Category Archives: Huskers News

Nebraska’s Shawn Eichorst, Others in Big Ten Favor Earlier Paid Visits, Early Signing Period

College football may be closing in on significant change to the when, where and how of recruiting.

“More so than ever, there is optimism,’’ Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst said at the Big Ten meetings. “The devil is in the details. I have not heard folks are totally opposed to revisiting the entire recruiting calendar.

“I think you have to. Recruiting has totally changed. This is a national recruiting situation. I get the regional stuff if you are in a region with population, but a majority of us don’t have that. So I think you need to look at it from a national platform.’’

The machinery for change appears in place following the NCAA’s retooling of its governance system, essentially allowing Power Five schools to craft their own rules.

The Big Ten has two prominent people in that structure.

Eichorst is on the Division I Football Oversight Committee. And above that, Northwestern A.D. Jim Phillips is chairman of the NCAA Division I Council.

That doesn’t mean these men can force change, but both will be intricately involved in what’s to come.

“We’re at a time with our structure where we can definitely preserve what we have but also improve and enhance the game from A to Z,’’ Eichorst said. “Big Ten people are interested in recruiting, early signing, camps and regional clinics.

“If you are thinking about early signing, you have to think about earlier access. And now that we are able to pay for parents to make official visits, we have to look at staff sizes to handle that.’’

Big Ten schools have different ideas on what recruiting calendar changes to consider.

West Division schools, which generally are farther from large population centers, are interested in allowing paid official visits in the summer. The current calendar, which allows official visits once the fall semester begins, often limits how many recruits can come from long distances.

Schools in both divisions differ on whether a December signing period is worthwhile.

One thing apparently all agree on is that Big Ten schools aren’t disadvantaged in the current world of recruiting, despite the oversigning that occurs most often in the SEC and ACC.

“I really don’t see us disadvantaged,’’ Michigan State A.D. Mark Hollis said. “I chose and love being in the Big Ten. There are pros and cons that come with that.’’

Eichorst said he also hasn’t heard any excuse-making from conference colleagues.

“We have so many incredible strengths in the league,’’ he said. “And then, look at the output. We’ve been doing pretty well.’’

Still, change often is good, and new roads have been built to consider change.

“Today is a different day,’’ Eichorst said. “It’s a new structure. The oversight committee has certain authority and autonomy to try to bring fundamental fairness.

“The level-playing-field thing is not a reality, but I think there is fundamental fairness.’’

Eichorst said he holds monthly teleconferences with Big Ten athletic directors and football coaches to let them know what the committee is talking about and to get input for future conversations.

“There are times you have to put on your (Big Ten) hat based on where you’re at,’’ he said, “and then there are times you have to take it off in the room with other committee colleagues.’’

The NCAA governance process has long been more like a march through mud than a speedy freeway ride. The new system gives hope that those in charge can address more issues in far less time.

“For me, nothing is off the table,’’ Eichorst said. “You’ve got to keep football as healthy as we possibly can, at all levels.’’

Nebraska to Face Clemson in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Nebraska will face Clemson for the first time in men’s basketball as part of next season’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The Tigers will host the game Nov. 30 in Littlejohn Coliseum. Tipoff time and television information will be announced later. ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU will combine to televise all 14 games of the three-day event that matches teams from the two conferences.

Nebraska has made four appearances in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge under Tim Miles, going 3-1 in those contests. Only three teams from the conference have a winning record in the challenge. The Big Ten won eight of the 14 games last season.

Nebraska fell in overtime to a ranked Miami team in last season’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Clemson finished the season 17-14 overall and 10-8 in the conference. The Tigers are 9-7 all-time in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and lost last year to Minnesota.

This gives Nebraska a fifth nonconference game away from home for the 2016-17 season. The Huskers will travel to Kansas on Dec. 10 as the first leg of a home-and-home series. NU will also head to California to participate in the Wooden Legacy (Nov. 24-27), an eight-team tournament with Texas A&M, UCLA and Dayton, among others.

Pitchers’ Attacking Mentality Fuels Huskers’ Surge Heading to Big Ten Tournament in Omaha

LINCOLN — Nebraska freshman Matt Waldron pulled aside his pitching coach Saturday morning to extend his appreciation for the strategic pitch selection that helped him cruise through eight innings of shutout baseball a day earlier.

Ted Silva, who’s called pitches from the NU dugout for the last five years, told Waldron the same thing he’s said to every other pitcher he’s worked with, and anyone else who’s considered crediting Silva for providing a tactical edge.

“It has nothing to do with the pitch called,” Silva said.

An inside fastball can suddenly look appetizing to a hitter if it tails back over the heart of the plate. A breaking ball intended to be buried in the dirt can get scorched if it floats into the hitter’s sweet spot. Sometimes the batters guess right. Other times they just end up creaming what a pitcher thinks is the best offering.

Darin Erstad has said a number of times that Silva constructs a plan of attack for his pitchers, adjusting during the action to stay one step ahead of opponents. NU pitchers have been complimentary, too.

But Silva insists that the men on the mound are typically the ones most responsible.

“It comes down to execution,” Silva said. “You can go through a number of pitches, but if you’re not executing those pitches, then it doesn’t matter what you call.”

That’s the difference in the Husker pitching staff lately, Silva said.

He’s watching his guys, carrying more confidence and fearlessness to the mound, firing pitches in the locations they’re aiming for. Their improvement is the source behind Nebraska’s recent surge.

The Huskers have won 15 of their last 19 games, and their starting pitchers have worked into at least the sixth inning in 18 of them. That only happened 12 times in NU’s first 36 games.

Nebraska pitchers have recorded an ERA of 2.38 and issued an average of 2.5 walks per game since April 19. The team ERA was 4.85 before that. The walk rate was at 4.8 per game back in mid-April.

The mentality has changed, sophomore starter Jake Meyers said.

“(Early in the year) I feel like we went out there and someone would freak out if something wasn’t going their way,” Meyers said. “But honestly, the pitchers have stepped up down the stretch and here at home. They’ve just gone out there, pitch-by-pitch, and have done a great job.”

The entire team seems to feed off the success.

The Husker hitters, who hit 31 home runs in the first 36 games and averaged about six runs, are averaging about one homer every two games now while still scoring 5.4 runs per contest.

The attacking mentality of the pitchers also keeps defenders on their toes. The Huskers have committed 15 errors in their last 19 games and risen 42 spots in the national fielding percentage rankings (they’re now 31st at .976).

“I will say, when you’re walking a lot of guys, it’s very difficult to play defense,” Erstad said. “But now when you’re pounding the zone and throwing strikes, you’re in the rhythm of the game, that can really help. Those two go hand in hand, together. That’s what we’ve had so far the last few weeks.”

NU’s pitchers could be the difference this week at the Big Ten tournament in Omaha. Junior Derek Burkamper is set to start Wednesday’s first-round game, with Waldron and Meyers available after that. Junior Max Knutson has recorded a 1.96 ERA over his past four midweek starts.

Michigan State is expected to start ace Cam Vieaux on Wednesday, and even though the junior left-hander has been recovering from an injury lately, he’s still a legitimate MLB draft prospect. Vieaux has a 2.41 ERA in 13 starts this year.

The Husker coaches are convinced the way they’ve played during this late-season hot streak is the blueprint for success in the postseason. Effective pitching, mistake-free defense and timely hitting.

“When you face quality pitching, you’re not just going to roll out a bunch of hits,” Erstad said. “You have to be able to do the little things in baseball. With the way we’re throwing strikes and playing defense, that gives you a fighting chance.”

Huskers Eye Transfer, Juco Recruit to Add Depth on Defensive Line

LINCOLN — Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker and defensive line coach John Parrella spent the last several days looking at a transfer option and a potential late junior college recruit to help bolster an inexperienced defensive line for the 2016 season.

The Huskers lost six defensive linemen — and what amounted to their starting front four — to graduation, transfers and the NFL draft in the offseason.

One top option for depth, Utah graduate transfer defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, visited campus last weekend. The news was first reported by Husker Online. The 6-foot-1, 320-pound Tu’ikolovatu played three years for the Utes after spending two years on a Mormon church mission. If he graduated from Utah with his bachelor’s degree — the Utes’ website has previously reported that Tu’ikolovatu was on track to graduate in December 2016 — he’d be immediately eligible to play at Nebraska, via NCAA rules for graduate transfers.

Tu’ikolovatu had 28 tackles, six tackles for loss and two sacks on one of the nation’s top run defenses. Utah gave up just 3.3 yards per carry (eighth nationally) and 108.6 yards per game (sixth) and just two runs of 30 yards or longer. Efforts to reach Tu’ikolovatu or his family — the 24-year-old recently married — have been unsuccessful. Nebraska coaches can’t talk about prospective transfers or recruits.

NU also did some homework Monday on a junior college defensive end out of Los Angeles. Los Angeles Valley College’s Raveon Hoston said via text Monday that NU started showing interest late last week. As of Monday evening, the Huskers had not offered Hoston, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Banker met with Hoston’s academic counselor on Monday. Hoston’s still trying to get eligible for four-year schools and spent a good chunk of Monday in a four-hour lecture and lab. Hoston had 19 tackles, three sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss last season, his second at Valley. He graduated from Seattle Cleveland High School in 2013, and would have two years of eligibility left.

“I met him last week and had a chance to firmly shake his hand and express my interest in a great school,” the 6-foot-4, 246-pound Hoston said of Banker and Nebraska. Hoston said NU is one of his favorite programs, in part because he grew up listening to his uncles arguing about the best football teams, and Nebraska always came up.

A three-star recruit according to Rivals and a two-star prospect according to Scout, he’s also looking at West Virginia, Syracuse, Buffalo and North Texas, where former Nebraska linebackers coach Mike Ekeler is now the defensive coordinator.

“My strengths are my physicality, knowing the situation of the game, being able to read my keys of the linemen, technique and get off and the usage of my hands in the trenches, versatility to be able to play multiple positions in different schemes on the D-line,” Hoston said. “My ability to lift the guys around me up in the most high and low moments of the game (is important) because the game of football is a battle of momentum, along with other things.”

The Huskers have 13 scholarship defensive linemen in the program, only three of whom — seniors Kevin Maurice and Ross Dzuris and sophomore Freedom Akinmoladun — have significant playing experience.

Nebraska’s Andrew White ‘Still Talking it Through’ Over Looming NBA Decision

LINCOLN — The deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the NBA draft is Wednesday, and Nebraska’s Andrew White plans to use every minute.

“Still talking it through,” he texted Monday night. “I will decide as late as possible, more than likely.”

White, the Huskers’ senior-to-be wing, submitted his name for the NBA draft on April 21 and said then he would take as much time as necessary to decide whether to turn pro or return to Lincoln.

Nebraska coach Tim Miles, reached earlier Monday, answered a reporter’s question before it was asked, saying: “I don’t know what Andrew White is doing yet.”

Miles, speaking by phone from a long-scheduled out-of-state charity event, said he would talk with White later Monday and meet the 6-foot-7, 220-pounder face to face on Tuesday before a final decision is made.

“We’ve talking to Andrew and talking to his family and providing all the information we can,” Miles said. “It has been constant communication.”

Last week, White took part in tryouts with the Detroit Pistons on Thursday, the Chicago Bulls on Friday and the Boston Celtics on Saturday. The week before, he worked out for the Utah Jazz.

White was the Big Ten’s sixth-leading scorer (16.6 points) and NU’s top rebounder (5.9) last season. He can return to school without penalty because he hasn’t signed with an agent.

Last week, White told The World-Herald his decision was down to either the NBA or Nebraska.

Missouri too Much for Nebraska, Eliminates Huskers From NCAA Tournament

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Nebraska softball coach Rhonda Revelle knew what the Huskers needed to do to beat Missouri in the regional final at University Field. Executing that plan Saturday afternoon was another matter.

No. 15 national seed Mizzou (42-14) exploded early with its relentless attack en route to a 9-0 run-rule victory in five innings over the Huskers (35-21). The Tigers reversed their fate from two years ago in a regional final on the same field. That day, the Huskers beat MU twice to advance to a super regional. This time the Huskers head home.

“I thought we had a pretty solid season and real tough day,” Revelle succinctly stated in her opening postgame remarks.

Going into the game, Revelle believed the key to beating Missouri was keeping the top three hitters in the Tigers’ lineup — Taylor Gadbois, Emily Crane and Sami Fagan — off the bases. Not only are they dangerous hitters, but the Tigers rank second in the country behind Southeastern Louisiana in steals per game. In the Friday winners bracket game against the Huskers, MU’s top three hitters combined to go 4 for 9 with 5 RBIs.

Their stat line looked uglier to the Huskers on Saturday with a combined six hits in nine at-bats.

“I’ve been doing this for a while. That’s the most impressive run of games that I’ve ever seen in post season play by a team I coached,” MU coach Ehren Earleywine said after the third of three run-rule wins this weekend.

From the outset Saturday, the designated visiting Tigers set the tone when each of the first three hitters got a hit, stole a base and scored in a six-run inning.

“The top of their order is as tough as any top of the order in the country, between the speed, power and what they can do,” Revelle said.

Well-prepared for Huskers starting pitcher Cassie McClure, whom the Tigers anticipated facing in Friday’s contest, Mizzou sent 11 hitters to the plate in the opening frame. Kirsten Mack capped the outburst with a line drive, three-run home run inside the left-field foul pole, her fourth this season.

“I’ve been struggling, so it feels good when I can hit a ball and it can go over the wall,” said Mack, a junior from Riverside, California. “It feels good to pad that three-run lead and make it 6-0. That was great.”

After Rylee Pierce coaxed the second walk in the inning off McClure (17-11), who took the loss, Revelle switched pitchers. Emily Lockman, NU’s winning pitcher in the regional opener against Louisville, pitched the rest of the game and kept the Tigers in check until the fourth when, again, the top of the lineup ignited a three-run inning.

Lockman’s entrance meant all five Husker seniors were on the field for their final game. Senior shortstop Alicia Armstrong managed to get one of the three Husker hits off winning pitcher Paige Lowary (25-6). For Armstrong, who battled through back problems during her career with the Huskers, it was a difficult finish.

“I’m just so thankful Coach Revelle gave me a chance,” the Beatrice native said as she fought through tears.

For the Tigers who lost in the regional final two years ago, the bitterness lingered. Crane said she thought about a possible rematch with the Huskers to advance to the super regional as soon as the 64-team NCAA tournament bracket was announced.

“The last time we played them (in 2014), I knew the outcome, so that sits in the back of your head,” Crane said after Friday’s win over the Huskers.

Earleywine said he reminded his team before the game of the outcome two years ago.

“It stung really bad,” Earleywine said. “There was only one positive out of that weekend. They beat us so bad that you couldn’t go home and say, ‘Man, I should have bunted there. I should have so-and-so in right field.’ We just got beat down.”

All hasn’t been hunky dory for the Tigers this season. Earleywine’s coaching tactics are the subject of a university internal investigation. The MU players protested the investigation, but they called off their protest before the regional. There was never any indication of a threatened boycott in the manner of the MU football team last fall. Sprinkled in the stands during the regional were MU fans wearing T-shirts stating, “I Support Coach E.”

“Missouri, playing the way they are right now, is right up with anyone. I think they can compete with anyone in the country,” said Revelle.

Missouri (42-14) 600 30—9 11 0

Nebraska (35-21) 000 00—0    3 1

W: Paige Lowary (25-6). L: Cassie McClure (17-11). 2B: UM Sami Fagan, Amanda Sanchez. HR: UM Kirsten Mack.

Huskers Again Blank Indiana to Complete Sweep, Secure No. 2 Seed in Big Ten Tournament

LINCOLN — Nebraska sophomore Jake Meyers warmed up before Saturday’s game and soon realized that his pitches weren’t darting and zipping through the strike zone they way they usually do.

He couldn’t put the change-up where he wanted. The breaking ball was reacting a little funny. Even the fastball had a little less life than normal.

That wasn’t going to keep Meyers from relenting, though.

Not after NU’s two other starting pitchers had delivered back-to-back sensational outings. Not with a chance at a series sweep over an Indiana program that’s made three straight NCAA regionals. Not with a No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament up for grabs. Not on the Huskers’ senior day.

Meyers threw seven scoreless innings in Nebraska’s 3-0 victory to clinch a series sweep against the Hoosiers (31-22, 15-9), surrendering just four hits on an afternoon when he wasn’t as sharp as he’s been during his recent stretch of dominance.

“I just didn’t feel it (Saturday). Didn’t feel great,” Meyers said. “But when in doubt, you’ve just got to go hit the spot. Just find a way.”

Meyers threw 88 pitches, often finding himself behind in the count and or regularly giving up hard contact. But he still produced.

He’s now 5-0, with a 1.14 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP in his last six weekend starts.

He didn’t allow a base runner to reach second Saturday. He induced double plays to end two different innings. The Hoosiers had 10 at-bats with a runner on base against Meyers — and he held them hitless in those situations.

Said coach Darin Erstad: “He just willed himself to get it done. … He pitched his heart out.”

Meyers’ outing capped a series defined by starting pitcher gems. Junior Derek Burkamper took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in Friday’s 4-1 win. Freshman Matt Waldron didn’t allow a run in eight innings, leading Nebraska (37-18, 16-8) to a 2-0 victory.

NU’s three starting pitchers combined to allow just nine hits over 22-1/3 scoreless innings during the three wins against the Hoosiers. Indiana batters had just nine total at-bats with runners in scoring position all weekend — and they didn’t record one hit in those situations.

“What they did was unbelievable,” Meyers said of Burkamper and Waldron. “They really put us in the driver’s seat, as far as the series goes. But if you start trying to say, ‘I’m going to out-do him,’ it doesn’t go well. And that’s not what I’m trying to do. I just go out here and compete.”

The victory locked up a second-place finish for the Huskers in the Big Ten standings — the third time in four years that NU’s ended the regular season in second place. Nebraska will be the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament next week, matching up against No. 7 seed Michigan State at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

To get the No. 2 seed, Nebraska had to sweep the Hoosiers, who entered Thursday’s action a half-game out of first place. Tough task.

But the Huskers never trailed in three games against Indiana. They committed just one error. They were efficient enough to scratch across enough runs, too.

Nebraska jumped in front 2-0 in the second inning Sunday, after senior Taylor Fish walked and senior Steven Reveles doubled. The Huskers used two RBI-groundouts by sophomore Luis Alvarado and junior Jake Schleppenbach to take the lead.

NU added a third run in the fifth inning when Schleppenbach scored from third after Indiana infielder Isaiah Pasteur fielded a two-out grounder and skipped the throw to first. That three-run cushion proved to be plenty for Meyers and NU’s bullpen.

Notes

» Sophomore Scott Schreiber, who leads the team with 16 home runs, sat out Friday and Saturday because of a groin injury. Erstad offered no specific timetable for Schreiber’s recovery.

» Freshman Chad Luensmann picked up his 13th save Saturday, tied for the third-most in a season by a Husker.

» Jeff Chesnut, Colton Howell, Jake Placzek, Taylor Fish and Steven Reveles were honored before Saturday’s game as part of senior day festivities.

» Jake Meyers was named the team’s lifter of the year.

» Nebraska has won 15 of its last 19 games.

Without MJ Knighten, Huskers Fall into Loser’s Bracket

Columbia, Mo. — With one of its cornerstone players sidelined, Nebraska dropped into the loser’s bracket after a 8-0 six-inning loss against Missouri at University Park on Friday afternoon.

Huskers junior third baseman MJ Knighten, who played through a first-inning ankle injury in the regional opener against Louisville, was unable to answer the bell for the Huskers winner’s bracket game against the Tigers. She walked around in an ankle boot before the game and didn’t even take the field for the pre-game introduction of non-starters.

“We tried everything we could to get her ready to play, even to DP (softball’s version of the DH), but she wasn’t going to be able to,” said Huskers coach Rhonda Revelle.

Knighten with two singles on Thursday raised her career hit total to 201 to give the Huskers three hitters in Thursday’s lineup with at least 200 hits for the first time in program history. Plus, Knighten drove in the game-winning run in the Huskers’ regional opener against Louisville.

Revelle said she believes adrenaline kicked in for Knighten to play through the injury in the regional opener.

“The game gets over and everything starts to get stiff,” said Revelle when asked how Knighten’s condition changed over the ensuing hours.

Defensively, in 173 games with the Huskers, Knighten played every inning at third base.

Freshman Bri Cassidy made her first career start at third base. Previously she started 20 games as a catcher and was part of the batting lineup for only four of her 20 starts behind the plate. She had previous experience as a third baseman while playing for the Corona (Cal.) Angels club team before enrolling at NU.

“Every day in practice, we’re working regardless of my non-at-bats,” said Cassidy. “I knew that all the work put into it up to now I was ready to step in and do whatever I could to help the team.”

The Tigers broke a scoreless deadlock in the fourth on a RBI single to right by Chloe Rathbun. Huskers freshman right fielder Alyvia Simmons bobbled the ball, which allowed another runner to advance to third and later score an unearned run in the inning.

Constantly putting pressure on the Huskers’ defense with its running game, the Tigers stole four bases in the fifth when they added three more runs. Emily Crane came up with the big hit in the fifth with a two-run single off losing pitcher Emily Lockman (10-5).

Omaha Skutt product Kaylen Jablonski replaced Lockman in the fifth and pitched until Crane finished the game in the sixth with a three-run homer.

Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine agreed that the absence of Knighten was a big factor in the outcome.

“I think it’s a big impact,” said Earleywine. “They’re a different team with her in the lineup.”

The Huskers have come from behind in 17 of their 34 victories this season, but the deficit against the Tigers was too large to overcome.

Transfer Andie Malloy Had Busy Spring, but She’s Not Wasting Time with Huskers

LINCOLN — While most seniors spend their last semester of college lining up potential jobs and planning for life after graduation, Andie Malloy’s spring to-do list included a search for a new volleyball team that could help her reach her athletic and off-court career aspirations.

After a whirlwind weekend when she received her bachelor’s degree from Baylor, moved to Lincoln and began her first online class for her graduate program on Monday, the All-Big 12 outside hitter finally had a second to catch a breath and talk about what led her to transfer to Nebraska for her final season of eligibility.

“Everything just seemed to work out,” Malloy told The World-Herald. “It seemed like the right place at the right time and was the perfect fit for me.”

Malloy’s search for a new college began last summer, when, because of Big 12 rules, she knew 2015 would be her last season at Baylor. After spending her freshman season at Iowa State, the Allen, Texas, native transferred to Baylor. She redshirted in 2013 and lost a season of eligibility for transferring within the league. She spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons as the Bears’ leading attacker but had exhausted her eligibility to play at a Big 12 school even though she had one year of NCAA eligibility remaining.

In Nebraska, she found a willing suitor that had an unplanned scholarship vacancy for 2016. NU had anticipated signing high school outside hitter Molly Haggerty, but after her sister, Maddie, left the program last spring, Haggerty decided to sign with Wisconsin.

“It’s a really unique case,” coach John Cook said.

So when the calendar flipped to 2016, the clock started ticking for Malloy to find a new school that featured a high-level volleyball team and a graduate academic program that suited her needs. Under NCAA rules, graduate transfers can play immediately if they are released by their original school and enroll in a graduate program not offered by their original school.

Cook said Malloy had to navigate the transfer process without help from NU. She lined up letters of recommendation, investigated grad programs and scheduled official visits with other schools, all while trying to finish her final classes to graduate from Baylor.

“This was definitely a busy semester for me,” she said.

Playing in the Big Ten was one of Malloy’s biggest priorities, and Cook said Penn State and Minnesota also were interested. But after Malloy took an official visit to Lincoln in February, NU began to emerge as her leader. Nebraska offers a graduate program that Malloy said would help her reach her dream job of becoming a merchandise buyer for a major athletics apparel company like Adidas, Nike or Under Armour.

“There’s really nothing else like it to help me to what I want to become,” she said.

Nebraska also held another trump card — three of them, actually. Malloy already had relationships with current Huskers Briana Holman — another Texas native who played in the same Skyline Juniors club program with Malloy — and Kadie and Amber Rolfzen, with whom Malloy played in several of USA Volleyball’s youth development programs. Malloy said she actually was in the process of moving in with the Rolfzens in Lincoln.

Nebraska has recently become a regular destination for high-profile transfers, and Malloy will become the fourth incoming transfer from another Division I program in the last four years. Holman, who started her career at LSU, is expected to start at middle blocker this fall after sitting out last season because of transfer rules. Tennessee transfers Kelsey Robinson and Mary Pollmiller also became starters in their first seasons in Lincoln. NU also courted USC transfer Ebony Nwanebu, who ultimately signed with Texas.

Cook said as the number of transfers in college volleyball has risen in recent years, Nebraska has fielded a growing number of inquiries from transfers. The coach estimated that he was contacted by around 50 players this spring who wanted to gauge NU’s interest, and the Huskers hosted two other transfer prospects on visits.

Nebraska coaches entered the process knowing that a new player would need to blend with the team’s chemistry. The Rolfzens and Holman spoke glowingly about Malloy, as did Baylor’s coaches, but it was her official visit in February that convinced Cook she would be a net positive for a national champion team returning five starters.

“She’s got experience. She’s played a lot of volleyball. She’s a great kid,” Cook said. “She already has a relationship with three of our players on team, so that’s a huge plus. You want somebody who can fit in right away. The other thing is, she should be motivated. There’s a lot riding on this year for her.”

Malloy, too, said she comes to Lincoln with open eyes about the significance of this season, both for her and her new program. She knows it’s no guarantee she becomes the de facto replacement for graduated senior Kelsey Fien. Redshirt sophomore Olivia Boender and junior Annika Albrecht have a head start on knowing Nebraska’s system.

Last year’s national title came with a core of players who spent two or three years together learning, bonding and eventually capturing the ultimate prize. To help Nebraska become the program’s first repeat champion this fall, Malloy said she needs to start building relationships with all of her teammates right away in the gym and off the court.

With one year left, she doesn’t have any time to waste.

“With the group of girls that have played together for a long time, they’ve played together and have jelled,” Malloy said. “That can definitely be a challenge. But I’m just excited for the friendships that can be formed in a short amount of time.”

Huskers Gain Despite Sprain, Win First Game at Columbia Regional

COLUMBIA, Mo. — A base-running collision in the first inning could have spelled disaster for Nebraska in its opening game of the NCAA softball regional.

But regardless of a limp the rest of the game from one of the Huskers’ best players, they got through their first game of the tournament in walk-off fashion.

MJ Knighten, second in the nation this season with 21 home runs, drove in the Huskers’ winning run on a one-out single to beat Louisville 3-2 Thursday at University Field.

The Huskers (34-19) advance in the winners bracket for a 1 p.m. game Friday against host Missouri, a 9-0 winner over BYU.

“We’ve had a little history this year of being able to do some things in the seventh and make some things happen,” NU coach Rhonda Revelle said.

The Huskers notched their eighth walk-off win this season and hope to duplicate the success they enjoyed at University Field two years ago when they advanced to the super regional.

Knighten injured her right ankle on a slide into second when Mattie Fowler hit into a fielder’s choice. Through the rest of the game, the junior from Buena Park, California, played defense flawlessly at third base, and she hustled up the line to beat a throw on an infield hit in the third before her winning hit in the seventh.

She said her ankle had been causing her problems even before the collision.

“We collided and pushed it back a little bit,” she said. “I learned to work through it.”

Louisville starter Maryssa Becker (20-11) intentionally walked Kiki Stokes to load the bases to pitch to Knighten.

Louisville coach Sandy Pearsall said walking Stokes was an easy call.

“She’s everything in the stats,” Pearsall said. “She’s a kid you don’t want up to bat in that setting.”

NU’s Austen Urness opened the seventh with a single. Millard South graduate Madi Unzicker, who had homered to give the Huskers a 2-0 lead in the second, reached base when Cardinals catcher Jenna Jordan fielded a bunt and threw wide to first.

Starter Emily Lockman (10-4) earned the win.

“This first game is so important,” said Lockman, a senior from Corona, California, who made her sixth career NCAA tournament start. “To be able to make sure that you don’t have to pitch so many innings, play so many innings and go through the losers bracket.”

Lockman improved her NCAA tournament record to 4-2 with a 1.73 ERA.

“I thought that Emily pitched a really, really clean game,” Revelle said. “That’s the word I keep thinking of. It was just really clean.”

The Huskers improved to 3-0 this season against Louisville. Lockman threw a four-hit shutout in the second of their meetings in February.

Unzicker, on the eighth pitch of her first at-bat, hammered a 2-2 pitch over the left-field fence for her fifth homer this season and first since March 29. The Huskers’ 65 homers this season rank second in program history to the 2014 team (73) that won the Columbia Regional.

The Cardinals tied the game in the third on a two-out, two-run single by cleanup hitter Hailey Smith, who entered the game with a .250 batting average. When Lockman fell behind 2-0 against Becker, the No. 3 hitter, she intentionally walked her on the last two pitches to load the bases. Becker entered the game with 58 RBIs this season, a school record.

In both cases, the intentional walks backfired when the next hitter came through. In the Huskers’ case, it came at the right time in their last at-bat.

Louisville (35-16)………002 000 0—2 5 1

Nebraska (34-19)………020 00 0 1—3 8 1

W: Lockman, 10-4. L: Becker, 20-11. HR: NU, Unzicker (5).