Nebraska volleyball head coach John Cook announced the addition of three student-athletes to the Husker volleyball program for the 2018 season on Friday. Former Husker setter Brooke Smith will return to the Husker program for her senior season, while junior setter Mari Kurkova and freshman defensive specialist/libero Chen Abramovich will also join the defending NCAA and Big Ten champion Huskers. Smith was a back-up setter as a freshman for the Huskers in 2015 during NU’s national title run, and she was a serving specialist in 2016, producing nine aces in 18 matches played in her two seasons at Nebraska. The 5-10 Weatherford, Texas native transferred to Kansas State for the 2017 season, where she split time at setter and averaged 4.71 assists per set and 1.71 digs per set. She was second on the team with 27 total aces and led the team in aces per set with 0.27. Smith, who will train as a setter, had a season-high 29 assists in a five-set match at Georgia Tech on Sept. 8, and she had three double-doubles on the season. “Brooke found out she missed Nebraska and the relationships she built in her first two years here,” Cook said. “She is a great addition to our team because she is such a hard worker, great teammate and a player everyone really respects. We are very excited to have Brooke back for her final season.” Kurkova is a native of Opava, Czech Republic and played club volleyball for PVK Olymp Praha while attending Přípotoční High School. A 5-11 setter, Kurkova has been a part of the Czech Republic women’s national team and played in the 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix. Kurkova played with the Czech Republic women’s national team in the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix and was part of the U20 team that competed in the 2015 World Championship. Kurkova, who has completed a bachelor’s degree, will be a graduate transfer with two seasons of eligibility. “After Hunter Atherton’s transfer we began looking for another setter, and we found out about Mari and started the process,” Cook said. “She is unique in that she is a grad student, so she will be working on a master’s degree for the next two years. We felt that she would be a good fit at Nebraska because she has experience, she knows what she wants, and there is also a great Czech population in the state of Nebraska.” Abramovich is a 5-6 freshman defensive specialist/libero from Kfar Saba, Israel. She played club volleyball for Hapoel Kfar Saba last season and led her team to the ISR National Championship. Hapoel Kfar Saba reached the second round of the CEV Champions League and finished 16th in the CEV Volleyball Cup. Abramovich competed with the Israel Junior National Team at the 2016 European Championship. “Chen approached us about playing volleyball at Nebraska once she completed her army commitment,” Cook said. “Chen comes from a strong volleyball family, and her mom is a national hero for starting the Mother’s Volleyball League in Israel, and now it has spread all over the world. Chen played in a league that played with international rules where the libero is not allowed to serve, but she has seen a lot of tough serves and will be a great addition to our back row.” The Huskers begin the 2018 season with the Red/White Scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 18 at 3 p.m. Tickets are on sale and can be purchased at Huskers.com/tickets or by calling 402-472-3111.
Former Pacific Tiger and utility player Samantha Owen will join the Nebraska softball team in the fall announced Head Coach Rhonda Revelle on Thursday. A junior, Owen has two seasons of eligibility left with the Huskers and will be able to compete immediately. In 2018, Owen started 46 of the Tigers' 47 games and led the team with 53 hits. She hit .382, recorded seven home runs, 37 RBIs and finished the season with a slugging percentage of .600. In West Coast Conference play, Owen finished in the top five in the conference in batting average, slugging, RBIs, doubles and total bases, helping her claim first-team All-WCC honors. She also earned NFCA All-West Region Third-Team honors. As a freshman, Owen was named to the All-WCC honorable mention team, after appearing in all but four games for the Tigers. She registered 36 hits and hit .259. She scored 19 runs and had 16 RBIs. She also led all freshmen with four homers. The Manteca, Calif., native was a standout at East Union High School. She was named the Stockton Record All-Area Player of the Year, in addition to earning VOL MVP and FLO Softball All-American accolades. Owen helped the Lancers claim the state title as a senior, posting a .507 batting average. Off the field, Owens was a standout in the classroom as well, graduating with Cum Laude honors.
Nebraska wide receiver JD Spielman earned his second watch list recognition Thursday morning, as he was named to the Paul Hornung Award presented by Texas Roadhouse watch list. The Hornung Award is presented to the most versatile player in major college football. Spielman, who was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list last week, showed his versatility during a record-breaking freshman season which saw him earn All-Big Ten recognition at both wide receiver and kickoff returner. He hauled in 55 passes for 830 yards and a pair of scores, establishing school freshman marks in receptions, receiving yards, 100-yard receiving games (two) and all-purpose yards (1,572). Spielman ranked first or second among all FBS freshmen in receiving yards, receiving yards per game, catches and all-purpose yards in 2017. His redshirt freshman season was highlighted by establishing Nebraska’s single-game receiving yards record with a 200-yard performance against ninth-ranked Ohio State. In conference play, Spielman became just the second Big Ten freshman since 1985 to lead the league in receiving yards per game during the conference season (88.1). He tied Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor for second in the Big Ten with an average of 157.8 all-purpose yards per game in league play and was fifth in catches per game. Spielman will look to be NU’s first-ever Hornung Award winner, as Ameer Abdullah was a finalist for the award in 2014.