Visibility of women athletes inspires Midwest teens

Oct. 6, 2023, 7 a.m. ·

Ally Batenhorst tries for a kill during Volleyball Day in Nebraska.
Ally Batenhorst tries for a kill during Volleyball Day in Nebraska. (Photo by Aaron Bonderson, Nebraska Public Media)

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The University of Nebraska recently set a world record for attendance at a women's sporting event. The national spectacle drew over 92,000 Midwesterners to watch the NCAA volleyball team play in the football stadium.

Nebraska Public Media and the Midwest Newsroom talked with teenage girl athletes about this moment in time and how they feel girls' sports have changed.

Lexi Paskach , a senior and shortstop for the Ralston High School softball team, shared her excitement about the team’s new field and her gratitude for the support they received to make the new field happen.

Lexi says the turnout for their first game was overwhelming and that they probably need more bleachers for all of their new spectators.

Lilly Elsasser, a junior at Ralston High School and a pitcher and middle infielder for the softball team, said she was inspired to play by her father's love of baseball. She pursued softball while her twin brother played baseball.

Lilly says she admires Jordyn Bahl, a local athlete who made waves in the Women's College World Series. The impact of Nebraska representation at such a high level of competition means a lot to Lilly.

Molly Pensick, a senior who plays golf, initially saw golf as a male-dominated sport based on what was covered on TV. She ended up trying out her freshman year and quickly fell in love with it. Now, she encourages others to give it a chance.

Molly also plays tennis and says she’s inspired by legends like Serena Williams and emerging stars like Coco Gauff. Visible athletes like them motivate younger generations, she says.

Adriana Wulf, a senior at Mercy High School and a golfer, says she is inspired by role models in her day-to-day life like the female athletes she sees on television.

Adriana, who didn’t watch a lot of women athletes on TV growing up, says the increasing visibility of women's sports on mainstream channels today is important. She says she hopes that this normalization inspires younger generations to view women in sports as regular and essential.

The Midwest Newsroom is a collaboration among NPR and public radio stations in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.