Nebraska volleyball signed what is possibly the best ever class for volleyball, or any sport, Wednesday as the early signing period got underway.
All six signees are ranked in the top 70 by PrepVolleyball.com, with five in the top 16 and four in the top 10, including the top three overall recruits. Nebraska is expected to sign two more top-16 recruits this signing period.
Three members of the class are Nebraska natives, something coach John Cook is proud of.
“The state of Nebraska produces some of the best volleyball talent in the country,” Cook said. “We are committed to keeping the top kids here to play at home.”
The Nebraskans in the class are Rylee Gray (Elkhorn), Lindsay Krause (Papillion), and Whitney Lauenstein (Waverly). Coming from out of state are Ally Batenhorst (Houston, Texas), Kennedi Orr (Eagan, Minnesota), and Lexi Rodriguez (Sterling, Illinois).
“In the summer of 2017, we decided to run a camp and call it the Dream Team Camp,” Cook said. “We invited our top recruits in the class of 2021. Well, a little over three years later, their signing day has now arrived. All of them have taken different paths to get to this point and some verbally committed at the camp or soon after. The three days of camp were awesome. Bonds were formed and intensity was high. We had a blast coaching the kids at the camp. We have enjoyed watching their development over the last three years and getting to know them as student-athletes.
“Because of their accomplishments on the national and world stage, the expectations will be very high, but that is why you go to Nebraska. When they start in 2021, they will be freshmen, figuring out how to be away from home, adjust to college life and Husker volleyball. We will make sure they ‘Dream Big’ and understand the song lyrics, ‘To whom much is given, much is tested.’
“We look forward to getting them all on campus and start building a team that embraces working together and building ultimate trust. At Nebraska we get everybody’s best shot and that is why we say, ‘the only easy day was yesterday.’
“Husker Nation will have fun following the journey of this large recruiting class. They are talented, passionate and driven to excel on and off the court.”
Orr is the top ranked recruit in the nation. The setter has started at Eagan High School since the end of her seventh-grade season and is a two-time Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year. Internationally, Orr helped the USA 18U team to gold medals at NORCECA in Honduras in 2018 and winning the FIVB Girls’ U18 World Championships in Egypt in 2019.
“Kennedi comes in as the best leader/setter in the country as well as the No. 1 overall recruit in the country,” Cook said. “Her high school team won two state championships and was the runner up three times. Her club team won the 17U gold medal at the 2018 USA Volleyball National Championships, a tournament in which she was named the Most Valuable Player. Kennedi will have an impact on this program as a leader from day one both on and off the court.”
Krause is the No. 2 prospect nationally after playing four season for Skutt Catholic High School. The outside hitter led the Skyhawks to four straight Class B state titles. Krause was named the 2019-20 Nebraska Volleyball Gatorade Player of the Year and was named to the Omaha World-Herald All-Nebraska First Team and the Lincoln Journal Star Super-State First Team in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The 2020 awards have not yet been announced.
“Lindsay Krause is another top recruit from the Papillion-La Vista area that has decided to play for the Huskers,” Cook said. “She also brings in some international experience as she was a part of the USA Youth National Team in 2018 and 2019. We expect Lindsay to come in and compete for playing time at outside hitter from day one.”
Batnehorst is the third ranked overall prospect in the country. The outside hitter has played four varsity season for Seven Lakes High School and is a two-time MaxPreps Underclass All-American and a first-team Under Armour All-American. Batenhorst was on the 2020 USA National Training Team and played on the USA 18U National Team in Honduras 2018.
“Nebraska-born, Texas-built Ally Batenhorst is another huge part of this recruiting class,” Cook said. “Having the ability to play all across the front and back row makes her very multidimensional. We expect Ally to come in and compete for playing time at outside hitter from day one.”
The tenth ranked overall prospect nationally, Rodriguez is the top player in her position group in Illinois. A defensive specialist, set the Sterling High School record for career digs in just three seasons with 1,618. Her senior season was cancelled this fall due to COVID-19. Rodriguez was the 2019-20 Illinois Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year, leading the Golden Warriors to Illinois 2A State titles in 2018 and 2019. She has international experience on the 2020 US Women’s Junior National Training Team and was a member of the 2019 USA 18U National Team that won the FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship in Egypt.
“Another top recruit at her position, Lexi is the best libero/ball-handling player in the class of 2021,” Cook said. “Lexi played club for the powerhouse Sports Performance Club. Her teams were national finalists four times and they won the gold medal three times. She was named an AAU All-American three times.”
The No. 16 ranked player nationally, Lauenstein is the No. 2 player in Nebraska. The outside hitter helped Waverly to the state tournament all three seasons that she played varsity, playing 281 sets and finishing with 1,366 kills while hitting .338.
“Whitney has been a fast riser in the recruiting rankings in the past year and a half,” Cook said. “Three years ago, she came to Husker Camp and she was a middle blocker. After that camp, she switched positions and her stock has skyrocketed. A long, physical outside hitter with a live arm, Whitney became one of the most intensely recruited players in the class of 2021 following her sophomore year.”
Gray has helped Elkhorn South make the state tournament all four years of her career, including a Class A state title in 2020. A middle blocker, the No. 70 player nationally recorded 476 blocks in her career.
“Rylee Gray comes in as one of the best middle blockers in the country. She has the innate ability to be a shutdown blocker. Rylee is another in a long line of Husker recruits who were multi-sport athletes in high school as she is a star on the Elkhorn South basketball team. She plays with an endless motor and has been getting better each year.”