Andi Jackson became the third member of Nebraska’s freshman class and sixth player overall to earn a Big Ten weekly award when the conference named her co-Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday.
The middle blocker averaged 2.13 kills per set on .714 hitting and 1.13 blocks per set in Nebraska’s 3-1 wins over Northwestern and Illinois last week.
Jackson learned about the honor at a Cheesecake Factory. She was eating lunch with fellow freshman Caroline Jurevicius when she opened up Instagram on her phone and saw the news. She joined teammates Harper Murray and Bergen Reilly, who have both won the award multiple times.
“Obviously talent-wise it means some, but I would say it just shows how hard-working our class is and obviously we’re super competitive,” Jackson said. “I think it just shows not only our talent but how we go out there and we go to work.”
However, a fourth member of the freshman class might have earned an even more prestigious honor: No. 1 on the SportsCenter Top 10, and on a football Sunday to boot. Laney Choboy chasing a ball into the student section in Nebraska’s win over Illinois topped the countdown.
— Nebraska Volleyball (@HuskerVB) November 13, 2023
“It’s crazy to think about,” Choboy said. “To me, it was just kind of another play. And then when I saw that I was like, ‘Oh, OK; this is kind of cool.’”
Choboy finished with nine digs in the match, but her impact in that match and every other one extends beyond the numbers.
“That was really cool … It was great play by her,” Coach John Cook said. “I keep saying this, I’ve said it all year: Laney at times is our MVP, and the biggest thing she brings is the mindset and attitude, how hard we’re going to play. We’re going to go for every ball and we’re never going to quit, and she instills that in our team. She’s a very big piece of our team.”
Choboy said plays like that are a result of her intense desire to win, and it’s something she’s been doing her whole life. She said people have asked her why she’s hustled after balls she has no chance at reaching and her mindset is you never know for sure unless you try.
“I really want my team to succeed,” Choboy said. “So if I can get the ball, then they’re going to hopefully get the point for us, which Harper did. So I think it just comes down to my team and I want to win, so I’m just going to try to get every ball I can.”
Jackson was on the bench for the play and said she was yelling at Choboy to stop because she was worried about her getting hurt, but Choboy said she didn’t hear anything coming from the bench. She never does.
“Jaylen [Reyes] says all the time, like he just said in practice: he can be saying no, but I’m just not going to listen because when I’m looking at the ball I hear nothing else except the ball, so I don’t hear anybody telling me not to,” Choboy said.
Though she was worried in the moment, Jackson said she was thrilled to see the recognition for her teammate.
“It was awesome,” Jackson said. “I’m so happy for her. She deserves all the recognition that she gets. She’s a huge component to our defense. I think any game she could have a highlight, like she could be on SportsCenter Top 10 every single game.”
All four freshman starters have played a significant role in Nebraska reaching week nine of Big Ten play without a loss. Choboy said she’s proud of what her classmates have accomplished.
“They’re amazing and we knew it coming in that they’d be pretty good, and then all throughout the season, they just keep improving and I think that that’s just a testament to our practices or just anybody on the team,” Choboy said. “We come in and we work hard every single day. We’re continuing to improve every single week, which is really important.”
Cook echoed Choboy’s emphasis on improvement as the Huskers head into the final two weeks of the regular season.
“It’s week nine of the B1G,” Cook said. “We’re hanging in there and we’ve got two huge matches this week. So we’re trying to finish strong and trying to get better this week. That’s the main focus: how are we going to finish strong and how are we going to get better?”
Nebraska will take on Michigan for the second time on Friday night before facing a new opponent in Iowa on Sunday afternoon.
The Huskers swept the Wolverines in Murray’s homecoming on Oct. 7, though it took extra points to win the first set. Murray, an Ann Arbor, Michigan, native, put up a double-double with 13 kills on .423 hitting and 11 digs in her first match against her older sister, Kendall.
Cook said the Murray sisters will have plenty of friends and family in the crowd when they face off again on Friday. Michigan is 7-18 overall but has won four of its last five to improve its conference schedule to 5-11.
“They’re playing a Nebraska girl at setter and that’s been the change,” Cook said. “Otherwise it’s the same players, but their libero’s back. She’s a great player.”
The Nebraska girl is Omaha Skutt graduate Morgan Burke, a freshman who took over as the starting setter midseason and has averaged 9.30 assists and 2.36 digs per set over the past nine matches.
The libero is Hannah Grant, a senior who earned second-team All-Big Ten honors a year ago. She missed a big chunk of the season with an injury but returned to the lineup on Oct. 27 and has been a big part of the team’s turnaround.
Friday’s match will also be Nebraska’s final home match of the regular season.
“I’m actually really sad about it,” Choboy said. “This season has flown by and we’ve just had so much fun this year, and I don’t want to be over. So we’re really excited to play one more game.”
Normally the final home match would be senior night, but this year’s team doesn’t have any seniors to recognize, which Cook called “weird.” He said the HuskerVision team is planning something special to recognize the fans instead, though they didn’t take his suggestion of honoring senior citizens in the crowd.
Sunday’s opponent, the Hawkeyes, are 8-20 overall this season including 0-16 in conference play.
Friday’s match is scheduled for an 8 p.m. CT start time on Big Ten Network. Sunday’s match is set for 2 p.m. and will be available to stream on Big Ten Plus.