Bouncing Back

If you have ever taken a walk on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s campus in the fall, you’re likely to have seen a few things. The leaves start to turn and subsequently litter the campus lawns and sidewalks with brilliant colors; students scurrying hurriedly to classes, helped undoubtedly by the first bites of the coming winter winds; and historic landmarks such as the fountain outside of the Student Union, the spire of Love Library, the colossal Memorial stadium or the vertical pillars of the NU Coliseum.

These sights and landmarks are iconic and help make Nebraska, well Nebraska. The streets and sidewalks that cut through campus serve as the lifeblood of the university and fall is arguably the best time to take a stroll.

Whether you’re there to simply take in the natural beauty or you’re joining thousands of other fans at a Husker volleyball or football game, it’s tough to beat UNL’s campus as summer gives way to the crisp autumn air. Like every year, this fall brings with it several changes.

For instance, Memorial Stadium is receiving a major facelift, with the addition to East Stadium. However, the perhaps more notable transformation comes just down the road, where the Husker Volleyball team will play their final season in the NU Coliseum before moving over to the newly renovated Devaney Center.

The NU Coliseum, much like its ancient predecessor, has served host to sporting events of all kinds, housing thousands of frenzied fans in the stands that tower above the action playing out below. It started as the home for Husker hoops in the 1920s, but was renovated in 1992 to be the exclusive home of Nebraska Women’s Volleyball.

The 4,030-seat stadium has given the Huskers an unmatched home-court advantage over the years. Under her roof, Nebraska Volleyball has recorded 19 undefeated seasons, compiling an all-time record of 509-33.

At least some of the home successes have to be attributed to the avid fan base the Huskers have attracted over the years. In 2011, the Huskers finished second again in home attendance, with an average crowd of 4,522. Although this may not sound like much, consider this: the average attendance of 4,522 is over 112 percent of the listed capacity for the Coliseum.

Part of the prestige of the NU Coliseum comes from its unique design. The smaller size of the building enables fans to be closer to the action, which creates a very intimate atmosphere. The stadium is then packed with devoted fans who make the building rock with excitement.

Nebraska’s tradition of excellence is decades old and continues to grow. I don’t know how else to say it, expectations are high for University of Nebraska student athletes. We expect them to perform, both on the court and in the classroom. It’s nothing new to the players, they understand this coming here. They quickly learn about the strong traditions that the University of Nebraska strives to uphold, and they work hard to continue to do just that.

The pressure of these expectations is often elevated by success. The Nebraska Women’s Volleyball team is no exception. The Husker volleyball storied program began over 35 years ago and has proven to be one of the best in the nation. Since 1975, the Husker women have won more than 80 percent of their games. They have played in 11 Final Fours, resulting in three national titles in 1995, 2000 and 2006.

Since taking the helm in 2000, Head Coach John Cook has continued Nebraska volleyball’s rich tradition of excellence. During his tenure, Cook has led the Cornhuskers to twelve winning seasons with a stellar 328–34 overall record, winning over 90 percent of all matches through the 2011 season.

When Cook came to Nebraska in 2000, he had very large shoes to fill. In his time as head coach at Nebraska, legendary Head Coach Terry Pettit led the Huskers to 694 victories and coached the Huskers to 18 consecutive NCAA appearances. Needless to say it was not an easy act to follow.

But John Cook came to Nebraska to pick up the banner of one of the nation’s top programs and has made it his own.

Cook has developed a philosophy and tried to instill it into his players that can be summarized in two words. Two simple words to practice and live by, both on and off the court: Dream Big.

And we did. Hopes were high for the 2011 volleyball season and all the pieces seemed to be falling into place for the Huskers to make a deep run into the postseason.
The Huskers secured home court advantage for the first and second rounds and easily blew by Jackson State in the first round, three games to none. However, the Huskers dug themselves an early hole that they could not get out of in the second round against Kansas State and departed the tournament early. The 2011 campaign was a hard pill to swallow, leaving fans and players feeling disappointed.

However the team rededicated themselves in the offseason and the fans have once again rallied behind them, looking for the team to bounce back.

Going into this season, the Huskers lead the nation with 163 consecutive home sellouts. And the Husker women are sure to garner a similar level of support in 2012. After going on sale, single-match tickets sold out in 20 minutes.

Although we say goodbye to a historic venue in college athletics after this season, we do so with high hopes for one last magical run under her roof. The Huskers start off the season ranked fourth nationally and return a star-studded group, highlighted by a core group of upperclassmen, led by seniors Lauren Cook, Gina Mancuso and Hannah Werth.

So it is to be determined if the Huskers can capture one last gem from the Coliseum’s crown in her final year. We definitely have the talent and the fan support. Although the future is uncertain, our hopes and the players’ hard work may prove to pay off, because a lot can happen when you just dream big.

By Drew Guiney

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