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Elite Eight!

 

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Nebraska players rush the court when their team pulls out a miracle win

Wow! What a game! Penn State, ranked number 16, were not intimidated. Not by the fact they were playing the number 1 seed in the tournament, not by the fact that Nebraska beat them twice during the regular season, not by the fact that Lincoln’s Devaney Center was packed to the rafters with 8200 Big Red fans (apparently Nebraska’s governor asked bosses to allow workers a couple of hours off so they could attend the 11 am game).

As a counter PSU brought their own rowdy followers all the way from State College who created a small patch of blue in the sea of red. No, the Nittany Lions were not the least bit intimidated. They won the first two sets, 25-23. Their hitters seemed unstoppable, and they successfully blocked nearly everything that Nebraska’s big guns unloaded at the net. At that point my heartburn firmly reminded me that it’s still there in my innards. I thought for sure that Nebraska’s season and its run for a second consecutive national championship were over.

The third set was even more tense. PSU ran the score up to 24-23. That’s do or die in volleyball, folks. At that point Nebraska’s Kadie Rolfzen had apparently had enough of this shit. She blocked a powerful hit from Penn State’s Simone Lee, and put it down so hard and fast that nobody could lay a hand on it. Her teammates then followed suit, and Nebraska won that set 26-24.

Nebraska won sets four and five handily. PSU seemed to lose steam after losing the third as though they brought enough energy to win the necessary three sets and no more.

Nebraska’s coach looked a little stunned after the game was over. He said later that he caught himself watching the match as a spectator rather than as a coach–the play was that good.

I’m not sure about that. I’ll have to watch it again when my heart finally climbs back down into my chest where it belongs.

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Sweet!

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 The Rolfzen sisters, Kadie and Amber, block a hit

How cool would it be to play championship volleyball alongside your twin sister? Or even your regular sister? Two teams in the Big Ten, Nebraska and Minnesota, have twin-sister players: the Rolfzens for Huskers and Paige and Hannah Tapp for the Gophers. These two teams have been ranked 1 and 2 all season, so maybe having a pair of twins is a good idea?

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 Paige and Hannah Tapp

Both teams are headed to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA championship tournament. Nebraska swept New Hampshire and Texas Christian in three sets apiece on successive nights. Minnesota, OTOH, beat North Dakota and Hawaii (a much tougher team) on their way to the semi-finals.

On Friday morning Nebraska meets Penn State, which owns some eight national championships–PSU is always a scary opponent. Minnesota will face Missouri, which didn’t win its conference but looks pretty tough nonetheless, having clobbered the Big Ten’s Purdue on their way to the Sweet 16. I’m hoping that Mizzou (or somebody) knocks off Minnesota before Nebraska has to face them, which would happen, if it does, in the championship game on December 17.

GBR!

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They Did It!

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Nebraska’s volleyball team won the Big Ten championship last night, defeating Michigan in four sets. Hooray! An hour later, Minnesota did them the favor of beating Wisconsin in an exciting five-set match so Nebraska doesn’t have to share the title with the Badgers. Hooray again!

Now it’s on to the national championship. Can they repeat?

The teams and seeds in the national tournament will be announced on ESPN2 on Sunday evening. A new wrinkle this year:  the top four seeds get to play their first four games (if they get that far) at home. I hear that Nebraska’s Devaney Center is already sold out for all four events, should they all occur.

Even if you’re not a fan of volleyball, and even if you’ve never been to Nebraska and would pay money never to go there, you gotta admit that we all need some good news right about now. Right? Right.

So GBR!

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GO BIG RED!

NATL+CHAMPSNebraska’s women sweep Texas in three sets, and they are NCAA national champions!

Is this a crowd or what?

5676083c5145c.imageSeventeen thousand five hundred people came to watch Nebraska and Texas play tonight.

Would it be wrong to construe tonight’s victory as payback for the 2010 Big Twelve football championship game?

 

 

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Tonight’s The Night

 

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Nebraska plays Kansas in the NCAA volleyball semi-finals tonight. If you want to watch, the match will be televised at 7:30 MST on ESPN.

Tom Shatel, who writes for the Omaha paper, has a nice piece about the history of Nebraska volleyball that can be found here:  ww.omaha.com/huskers/shatel-volleyball-has-become-nebraska-s-legacy-passed-on-from/article_9d2ae1b4-970b-5d3f-b2d1-ac9c5bd4d871.html. Shatel’s article features the amazing Kadie Rolfzen, who was named an All-American earlier this week. That’s Kadie in the photo, jumping higher than any human being ought to as she goes up for a kill.

Nebraska’s opponent, the Kansas Jayhawks, has two All-American players, and there are also All-Americans on the two teams who play earlier (Minnesota and Texas). So there will be some great athletic talent on the floor tonight, and I’m sure fun will be had by all.

Especially if Nebraska wins.

UPDATE:  Nebraska won in four sets!  Kansas put up a good and exciting game–I held my breath more often than was good for me. Unfortunately, Texas beat Minnesota, so the final match on Saturday night will be between Nebraska and Texas.

 

 

 

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Blimey! It’s Kansas!

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Lawrence, Kansas, after it was attacked by pro-slavery forces in 1855.

Lawrence is the home of the University of Kansas, whose volleyball team knocked off the number one team in the nation–USC–last night. (How’s that for a sneaky way to introduce yet another post about volleyball?)

Perhaps a better way to describe that match is to say that USC didn’t bother to show up for the first couple sets. Perhaps they figured a team from the middle of nowhere, who was playing in its school’s first-ever NCAA semi-final, had no chance against the mighty Trojans.

Think again. After the Jayhawks led 2-0, the Trojans woke up and easily took the next two sets. They also led well into the fifth. Then the Kansas labaro made five straight points from the serving line, and suddenly, Kansas won the match. To the surprise of everyone in the hall (and the two dozen or so of us who stayed up late to watch), the Jayhawks are now on their way to the national finals.

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The Jayhawks scrum after beating USC.  Or maybe they are just tired.

The Kansas team’s nickname descends from those awful days when the United States Congress used the admission of Kansas and Nebraska to the union as “other means” in their fifty-year struggle over the expansion of slavery. “Jayhawkers” were so-called “ruffians” who fought against the pro-slavery faction in Kansas, although the term can now be applied to anyone who hails from the state.

Kansas will play their neighbor, Nebraska, in the semi-final round of the NCAA volleyball tournament on Thursday night in Omaha. From where I sit, that’s much better for the Huskers than playing the formerly-number-one-ranked USC Trojans, who might have brought their best game to Omaha since they didn’t use it last night.

I’m hoping that Kansas will be sufficiently intimidated by their first trip to the Big Dance that they will allow Nebraska to show them the door. The announcers of the semi-final games all remarked that Nebraska seemed to be the “hot” team right now. I sure hope they are right.

The other semi-final match features Minnesota and Texas–in other words, the national semi-finals will be played by two teams each from the Big Ten and the Big Twelve. (Take that, SEC). Minnesota, who won the Big Ten, trounced traditional powerhouse Hawaii last night in four sets, so they can probably take care of Texas, who barely survived a five-set match with Florida.

And if Nebraska can beat Kansas, the final game on Saturday night will be all Big Ten.

As it should be.

 UPDATE:  Oh yeah:  Members of Texas’ men’s swimming team attend volleyball games wearing 26 articles of clothing. During the first set, they drop a garment every time Texas scores. So last night spectators were treated to the sight of a half-dozen fit young men standing in the front row, watching later sets wearing only their tiny swim trunks. And no, I don’t know what happens if overtime points are scored.

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HooHah!

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They did it!  Nebraska’s volleyball team won three matches at the regional semi-finals, which puts them in the Final Four later this week.

GBR!

It looks to me as though the top four seeded teams (USC, Minnesota, Texas, and Nebraska, in that order) will appear in the national semi-finals. Way to pick ’em, NCAA!

UPDATE:  The Huskers according to UW player Lianna Sybeldon:  “I think they’re just a pretty gnarly team in general,” Sybeldon said. “Really good at blocking, really good at digging. We’d hit a shot to avoid the block, and they’d dig it. We’d hit into the block, and they’d block it. They’re good.”

Amen, sister.

 

 

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