“Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.” – William Jennings Bryan.
Within the first couple weeks of his hiring this fall, Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos often proclaimed the school’s volleyball team was the “poster child” among the university’s 22 varsity sports.
On Saturday night, the Huskers proved him right. By winning another national championship – the second in three years and fifth in school history – the program reaffirmed its powerhouse status, with the latest crown a tribute to decades of remarkable, consistent success.
Let’s start with the numbers: Nebraska ranks third among all schools in national titles in volleyball.
The Huskers have as many championships in volleyball as football, though the former has been a sanctioned sport for only 36 years.
Head coach John Cook is third all time in winning percentage among Division I coaches – and his team beat the two ahead of him during last weekend’s Final Four.
Nebraska volleyball has made the postseason in each of the last 35 seasons, missing only the inaugural NCAA tournament in 1981. In that time, only once (1983) did the Huskers fail to win a match, while recording the second-most tournament wins and Final Four appearances of any program.
Those stats are indicative of a pre-eminent program that expects to compete for a national championship every season. Fans of any team can only dream of as much sustained success as Nebraska volleyball.
Along the way, what historically had been a niche sport became Nebraska’s passion.
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With every passing season, more Nebraskans filled the stands. The iconic Coliseum gave way to a Devaney Center repurposed specifically for volleyball, which still sells out for every game. In 2016, Nebraska led the nation in average and total attendance.
The teams competing on the hardwood, too, always had a distinct Nebraska flavor.
All three Nebraskans on the roster made an appearance in Saturday night’s title game, keeping true to a history of a core of players who grew up in the state.
The Lincoln and Omaha areas have produced All-Americans, but so, too, have towns such as Bertrand, Callaway, Cambridge, Hooper and Waco.
In those towns – and many others, from Scottsbluff to Springfield – the latest volleyball title was cause for celebration.
Perhaps in August, when the Huskers struggled through injuries and lost two matches – including to Florida, a loss avenged Saturday – the team’s destiny was unclear. But, in the words of the Nebraska statesman that grace Memorial Stadium, the ultimate outcome depends on resolve.
The Husker volleyball team fought back from that adversity, achieving the pinnacle of their sport once again. In doing so, it further elevated a program that is indeed the pride of Nebraska Athletics.
Journal Star, Dec. 19, 2017