LINCOLN — The Nebraska volleyball program picked up the country’s highest-profile transfer Tuesday, bolstering its attempt to defend last season’s NCAA title with a former national high school player of the year.
Outside hitter Lexi Sun, who announced in February that she was leaving Texas after a decorated freshman season, will resume her career in Lincoln, giving the Huskers a powerful attacker who entered college with nearly every high school accolade there is.
Sun, 6-foot-2 and from Encinitas, California, visited Nebraska in March, and also took visits to Southern California and Wisconsin before choosing the Huskers. She is slated to arrive in Lincoln after the end of her spring semester at Texas and will be able to play immediately with three years of eligibility remaining.
“After visiting Nebraska for the first time, I found that overall the program is the best fit for me when taking into consideration what the entire program has to offer,” Sun said in a press release. “I cannot wait to be a part of the enthusiastic Husker volleyball family and am so excited to experience it with my new teammates very soon.”
Sun’s addition puts Nebraska in the conversation about the country’s top outside hitter duos, joining with senior Mikaela Foecke, the reigning NCAA championship’s most outstanding player. NU also returns sophomore Sami Slaughter at OH and adds incoming freshman Capri Davis of Mansfield, Texas, and junior college transfer Kashauna Williams from California.
The Huskers’ recruitment of Sun provided a second chance for coach John Cook, who maintains that what Nebraska has to offer is perhaps more appealing to players in their late teens than prospects who are increasingly committing early in their high school careers.
Nebraska pursued Sun out of Santa Fe Christian High School in San Diego, but she committed to Texas as a sophomore. She concluded a star-studded career by being named the 2016 Gatorade national player of the year and the nation’s No. 1 recruit by PrepVolleyball.com.
During her freshman year at Texas, Sun was a unanimous All-Big 12 pick and honorable-mention All-American, averaging 3.27 kills per set. But in a telephone interview with The World-Herald on Tuesday, it was clear that Sun, while having only complimentary things to say about Texas, was looking to develop more as a player and as a person.
“The recruiting process when you’re in high school or even middle school is really early,” Sun said. “It’s hard to understand what you want and what you’re looking for in a program. It’s easy to focus on the wrong things.
“I think that I have a lot of goals for myself over the next three years, improving my game. Learning more about myself and how I can improve.”
They’re comments similar to those made by other recent NU transfers such as Kelsey Robinson and Briana Holman, who grew and excelled as Huskers. Cook cited those examples in Sun’s recruitment and played up Nebraska’s success in developing the all-around skills that outside hitters need to play internationally.
“I’ve got some great examples to show her on video,” Cook said. “Jordan (Larson), Kelsey, Annika (Albrecht). Make her a more well-rounded volleyball player. That’s what we’re going to try to do and take her to the next level.”
Cook said Nebraska’s support team — strength training, sports psychology and academic counseling — also highlighted to Sun that NU puts considerable resources behind its players. Sun, who plans to major in business, was wowed by NU’s new College of Business.
The deal was sealed last weekend when Cook visited the Sun family in his native San Diego for dinner. Cook felt his local ties didn’t hurt in the recruitment. He knew several of Sun’s club coaches and could rattle off the area’s top beaches and restaurants. He used to live one freeway exit away from the off-ramp that took him to the Sun’s home.
At dinner, Sun told Cook she had a surprise for dessert. A nontraditional one, but a flavor she considered local to her new home. Cook opened a white box to see three ears of corn with a message written in black marker.
“It may seem corny … but I can’t wait … to be a Cornhusker.”
“I probably had more fun recruiting Lexi and her family than I’ve had recruiting in a long time,” Cook said. “I’ve really missed that kind of recruiting. I really enjoyed it.”