LINCOLN — A near-empty whiteboard greeted Jaylen Reyes when the Nebraska assistant moved into his office for the first time last May. The slate, soon to be filled with notes and tasks related to the Huskers’ upcoming indoor season, had just one duty that forced Reyes to think ahead.

Coach John Cook had written “beach schedule.”

“Coach said we just want to play as many matches as we can,” Reyes said.

“I looked at how many matches they played in the past, and I thought I’m just going to go for it. This time of year, the girls just want to play. Other teams, they’re just practicing. They have four hours in the gym (per week) and they play free play indoors. We get to actually go out there and compete, and I think you learn a lot from competing even if it’s beach volleyball and not indoor volleyball.”

After graduating three seniors, and two captains who were part of four straight final four teams, Nebraska hopes a souped-up beach schedule can expedite laying the groundwork for the 2019 indoor season. The Huskers will play at least 23 beach matches in 2019 — up from their previous high of 18 last year — and possibly more if they advance to the later rounds of a tournament in Hawaii in March.

NU will play four home matches at the Hawks Center that will be closed to the public, opening on Tuesday against Missouri Baptist. The Huskers also host two matches against Ottawa (Kan.) on March 8 and 9 and one against Park University (Mo.) on March 11.

The schedule picks up in March when Nebraska plays some higher-profile beach programs in the later half of the season. NU will face No. 6 Hawaii twice, No. 8 Long Beach State, No. 11 California and No. 12 Stanford.

But the first half of Nebraska’s beach season was set up with location in mind, Reyes said. The Huskers wanted to play matches in the San Diego area, near the home of junior outside hitter Lexi Sun, who is from Encinitas, California. However, none of the Division I programs in that area field beach teams, so Reyes scheduled a series of matches against smaller schools and junior colleges that will host the team March 1-3.

That’s how Nebraska will come to face teams like Concordia University Irvine, Grossmont College, Rio Hondo, West Valley and MiraCosta before heading to Hawaii March 14-18 for the Heineken Hawaii Invitational. NU will spend the final week of the beach season with six matches in Irvine and Long Beach, California.

Cook has long touted the benefits the beach season provides the Huskers during the fall indoor season. Nebraska is the lone Big Ten school with a beach team, making it the only program that can practice 20 hours per week throughout the winter. With nine freshmen and sophomores on the fall roster, Reyes said any competitive match played wearing a Nebraska jersey is valuable experience. NU also will play a spring indoor exhibition against Colorado State in April before making an exhibition tour of China in June.

The Huskers hope all of the extra competition will ease the leadership transition after both of last year’s captains, Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney, graduated. Junior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins and sophomore setter Nicklin Hames, NU’s captains next fall, are paired together in the sand.

“I’m just trying to push my teammates to be the best that they can be,” Stivrins said. “I think Nicklin and I do a great job of going hard for every single ball, and we’re probably the most competitive people on the team. I think when people see us working that hard, they want to do the same.”

Stivrins sees the biggest benefit of beach volleyball being communication. With only two players per side, beach volleyball lends itself to constant chatter among teammates, which NU is trying to leverage by pairing some of the team’s more reserved members together.

Jazz Sweet and freshman Kenzie Knuckles have been teamed up as a duo, as have middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach and defensive specialist Megan Miller. Defensive specialist Hayley Densberger is paired with opposite hitter Anezka Szabo, while outside hitter Capri Davis and setter Mari Kurkova form another pairing.

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“I think beach brings out the vocal side of everyone, so it’s nice to get that going and build that trust with your partner,” Stivrins said. “I can’t stress that enough. That is the main reason we do this.”

One interesting pair, Reyes said, is Sun and freshman Madi Kubik, who, like Knuckles, graduated from high school a semester early to join the team in the spring. It’s one pair that lacks the traditional setup of one taller blocker and one smaller defender. Both Sun and Kubik will have to block, pass and defend on the sand, skills that will serve them well when they compete for starting outside hitter jobs this fall.

“Everything we do is to try to win in December, right?” Reyes said. “We put people with people that they can grow with each other.”