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VOLLEYBALL

Nebraska volleyball's Keonilei Akana enters transfer portal

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LINCOLN — Keonilei Akana, one of Nebraska volleyball’s top servers and defensive players, is leaving the program and entering the transfer portal, she announced on Instagram.

Akana, who led NU with 42 aces and had 302 digs, was a key part of an elite defense that helped the Huskers make the national title match against Wisconsin.

"Honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to play for Nebraska Volleyball for the past 2 years," Akana wrote in a post on Instagram. "Thank you to my coaches, Nebraska athletics, and Husker Nation for all the love and support. To my teammates, you have been the most amazing family away from home that I could’ve asked for. I am always here for you."

Akana’s departure leaves a hole in NU's defense, although Nicklin Hames — who had previously been the Huskers’ starting setter — will move to a defensive specialist/player coaching role that could help Nebraska account for Akana’s departure.

NU has the nation’s top libero, Lexi Rodriguez, and also backup libero/defensive specialist Kenzie Knuckles. Knuckles and Hames, who host a local radio show together, ranked second and third on the team in aces last season, and both could be dangerous back-row attackers as needed.

Akana, who only had three attack attempts in 2021, was a pure defender who helped Nebraska hold opponents to a .148 hitting percentage, which ranked ninth nationally and tops in the Big Ten. That defense offset a year of offensive struggles, as NU hit .222, which ranked 108th nationally. Even accounting for Nebraska’s tough schedule, the .222 was low for the Huskers, who typically hit in the .270-.280 range in most seasons.

There’s reason to believe Nebraska’s offense will rebound in 2022 with the incoming transfer of Penn State All-America middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord — one of the best attacking middle blockers in the nation — the return of third-team All-America outside hitter Madi Kubik, further development of sophomore outside hitters Lindsay Krause, Ally Batenhorst and Whitney Lauenstein and the addition of freshmen Hayden Kubik, Bekka Allick and Maggie Mendelson.

All college athletes have until Sunday to enter the transfer portal and be eligible for 2022 fall or winter sports.

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