Hannah Werth has got it.
Call it confidence, swagger or simply attitude, but whatever it is, the sophomore from Springfield, Ill., has it.
From painting her nails “fun colors” to embracing her new on-court eyewear, Werth is comfortable with her place on the Nebraska volleyball team.
It’s that comfort that fuels her to be a force for the No. 3 Huskers.
The reigning Big 12 Freshman Of The Year learned about pressure last year.
In NU’s run to the Elite Eight, Werth put up big numbers hitting the ball to power the Huskers, but what was more impressive was her defensive play in the postseason.
After putting up back-to-back double-doubles in the first two NCAA Tournament matches, Werth fell one kill shy of a third double-double in the upset of Iowa State.
This year, Werth has shown the same inspired play on defense, and has become a key component to Nebraska’s ability to put pressure on opponents.
So far this season, Werth has seven solo blocks in just 43 sets. Compare that to her eleven solo blocks in 103 sets last year, and it’s easy to see the difference a year makes.
For Werth, stepping it up on defense was just her way to find comfort in the NU system.
“It’s something that Nebraska prides itself on is blocking and defense,” Werth said.
“We train so hard for that. I’m just trying to help us do our best as a whole and so far it shows on the court.”
The impressive part about Werth’s play is that with her increase in defensive achievement has also come an increase in her hitting numbers.
After battling illness early in the year, Werth has come up big since conference play kicked off two weeks ago. In their four Big 12 matches, Werth has been second on the team with 3.31 kills per set, a dramatic increase from her early season numbers.
And it’s not just about what she’s doing, but when she’s doing it.
In last week’s match against Kansas, the Huskers stormed out to a 2-1 lead after dropping the first set, but the Jayhawksanswered in the fourth set to make things interesting.
After drawing to within one point in set number four, Werth answered with a solo block and a number of clutch kills down the stretch to power Nebraska to the win.
Yet even with her personal success, Werth still said the credit is due to the team, rather than her as an individual.
“I wouldn’t be able to do anything without my teammates, I’m just trying to do my job,” Werth said.
In addition to the play of her teammates, Werth has also been helped by the addition of what she calls “sports goggles.” Due to an inability to wear contacts, Werth had to turn to the goggles to correct for errors with her vision.
Whether it’s coincidence, or a sign they are actually working, Werth’s first match with the goggles was the conference opener, and since then she’s been on a tear.
In fact, the biggest issue she’s faced with the goggles is trying to keep them from fogging up during matches.
To solve that problem. NU coach John Cook said they turned to baby shampoo, and since then he said the goggles have added a spark to Werth’s game.
“Her numbers are definitely up,” Cook said.
“And even though her numbers are up, the most important thing with any athlete is what they believe. Hannah believes they really help her.”
Whether it’s the goggles, or having another year to mature, one thing is certain: Werth is ready to make another run at a conference and national title, with or without the impressive personal stats.
This year, she said, it’s not about her.
“No not at all, that’s why it’s a team.”