The latest player to give her commitment to join the Nebraska volleyball program has some lofty goals and decided spending her college career in Lincoln would give her the necessary tools to reach them.
Wednesday night, Hunter Atherton became the second known player to commit to Nebraska’s class of 2016 as the Marion, Ohio, setter verbally accepted a scholarship offer to become a Husker in three years.
She picked NU over offers from Florida and Kentucky, while receiving interest from several other Big Ten programs.
“I want to be able to play professionally and possibly the Olympics so Nebraska would be a good fit because they have a number of girls that go pro every year,” she said. “Coach (John) Cook and his staff are the people to help me get there.”
The 6-foot Atherton began receiving interest from Nebraska this spring and visited campus for the first time for a volleyball camp in June. She and her family attended the Huskers’ win over Northwestern on Saturday, and Tuesday she received the call informing her that she was being offered a scholarship.
“Nebraska just felt like home to me,” Atherton said. “Everything about the college is just really, really nice. The coaching staff is great. Nebraska isn’t just about developing you as an athlete, they develop you as a person.”
Atherton, who just finished her sophomore season at Marion’s Pleasant High School, switched full-time to setter this spring after previously playing both setter and outside hitter. Atherton, whose mother Kim has been head coach at Pleasant High for 13 seasons, played both positions last year in Pleasant’s 6-2 system before becoming the team’s lone setter this fall.
“We felt she was a pretty solid athlete, we thought she had the ability to be a setter,” Kim Atherton said. “But she was always bigger and stronger so she was always put in a hitting role.”
So strong was Hunter as an attacker, she set school records for points in a match and kills in a season as a freshman. However, with her height, which is somewhat short for a standout Division I outside hitter, and high-level athleticism and awareness, Kim Atherton said her daughter’s future in college was at setter.
So this spring, Hunter joined the Mintonette Volleyball Club in Columbus, Ohio, where she began practicing exclusively at setter. Mintonette’s setting instructor is former Ohio State setter Audrey Flaugh, who also works as a volleyball analyst with the Big Ten Network.
Hunter Atherton said she still has a long way to go to reach her potential as a setter, but her development over the past year has paid dividends.
“It’s still fairly new for me, the technical part of it I’m still working on,” she said. “Where to put the ball and the mental part of the game. I think if you work hard and keep focusing, there’s no cap on what people can do.”
Atherton joins Glen Ellyn, Ill., outside hitter Molly Haggerty as players committed to join Nebraska in 2016. Haggerty is the sister of current Husker Meghan Haggerty and 2014 pledge Maddie Haggerty.