Published Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 8:12 pm / Updated at 10:07 pm
Husker women: Go above and beyond

During the 2012-13 season, the Huskers had a typical run in the NCAA volleyball tournament, but a young softball team reaching the WCWS and hoops making the Sweet 16 were pleasant surprises. And don't forget about the bowling champs.

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Big Ten regular season: Tied for second
Preseason prediction: After winning the Big Ten championship during the team's first year in the league in 2011, Nebraska was the preseason No. 1 pick, followed by Penn State, which ran away with the league title. Seniors Hannah Werth, Gina Mancuso and Lauren Cook were preseason All-Big Ten picks.
How it played out: The Huskers finished 15-5 in the Big Ten, tying Minnesota for second place behind Penn State. The Nittany Lions dropped just one match in conference play — the Huskers gave Penn State the black mark in a five-set thriller on Oct. 28 at the NU Coliseum. It was one of the Huskers' seven five-set matches last season.
Success or struggle: Nebraska played up to, and at times beyond, its talent level and fell just one win shy of a trip to the national semifinals. NU rebounded from a disappointing second-round exit in the 2011 NCAA tournament by reaching the Omaha regional final, where the Huskers lost 3-1 to eventual national runner-up Oregon. Four NU players earned All-America honors, led by setter Cook, who was named to the first team.
Standout/star: Cook, the daughter of coach John Cook, engineered a sterling senior season to secure her status as one of the finest setters in the history of a program that has seen plenty of talented distributors. Outside hitters Mancuso and Werth were named second-team All Americans after averaging better than three kills per set. Freshman middle blocker Meghan Haggerty was an honorable mention All-American.
Season high: Nebraska earned five-set wins over a pair of top-ranked opponents during the final season at the historic NU Coliseum. The Huskers trailed UCLA 13-11 in the fifth set before scoring the match's final four points on Aug. 25. Against Penn State on Oct. 28, Nebraska won a marathon second set 32-30 and held on to win in five games despite recording fewer kills, blocks and a much lower hitting percentage than the Nittany Lions. Mancuso starred with 16 kills and 17 digs versus Penn State.
Season low: Nebraska isn't used to dealing with three losses in four matches, but that's where the Huskers found themselves after being upset at home by Ohio State and losing five-set matches at Michigan and Michigan State in a nine-day stretch. Only the memorable win over Penn State salvaged what would have been a four-match skid.
Trending: John Cook knows his team is unlikely to be ranked high in preseason polls because of the sheer number of new faces on the roster this fall. Nebraska will likely have 10 players who were not on the team last season. NU graduated three All-Americans and had two more players transfer after last fall. Losing one of the Big Ten's top blockers in Hayley Thramer to a knee injury this spring is another big blow. But the Huskers bring in the nation's top-ranked recruiting class, headlined by outside hitters Kadie and Amber Rolfzen. The program also added a pair of offseason transfers who earned All-Southeastern Conference honors at Tennessee: outside hitter Kelsey Robinson and setter Mary Pollmiller.
— Jeff Sheldon

Women's basketball

Big Ten regular season: Second
Preseason prediction: After a surprisingly good 2012 with a precocious roster that ended in a disappointing first-round NCAA tournament loss, the Huskers were picked to finish in the top three of the Big Ten and make a run in the Big Dance.
How it played out: According to plan — and maybe a bit more. NU won nine straight games during Big Ten play, finished second in the league during the regular season and advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament after an upset win at Texas A&M in the second round. Senior point guard Lindsey Moore got picked in the first round of the WNBA draft after her record-setting career.
Success or struggle: Success. The Huskers finished the season playing confident basketball. Even in a Sweet 16 loss to ACC power Duke, Nebraska competed as if it belonged — not like it was happy to merely show up.
Standout/star: Moore, who graduated as the best point guard in school history. Though junior Jordan Hooper made first-team All-Big Ten, Moore (15.1 points and 5.7 assists per game) was the straw that stirred NU's drink, finishing as the Husker career leader in assists, starts, minutes and, most important, wins.
Season high: Beating Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Connie Yori outcoached friend Gary Blair and the Huskers executed their offense with excellence each time the Aggies got close.
Season low: Though both programs advanced to the NCAA tournament, Nebraska doesn't want to make a habit of losing at South Dakota State and Creighton.
Trending: Upward. Though Moore graduated, Hooper returns, as does most of NU's roster. Furthermore, Pinnacle Bank Arena opens this fall, which should draw more fans to the program and appeal to top recruits. NU women's hoops has the chance to go into overdrive.
— Sam McKewon

Women's soccer

Big Ten regular season: Eighth
Preseason prediction: Nebraska's eighth-place finish was actually a small step up from the Big Ten's preseason expectations. The Huskers were picked to finish 10th by the league's coaches.
How it played out: For the second straight season, NU went 4-7 in Big Ten play, en route to a 7-12-1 overall record. The Huskers started 2-1 in the conference but ended the season losing seven of their last nine matches. The Huskers dropped home matches against Penn State and Ohio State, the Big Ten's top teams, by a combined score of 8-0. The Buckeyes also defeated Nebraska 1-0 in the first round of the conference tournament.
Success or struggle: NU struggled to generate offense after losing forward Morgan Marlborough, who transferred to Santa Clara after the 2011 season. NU ranked in the bottom half of the Big Ten in shots and goals. But a leaky defense really hurt the Huskers — Nebraska allowed a conference-high 26 goals in 11 Big Ten matches.
Standout/star: Whatever offense NU generated was likely to come from sophomore forward Mayme Conroy, a second-team All-Big Ten pick. The Omaha Skutt graduate scored 14 of the team's 26 goals last fall, sixth most in the Big Ten. No other Husker found the net more than twice. Her 28 points were 18 more than any teammate.
Season high: NU strung together three straight wins in early September, two on the road. The Huskers won at Cincinnati 2-1, picked up a 4-0 win at home over Southeast Missouri State and opened Big Ten play with a 2-0 win at Northwestern.
Season low: on one weekend in mid-October, the cream of the Big Ten crop showed Nebraska just how far away it is from the class of the league. Penn State, which won the conference for the 15th straight year, beat NU 4-0 in Lincoln.
— Jeff Sheldon

Women's track

Big Ten indoor meet: Second
Big Ten outdoor meet: Sixth
Preseason prediction: With the loss of long distance runner Ashley Miller heading into the season and no immediate replacement for her talents, Nebraska was not expected to win the Big Ten title. Miller played a big role in the Huskers' 2012 indoor title.
How it played out: The Huskers battled again through some injuries. A pleasantly surprising second-place finish in the Big Ten indoor meet was followed by no points at the NCAA indoor meet. In the outdoor Big Ten meet, Nebraska finished a disappointing sixth but, thanks to jumper Mara Griva, took 32nd in the NCAA outdoor meet.
Success or struggle: A little bit of both. Nebraska's had deeper, more talented, more experienced teams than the 2013 bunch. NU had only four seniors. But they were four of the team's top athletes, too.
Standout/star: Griva, the senior from Latvia who capped her career with a strong finish. She won the Big Ten indoor and outdoor long jump and triple jump titles and claimed All-America honors in both events. All told, she finishes with nine conference titles. NU keeps churning out great jumpers, and Griva's one of the best.
Season high: Griva's senior year. She'd battled injuries as a junior, but stayed healthy enough this spring to cap a memorable career.
Season low: Not scoring any points in the NCAA indoor meet is rare for the Huskers.
Trending: Upward because of a strong recruiting class. Nebraska landed one of the nation's top high school sprinters, Kadecia Baird of Brooklyn, who, so long as she stays healthy, can replace all of the points NU loses from Griva's departure.
— Sam McKewon


Big Ten regular season: Second
Big Ten tournament: Lost in the semifinals
Preseason prediction: The baseline expectation for this program is always to make the NCAA tournament — even this spring, when the Huskers knew they'd be relying on a half-dozen freshmen after missing out on a regional bid in 2012.
How it played out: Better than most imagined. The Huskers gained some confidence during nonconference action, then found a rhythm in league play. They hosted a regional and breezed right through it. Then they won twice at Oregon, which hadn't lost a home game all year, to advance to the seventh Women's College World Series in school history. NU ended the year in heartbreaking fashion, losing two extra-inning games at the WCWS.
Success or struggle: Success, without a doubt. The young team handled the mental and physical demands of a full season, actually managing to get stronger as the year went on. The Huskers' longest losing streak was two games, showcasing some of that resiliency.
Standout/star: Junior Tatum Edwards, who took over for veteran ace and all-time NU strikeout leader Ashley Hagemann. Edwards did just fine in the new role. She was the Big Ten pitcher of the year, going 30-10 with a 1.91 ERA. She threw 61 percent of the Huskers' innings and started seven of NU's eight postseason games.
Season high: Celebrating NU's first WCWS berth in 11 years after a 4-2 win over Oregon on May 26.
Season low: The euphoria didn't last long. Nebraska lost its two WCWS games by one run in extra innings, despite holding leads in both. As thrilled as the Huskers were to be there, those near-misses revealed just how much talent they had.
Trending: Up. Perhaps this move to the Big Ten will work out favorably for Nebraska, which seemed perpetually stuck in the middle of the pack in the talented Big 12 during its last half-decade with that league. The Huskers must replace clutch-hitting senior Brooke Thomason, but the majority of their team will be back next spring. Plus, their new conference rebounded after a down year, which helps add national credibility to NU's climb back to powerhouse status.
— Jon Nyatawa

Women's gymnastics

Big Ten meet: First
Trending: The Huskers narrowly missed out on a trip to the NCAA Super Six finals. Look for the Huskers to close the deal next year, as Emily Wong returns for her senior year after finishing third in the all-around competition at the NCAA championships.

Women's golf

Big Ten tournament: 11th
Trending: Nebraska was breaking in several young golfers this year, including freshmen Cassie Deeg and Hannah Luebke. NU has no seniors, so look for an extra year of experience to pay off next year with stronger finishes.

Women's swimming and diving

Big Ten meet: Ninth (out of 12)
Trending: The program has never really recovered from the NCAA sanction hammer 12 years ago, and NU is not likely to recover from it in a way that helps the Huskers compete for Big Ten and national titles. Still, this was NU's best conference finish, relative to the number of teams in the meet, since 2005.

Women's rifle

NCAA championships finish: Seventh
Trending: The Huskers continue their run of success. Because so few teams nationwide compete in rifle, NU can recruit some of the nation's best.

Women's tennis

Big Ten regular season: Tied for first
Trending: Nebraska enjoyed the best season in school history, advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament before losing to North Carolina. But singles player Mary Weatherholt — the best player in school history — trumped the team finish by making a memorable run all the way to the NCAA singles final before losing. Weatherholt was a senior, so NU will be a little weaker next year, but the impact of her run should benefit the Huskers for years to come.

Women's bowling

NCAA finish: National champions
Trending: Can't beat being the best. NU won its fourth national crown in dramatic fashion with a comeback to beat Vanderbilt. Later, lone senior Kristi Mickelson won the X-Bowling Intercollegiate Singles Championships in Lincoln. Mickelson was a leader and key part of the Huskers' squad, but Nebraska considers itself an annual favorite to win a national title, and next year won't be any different.
— Sam McKewon

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