UNK Today | Loper Lineup

Eldon Holmes, Kearney Hub Nicole Spykstra excelled in center field for the Lopers as a freshman. After a year at New Mexico State, and an NCAA-re- quired redshirt year, Spykstra is back with the Lopers where she hopes to regain all-conference form. HUB UNK 2019 THE SECOND OF FOUR SECTIONS HIGHLIGHTING THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AT KEARNEY LOPER LINEUP inside After playing for the Huskers and getting an NFL tryout, Luke McNitt comes home. page 6 Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019 After year in Division I, Spykstra set to reclaim all-conference form with Lopers Finding her Station: Alabama State transfer leading UNK golf team Return to the Herd Corbey R. Dorsey, UNK Communications Nia Station, a two-time Nebraska High School golf champion, came to UNK after a year at Alabama State University. Station led the Lopers to their third straight regional tournament with a school-re- cord stroke average of 78.19. By DAN ZIELINSKI Hub Sports Writer KEARNEY — Nicole Spykstra’s experience in college softball is unlike most student-athletes. Spykstra started her college career at the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2016- 17. After an All-MIAA season, she elected to transfer to Division I New Mexico State University. She played sparingly at NMSU and transferred after the season, landing at a familiar place — UNK. “Holly Carnes was always good to me,” Spykstra said. “I loved her as a coach, and I thought it would be really nice to come back and just relive everything. I had a great experience as a freshman.” Spykstra was an honorable mention All-MIAA player as a freshman at UNK. She played exclusively in cen- ter field and batted in the middle of the Lopers’ lineup. She hit .347 with 13 doubles, one triple, one home run and 21 RBIs in 56 games. The success she had as a freshman motivated her to take a step up and chase her dream of playing at the Division I level. She returned closer to her Chandler, Ariz., home to attended NMSU. She didn’t adjust to the Division I level like she anticipated, though. She was a reserve and played in only 10 games. She batted .154 with four runs scored and one RBI. Spykstra enjoyed her time at NMSU but said the coaching staff wasn’t what she had hoped for. The unnatural fit with the coaches caused her to transfer for the second year in a row. The Lopers welcomed her back, knowing the potential effect she could make after sitting out a season due to the transfer rules. Spykstra was projected to start at third base next season under Carnes before athletic director Marc Bauer opted to replace Carnes at the conclusion of last season. Although Spykstra’s role on next year’s team is unknown, she’s dedicating time in the offseason to weight training and rehabbing her injured shoulder in preparation for whatever the new coaching staff asks of her. “I just need to be mentally ready and just go out there and do what I love to do,” Spykstra said. “That’s what I did my freshman year. I did my own thing and tried to do what I could to help my team because I don’t want to let them down. I want to be the best teammate and person I can be.” Spykstra had a notable prep career and displayed flashes of that potential her freshman season with the Lopers. Her success on the diamond is impressive, especially since she’s had to overcome hearing loss in both ears. When Spykstra was 4 years old, she said her parents discovered that she was deaf in both ears. She isn’t “completely deaf” but wears hearing aids, she said. Although hearing the ball off the bat is a key component to reading the ball when playing defense, Spykstra said it hasn’t been an issue for By DAN ZIELINSKI Hub Sports Writer KEARNEY — Nia Station has golfed since she was 3 years old. She said she enjoys the mental side of the game, but the competi- tiveness caused her to lose passion as the years went on. It was one of the reasons she almost didn’t golf collegiately. Station was set on ending her competitive career after her senior year at Omaha Burke in 2017. But Alabama State coach Gary Gran- dison persuaded her to relocate to Montgomery, Ala., to compete at the Division I level. Station gave in to the request, but once she was in the program, it wasn’t what she expected, she said. She didn’t like Grandison’s coaching style and opted to trans- fer to the University of Nebraska at Kearney after her freshman year. Her arrival was instrumental in the Lopers’ success last season. She was the team’s top golfer and was a key component as the Lopers qualified for their third consecutive NCAA Tournament. “For me, I just put forward my best effort,” Station said. “It doesn’t feel like it was anything too special, but obviously there was improvement as the season went on. Especially being in a better coaching environment, my mentality got better while I was playing. Just having more purpose while playing the game definitely helped too.” Station won two Nebraska high school girls golf state champion- ships and placed second her other two years. She’s the first-ever African American in Nebraska history to win a high school state golf title, according to African American Golfer’s Digest. Station’s interest and eventual love of golf came from her father, Larry. Station said her father didn’t have a strong knowl- edge of golf but it was a game he believed she could play her entire life. Her father has a rich history in athletics. He was a standout football and track athlete at Omaha Central and went on to play linebacker at Iowa. He is the Hawkeyes’ all-time leader in tackles and was named a consensus first-teamAll-American twice in his college career. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Nia has leaned on her father for advice throughout her athletic career and credits him for instill- ing her with a strong work ethic. “He’s always said that if you put in enough work and outwork your opponent, no one is going to be able to beat you,” she said. “If you put in enough time, you’re going to be able to master that skill and that will put you at an advantage.” In her lone season at Alabama State, Station posted an 80.37 stroke average to earn the South- western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year award. After the completion of her freshman season, Station sought a new opportunity. She wanted to be closer to home and to partici- pate in a program with a different atmosphere. She reached out to UNK coach Shawn Rodehorst. She was open with Rodehorst on why she want- ed to transfer and what she was looking for in a program. Rodehorst extended Station an opportunity to join the program. The addition of Station made a difference for the Lopers, as they qualified for their third straight NCAA tournament and posted the lowest team stroke total in program history. Station was UNK’s top golfer with a 78.19 stroke average, which is the best single-season mark in program history. She finished tied for 41st at the NCAA regional with a three-round total of 239. Her suc- cess as a sophomore led her to make the second-teamAll-MIAA list. With two years of eligibility remaining Rodehorst believes Station has the ability to be one of the top golfers in the MIAA. “There are some days where you can tell that maybe she has some- thing else on her mind, which is very common for any student-ath- lete,” Rodehorst said. “If she brings a consistent effort and attitude every day, then there’s really no limit to what she can accomplish.” daniel.zielinski@kearneyhub.com @DanZielinski3 “If she brings a consistent effort and attitude every day, then there’s really no limit to what she can accomplish.” Coach Shawn Rodehorst RETURN , page 2 “I just need to be mentally ready and just go out there and do what I love to do.” UNK’s Nicole Spykstra