By Hilary Winter
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Jersey No. 44 is not a typical choice among volleyball players. Nebraska freshman Hannah Werth wears the double-digit jersey and it is indicative of how she chooses her own path.
Werth comes from a rich athletic heritage. Her older brother Jayson starts for the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Her older sister Hillary is a member of the UCLA track team.
Their mother, Kim Schofield Werth, was a track star at the University of Florida who competed in the 1976 U.S. Olympic Trials in the long jump and 100 meters. Their father, Dennis played four years for the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals.
Despite such a strong athletic pedigree, Hannah was not always sure of her desire and drive to compete.
"When I was little I told my sister that I didn't want to play sports," Werth said. "I just wanted to dance and make bracelets. I was kind of a free spirit."
She began playing club volleyball at age 15 and Werth quickly fell in love with the sport. She developed into one of the nation's top high school players at Glennwood High School in Springfield, Ill. She was chosen as a first-team All-American by Volleyball Magazine and the American Volleyball Coaches Association after totaling 606 kills on .414 hitting, 252 assists, 220 digs and 54 aces. Werth was also named the Gatorade Illinois High School Player of the Year in 2008, as she established the Illinois High School state record with 2,022 career kills.
Being surrounded by athletics for all of her life has taught Werth many lessons on and off the court.
"It's not about winning or losing, it's about what you take away from the game, your relationships with people and becoming your own person," she said. "That is definitely a blessing that I've had from my family with what they've taught me."
Werth was able to attend two games of the 2008 World Series as her brother played outfield for the Phillies. Since their seasons overlap, she is unable to see him as much as she would like, but their competitive give and take continues.
"We're still competitive," Werth said. "It's different stuff, but supporting him is great. I'm very lucky to have someone to talk to for advice, as well as my mom and my dad and my sister. We're definitely competitive with each other. When we go home for Christmas there is never a dull moment, whether we're wrestling or playing video games or just being silly."
The emphasis of family is evident within Werth's every day life. She has seen those closest to her experience heartbreaks and triumphs and has learned the value of maintaining a constant hunger for knowledge. Werth feeds off her teammates and has a desire to see those closest to her succeed. This year's Nebraska team is young and lacks experience but Werth believes the Huskers can reach their goals.
"I think that if we keep doing what we're doing right now and we build off of it and keep fulfilling our potential, anything is possible," she said. "This is Nebraska; anything is possible."
As is the case with any freshman, she experienced her share of struggles as she adjusted to college life. After coming to Nebraska a semester early to become acquainted and comfortable with the college atmosphere, she is now learning how to feel comfortable competing at the college level.
"I came to Nebraska to play volleyball," Werth said. "I will get a great education and there is a great academic atmosphere here, but I came to play for Coach Cook and to fulfill my dream."