Sun continues to rise after stellar start in Nebraska

As Nebraska’s women’s team prepares for its summer trip to Japan and China, outside hitter Lexi Sun may be taking a moment to reflect on a whirlwind year since she chose to join the Huskers.

Nebraska head to Osaka on June 16 where they will face Japanese league champions Hisamitsu Springs before taking on Toray Arrows, then moving on to China for four more games.

Though she does not turn 21 until September, Sun will arrive in the Far East as one of Nebraska’s marquee players after a superb first 10 months with the Big Red that has put her career right back where she wants it to be – on a course straight to the top.

Under pressure

When she arrived as a freshman with Texas volleyball in 2017, Sun was rated as the country’s top recruit, which would be enough to see many young players buckle under the weight of expectation.

Not Sun, who won the conference’s Freshman of the Week award three times, was second only to Micaya White with a kills-per-set average of 3.27, and was named in the All-Big 12 First Team alongside team-mates White, Chiaka Ogbogu and Ebony Nwanebu.

After recovering from a lengthy injury lay-off, Sun’s Nebraska debut back in September was one of the most anticipated moments of the 2018 season for Husker fans and the sophomore transfer lived up to her billing.

She matched Mikaela Foecke’s 13 kills, had the second most swings of any Nebraska player with 26, and contributed a service ace, five digs and two blocks as the Huskers beat New Mexico 3-1.

“I just need to take my time and not rush into things,” Sun said after making her bow.

“I think that the coaches and trainers and everyone did a really good job at getting me to be where I need to be when I step back on the court.

“It’s been a process, and obviously I’ve been super antsy, but I’m so happy that it was tonight.”

Change of scene

A strong debut at Nebraska must have come as a relief to San Diego native Sun, who had previously thought Texas was the ideal location at which to build her career.

She arrived in Austin in 2017 having picked up numerous accolades including the All-USA Player of the Year award, and opted to join Texas ahead of Stanford, UCLA, Penn State, and Nebraska.

After Sun recorded 630 kills, 288 digs and 45 service aces in her final high school season with Santa Fe Christian, Texas knew they were getting something special.

But it didn’t quite work out in Austin for Sun, who said she learned a lot about herself and was left looking for a place to grow.

Season highs

But few could have expected her growth in Lincoln to be quite as rapid as it has been.

After making her Huskers debut in September 2018, she notched 20 kills and nine digs a month later in a narrow defeat to Penn State.

She put in another match-winning performance as Nebraska gained revenge against the Nittany Lions in November, and then capped an outstanding first four months in a thrilling victory over Illinois.

With the Huskers trailing 2-1 and relying too heavily on Mikaela Foecke for points, Sun emerged in the fourth with six devastating kills – including the set clincher – to tee her side up for a victory over five sets that put them into the national championship game.

Springing forward

Her form never dipped and, by the spring season when Nebraska travelled across the state to take on local rivals, she kept the kills coming.

Eight kills in two sets of a 3-1 win over Colorado State at the Graff Events Center showed she had lost none of her sharpness, and it seems the 6’2″ hitter has taken to the Nebraska lifestyle like a duck to water.

“In California, everyone is on the go, and just busy and worrying about themselves,” Sun told ESPN.

“In Nebraska, I was caught off guard, because I’d be walking around in the grocery store or whatever, and people are so friendly here. Everyone says hi and is so sweet. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ But I realised it’s just the people and what Nebraska is like.”

Going into the 2019 season that begins in August, Nebraskans will be hoping to keep Sun shining every bit as brightly as she has since she arrived.