Huskers bring back former player, add two international transfers to volleyball team

Huskers bring back former player, add two international transfers to volleyball team
Brooke Smith in 2015, before she transferred to Kansas State. She will return to the Huskers this season. (BRENDAN SULLIVAN/THE WORLD-HERALD)

The Nebraska volleyball team announced Friday three new additions who will join the team this fall, giving the defending national champions some much-needed depth at setter and returning a familiar face back to the program.

After transferring to Kansas State two years ago, Brooke Smith is returning to the Huskers, joining a pair of international transfers — setter Mari Kurkova and defensive specialist Chen Abramovich.

Smith, who was a setter in K-State’s 6-2 offense a year ago, and Kurkova, a former captain of the Czech Republic’s junior national team, triple the number of distributors on NU’s roster for 2018. They will join true freshman Nicklin Hames, who until now was the Huskers’ only setter after Hunter Atherton transferred to North Carolina this spring.

The addition of the two international transfers presumably means a favorable end to a months-long wrangling over NCAA eligibility that Cook alluded to in an interview with The World-Herald two weeks ago. “We’ve been working on this for months,” he said.

Kurkova, who is 22 and will have two seasons at Nebraska as a graduate transfer, played for PVK Olymp Praha. She was the starting setter and captain of the Czech Republic team at the U-20 World Championships in 2015.

“(Kurkova) is unique in that she is a grad student, so she will be working on a master’s degree for the next two years,” Cook said in a press release announcing the new players. “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, a 20-year-old from Israel who has been on campus this summer according to Husker players, played for the Hapoel Kfar Saba club, which won the ISR National Championship and finished 16th in the European Club Volleyball Cup. She was a member of the Israel Junior National Team at the 2016 European Championship.

“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,” Cook said. “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.”

Smith, from Weatherford, Texas, returns to Lincoln for her senior season after spending last season at Kansas State, where she was second on the team with 27 aces. Splitting time in the Wildcats’ two-setter offense, Smith averaged 4.71 assists and 1.71 digs per set.

Smith played in five matches for the Huskers in 2016 as a serving specialist and had three aces.

“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.”

The Huskers open practice on August 8 with the Red-White scrimmage on August 18.

Nebraska-Creighton tickets available Monday

Tickets for Nebraska’s September 6 match against Creighton at CenturyLink Center will go on sale to the general public on Monday morning.

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