What a night.
In front of 17,561 fans (a new record for an NCAA volleyball match, besting the record set on Thursday night) who brought all the noise a crowd that size could muster, the Nebraska Cornhuskers put together arguably their best performance of the season and smoked the Texas Longhorns in three sets (25-23, 25-23, 25-21). Remember that picture I posted yesterday of the Death Star exploding as an illustration of my hopes for this match?
Somehow, it all went down pretty much JUST like that. Texas, loser of only two matches the entire season and victors over Nebraska in September, had no answer for what Nebraska brought last night. A small sampling of what the Huskers unleashed on Texas:
- Sydney Townsend (a Nebraska native) delivered back-to-back aces in the second set. It's hard enough to get a service ace when you're playing, say a Maryland or Rutgers in volleyball, let alone the #2 seed for all the marbles. But Townsend did it not once, but twice. After missing several post-season games due to a concussion, you have to assume that was a magical moment for her. Boom!
- Mikaela Foecke ("she's a freshman!" as the crowd chanted when she picked up her much-deserved Final Four MVP award) elevated her game to another level, with a whopping 19 kills, a .385 hitting rate, and only four errors. Texas absolutely had no answer for what to do with her. (Fun fact: Mikaela Foecke is easily the best thing to ever come out of Iowa.) Pow!
- While Texas attempted to deal with Foecke, they left things open for middle blockers Amber Rolfzen and Cecelia Hall. This was to the Longhorns' detriment, as the two combined for 17 kills and seven ace blocks. Bam!
- In the third set, a few plays undeniably took on a "team of destiny" feel, for example, a Kadie Rolfzen serve that caught the top of the net rather badly. However, instead of bouncing back to the Husker side of the court and awarding Texas a point on a net serve, the ball somehow popped over the top of the net before catching a Texas player unaware and giving Nebraska a 20-16 lead. It was one of those moments where it just felt like things were meant to be. "I don't know what else we could've done," Texas' coach Jerritt Elliott said. Smash!
- Senior Kelsey Fien driving home championship point, a fitting end for her career as a Husker. Kapow!
I mean, what a season. I went to most of their home matches, and at the beginning of the season, this was not a championship-caliber team. To see them progressively gel and improve throughout the season was really neat, and their last few matches saw them playing top-notch, full-potential volleyball. If you watch volleyball very long, you can't help but be impressed with what incredible athletes they are. They are strong, and extremely tough athletes. To finish out a demanding season (and a season in the Big Ten cannot be called anything but) in top form speaks extremely highly of them. They lost two matches in one weekend in October, and that would have torpedoed many a lesser team. Instead, Nebraska didn't lose another match for the rest of the season, ending on a 16-game win streak.
With that, the Huskers win their fourth program national championship, and their first since 2006. In Nebraska, where the volleyball team sells out its 8,000-seat home arena every game, this is big news. Husker fans love their volleyball team, and their hard-working, hard-hitting ways. Bringing home another NC, the first in almost a decade, and winning it within the borders of The Good Life--well, it's a pretty darn good way to end 2015.
Check out more photos from this great night at Huskers.com.
Way to go, Huskers! NATIONAL CHAMPIONS 2015!!!