LINCOLN — The Nebraska volleyball team will be without both setters from the 2017 squad when it begins its national title defense next season.
Hunter Atherton, who completed her redshirt freshman season this fall, told The World-Herald on Thursday afternoon that she intends to seek a transfer. The move was announced officially in a Nebraska athletic department release Thursday evening.
“I really love our team, and they are an amazing group of individuals. I will miss them more than anything,” Atherton said in the release. “I have made some of my best friends at Nebraska and I will forever be grateful for that. I also want to thank our fans for their support. Being able to experience this has been life changing, and I want to thank all the fans for everything they do for the program.”
Her transfer leaves Nebraska thin at setter for 2018. True freshman Nicklin Hames, the nation’s top setter recruit for this fall according to PrepVolleyball.com, is the only setter currently expected to be on NU’s roster for next season.
The Huskers could add to that depth by seeking an incoming transfer setter, as the program has three times before in the past decade. Sydney Anderson (Utah, 2008), Lauren Cook (UCLA, 2010) — the daughter of NU coach John Cook — and Mary Pollmiller (Tennessee, 2013), all earned Nebraska’s starting job after beginning their careers at other schools.
Atherton played in 20 matches in 2017 and was the starting setter for the first two matches of the season when starter Kelly Hunter was injured. She had a career-high 47 assists in NU’s 3-1 loss against Oregon in the season opener.
Late in the season, Atherton, from Prospect, Ohio, emerged as a serving substitute and finished with 13 aces, including two in the Huskers’ NCAA semifinal win over Penn State.
“I want to thank Hunter for her contributions to our team this season, which included setting two very tough matches in her first career college action to start the season for us, and also playing a key role as a serving sub throughout the season, especially during big moments of the final four,” John Cook said in the release. “I wish her all the best as she moves forward in her career.”
In a social media message Thursday afternoon, Atherton said she did not have a new school finalized and was still exploring options. She redshirted in 2016, leaving her with three years of eligibility at a new program if Nebraska grants her a release from her scholarship, which she has requested according to the release.
PrepVolleyball named Atherton a top 50 prospect out of high school. She was named Ohio’s Gatorade player of the year after leading Coffman High School to a Division I runner-up finish in 2015.