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Nebraska's Hannah Werth and Volleyball

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Published on Oct 27, 2010

Growing up, Hannah Werth used to have a simple goal.

"Volleyball, I just really like to jump and hit the ball when I started, to be really honest," Werth said.

Now, the Husker sophomore knows the game isn't so simple.

"As I got older I realized that volleyball is a very skilled sport and to develop every one of those skills is very important. Not just being able to hit a ball hard, but I'm still learning, shots and defense and service feeds, settings, serving, I'm still improving all those skills," Werth said.

She's still improving, but her freshman campaign in Lincoln was good enough for 2009 Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors and six Big 12 Rookie of the Week honors while playing outside hitter.

"Very rarely will a freshman ever start at Nebraska, because if we're doing our job and training our players that unless there's a unique situation for a freshman to come in, but Hannah was ready to come in and play as a freshman...She's a well-rounded player, she does all the skills well. It's hard to find players now that can terminate the ball, that can pass, play defense, serve, and block. And I think Hannah is in a very select group of outside hitters in this conference that can do that, put up good numbers. She's definitely a five-tool volleyball player, that's one of the reasons we wanted to recruit her, we felt like we really needed her...we call her a five-skill player, she has all the five skills really well," Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook said.

High praise from one of college volleyball's most successful coaches -- but Werth isn't letting it get to her head.

"I'm kind of a perfectionist and I expect the most from myself, and I expect limitations that are almost unsucceedable, but I guess that's what drives me to become a better player every single day. I am excited about my accomplishments but I wouldn't have been able to do it without my team. My team was always there, and I wouldn't have had any of those accolades without my teammates," Werth said.

Last season the Huskers made it to a regional final for a 6th straight season and finished with a 26-7 record. This season, they're once again ranked in the top five nationally, but Werth says this squad's not satisfied with that.

"If we maintain what we've been working on I think that anything is possible with this team. I'd say that we are all really driven and thirsty this year and we're ready to do whatever it takes to get to the top. I'd say we have a target on our back just because we have been, we have all the same players plus two more, so we're pretty much the same team," Werth said.

Werth wants to lift a national championship trophy -- something one of her siblings accomplished in 2008 in Major League Baseball.

Her brother, Jason, is an All-Star outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies. Her sister runs track at UCLA. Her mom ran track in the 1976 Olympics and her Dad played 4 years in major league baseball. If that's not enough, her uncle and grandfather also played in the big leagues.

"She comes from a very competitive family, so she understands competition so we didn't have to teach her that part of it. Her mom and dad did a wonderful job about teaching her to be competitive," Cook said.
"My brother and sister would have races to the top of the stairs, like every night, like, we did everything - baseball in the backyard, dodgeball, basketball, street hockey, roller skating, racing, anything and everything, like we were crazy about competition, it wasn't just about sports, it was about 'who can do the best at this, the best at that, but I'm really lucky to grow up in such a household environment like that because it taught me a lot of things and I learned through my brother and sister and my Dad and my mom and the stories they'd pass down to me through the years, and my grandparents, my great-grandpa, uncle, brother, everything," Werth said.

"When I first saw her, I turned to my assistant coach and said 'We gotta get that kid'...and she was in 8th grade, so I had no idea what her heritage was and all the tradition in her family and success in baseball. Since then it's been really cool to learn about that, and follow the Phillies and her brother Jason and that gives us something to talk about and something that fans here are really interested in. But Hannah's....if you spend much time with Hannah, she's running her own show, she's very independent, she's not a baseball player, she's a volleyball player and she wants a World Series ring for volleyball and she's as hard-working and determined athlete as we've ever had here," Cook said.

Like her goal when she first started playing volleyball -- to just hit the ball as hard as possible -- her goal now is simple -- win a national championship.

By Brian Mortensen, Big12Sports.com

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