our lineup, we were hitting the ground running. We've still got a long way to go. As a coach, I've got to look at it as we'll learn a lot each week. The goal is trying to play well by Big Ten, and then trying to be great by December.”
Later, Cook provided an example by way of a drill the team calls “20 Ball.” The drill is designed to get players to hustle after balls that may be difficult to reach. Cook said it's only used if the team needs a little extra motivation to dive for a ball.
“It's not a fun drill,” Cook said. “I haven't done it once this year. I was probably doing it twice a day last year during two-a-days.
“I don't know if it's because they're all competing for starting positions, but they have a competitive edge to them, and it's going to help us win matches.”
No decision yet on redshirts
Prior to the Red-White scrimmage, Cook had an idea on which of the young Huskers he was leaning toward redshirting. But the exhibition changed his mind, leaving open the possibility that none of the Huskers may take a redshirt year.
Both freshman middle blockers, Kira Larson and Melanie Kiel, impressed with their performances Saturday after inconsistent showings during two-a-day workouts. The two combined for six kills on nine attempts without an error for the White team in Game 3. Larson's performance especially was a pleasant surprise for the coaches.
“That caught our attention. Kira played way better than I thought she would,” Cook said. “I was worried about just putting her in. That kid is an athlete, and she learns really quickly. We were thinking of redshirting her, but I want to see how she does this week in practice.”
New Devaney impresses
The team won't have its official home opener in the Devaney Center for two weeks, giving workers a chance to turn the building into more of a finished product than fans saw on Saturday.
But a crowd of more than 8,200 fans packed the newly renovated arena for Saturday's scrimmage, and Cook said the building was impressive enough to convert a few skeptics who were hesitant about the move from the historic NU Coliseum.
“The best quote I heard was from our Match Club president who said, 'A lot of us went over there hoping not to like it, and we loved it,' ” Cook said. “So, the old-time Coliseum people were impressed and our players and alumni that were there just were in awe of the whole thing.
“We're super fired up about the Devaney and all the possibilities over there. Now, we've just got to win.”