Photo by Laura Leffler

Albrecht, Hunter Named Finalists for AAU Sullivan Award

By NU Athletic Communications

Nebraska senior volleyball All-Americans Annika Albrecht and Kelly Hunter have been voted two of the seven finalists for the prestigious AAU James E. Sullivan Award, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) announced Friday. They will travel to New York City for the award ceremony on April 17 at the New York Athletic Club. The other finalists are: Joel Berry II (North Carolina, basketball), Erin Finn (distance running), Angela Peavy (para-equestrian), Maia and Alex Shibutani (figure skating) and Kyle Snyder (Ohio State, wrestling).

The AAU Sullivan Award has been presented annually since 1930 to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States. Representatives from the AAU created the Sullivan Award with the intent to recognize amateur contributions and achievements from non-professional athletes across the country.

Mikaela Foecke was a finalist for the award in 2015-16, and Kelsey Robinson was a finalist in 2013-14. When Foecke was a finalist in 2016, she was also joined by former Husker wrestler Jordan Burroughs. Last year, Wisconsin setter Lauren Carlini became the first volleyball player to win the award, and Albrecht and Hunter will vie to become the second.

Both Albrecht and Hunter advanced to the final seven from a group of 28 semifinalists after a week of fan voting online and on Twitter. Voting for the finalists begins on Friday, March 23. Fans can also cast their votes by tweeting #Albrecht4Sullivan or #Hunter4Sullivan on Twitter. Voting will close on Thursday, March 29. Click here to vote for Albrecht, and click here to vote for Hunter.

Albrecht, an outside hitter from North Aurora, Illinois, was named a second-team AVCA All-American and an All-Big Ten selection in 2017. As a senior co-captain in her first year as a full-time six-rotation player, Albrecht averaged 3.02 kills per set and 2.74 digs per set while serving 34 aces. She finished her career at No. 6 on Nebraska's all-time career aces chart with 139. Albrecht became the third Husker in the John Cook era (2000-present) to play in every set (489) of her four-year Husker career - joining Sarah Pavan and Dani Busboom - and her 21 NCAA Tournament matches at Nebraska tied the school record set by Jordan Larson and Rachel Schwartz. Albrecht led the Huskers in the NCAA Semifinals against Penn State with 13 kills and 13 digs for her ninth double-double of the season, and she was named to the Lexington Regional All-Tournament Team after totaling a team-high 27 kills in the two regional matches.

“I’m so excited to be selected as one of the finalists for the AAU Sullivan Award,” Albrecht said. “When Kelly and I were named semifinalists, I thought that was really cool. And then to be voted one of the finalists along with her, that’s just even more awesome and an unbelievable honor. I want to thank everyone who voted for us, and we will represent Husker Nation well in New York.”

Hunter, a Papillion, Nebraska native and three-year team captain, was named a first-team AVCA All-American and the Big Ten Setter of the Year in 2017, and she was an All-Big Ten selection for the second time in her career after leading the Huskers to a Big Ten and NCAA Championship. Hunter received numerous honors from volleyball publications, including National Player of the Year and All-America first-team honors from PrepVolleyball.com and VolleyMob.com. She was named co-Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championship with teammate Mikaela Foecke, and she finished her career with a 16-1 record in the NCAA Tournament as Nebraska’s starting setter, posting the most wins and highest postseason winning percentage by a starting setter in Husker history. 

Hunter ended her career with 4,125 assists, the second-most in Husker history, and she totaled 564 career postseason assists, the third-highest total in school history. Off the court, Hunter was a CoSIDA Academic All-District first-team honoree, and she was a semifinalist for the Senior CLASS Award. In her career, Hunter set the Huskers to three NCAA Semifinals and two NCAA Finals, winning both championship matches. She also became the first Husker setter to win back-to-back Big Ten titles.

“It’s such an honor to be chosen as one of the finalists for this award, and I’m thrilled to be able to go to New York and share this amazing experience with Anni and some of the best amateur athletes in the country,” Hunter said. “Obviously we wouldn’t have made it this far without the voting support from all the Husker fans all over the country, so we owe them a huge thank you for supporting us and making this opportunity possible.”

World renowned golfer Robert “Bobby” Jones received the inaugural award in 1930 and swimmer Anne Curtis became the first female to accept the award in 1944. Other notable athletes to win the award include famed Olympians Mark Spitz (1971), Carl Lewis (1981), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1986) and Michael Phelps (2003). Former UCLA basketball star Bill Walton (1973) and University of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning (1997) have also earned the prestigious honor.

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