LINCOLN — “The Phoenix” has risen again.
Nebraska setter Nicklin Hames earned her new nickname during the offseason. She said she burned her setting strategy to the ground and worked with associate head coach Tyler Hildebrand to build it back up.
On Thursday, Hames was one of three Huskers named to the All-Big Ten first team with middle blocker Lauren Stivrins and outside hitter Lexi Sun. Stivrins and Sun were among seven unanimous selections by the league’s coaches.
It was Stivrins’ third all-league award. Hames and Sun are repeat selections on the first team.
Hames leads the Big Ten with 10.93 assists per set and is second on NU with 2.89 digs per set. She recorded double-doubles in eight of the Huskers’ 16 matches.
To measure Hames’ impact this year, Nebraska coach John Cook said, look at other players’ statistics.
After struggling to set middle blockers, the 5-foot-10 junior worked to incorporate them more this season. Stivrins and fellow middle blocker Kayla Caffey are ranked in the top 10 in the league in hitting percentage and averaging 3.23 and 1.96 kills per set.
“Nicklin has worked hard to refine her setter position,” Cook said. “It’s made her a more confident setter. She has expanded her range in what she can set and what she can do, and it’s made us a little bit more unpredictable.”
Minnesota’s Stephanie Samedy was named the Big Ten player of the year. Other honorees included Wisconsin’s Sydney Hilley (setter), Purdue’s Jena Otec (defensive), Ohio State’s Emily Londot (freshman) and Jen Flynn Oldenburg (coach).
NU senior and Malcolm product Hayley Densberger was honored with the Big Ten sportsmanship award.
Stivrins leads the Big Ten with a .471 hitting percentage, which trails Tracy Stalls’ percentage of .473 in 2007 as the best at NU in the rally-scoring era. The 6-4 senior is fourth in the nation this year with the 10th-best rate in NCAA history since it switched to 25-point sets in 2008.
The Huskers have used Stivrins in more ways than previous years, including swinging from the pins and different spots on the net.
“It’s insane how she just gets better and better every year,” Hames said. “Even if she had a great year last year she’s doing better this year. She just worked so hard.”
Sun was named Big Ten player of the week twice during the 11-week regular season. The 6-2 senior also benefited from the more-creative offensive approach.
She diversified her attack and emerged as the Huskers’ top offensive threat with 3.82 kills per set. She’s also one of the more complete players in the league. With blocks and aces, Sun is fourth in the Big Ten with 4.53 points per set.
“She wants that ball at big times and I think she’s really adapted to having that pressure on her,” Hames said. “She wants to be that person who takes those big swings and gets the balls in crucial moments.”