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Nebraska Volleyball Arrives at Final Four With Record Following—and a Shot at Redemption

The Cornhuskers have already made history with their sold-out crowds. Now, they stand two wins away from a national championship.

In Lincoln, watching Nebraska games is a family affair. It’s not uncommon for siblings, cousins and friends to gather in their homes to cheer on their Cornhuskers.

And that’s just for the women’s volleyball team.

That steadfast support was seen in full force earlier this year as 92,003 fans gathered on Aug. 30 for Volleyball Day in Nebraska, an event that set the global attendance record for any women’s sporting event in history. A volleyball court was constructed atop the football field at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, making for an event that sold out of tickets within two days and broke the attendance record previously set by the UEFA Champions League match between Barcelona and Wolfsburg on April 22, 2022 (91,648).

Videos and photos from the evening quickly spread on social media and across news stations, with the Nebraska volleyball players conducting many interviews on the groundbreaking showing. Fast forward over three months, and the Huskers are still conducting those interviews—this time with a different motive.

Entering Thursday, Nebraska finds itself two wins away from a sixth national title. The Huskers used August’s history-making event as a launching pad for a 28–1 regular season, Big Ten championship and No. 1 overall ranking in the NCAA tournament. The perennial powerhouse, led by longtime coach John Cook, enters the semifinals with the opportunity to win the program’s first championship since 2017.

Coming off a 26–6 season in 2022 that ended in the NCAA regional semifinals, the Huskers earned their way this year as they climbed to top. Nebraska started the season as the nation’s No. 5 team and improved to No. 4 heading into Volleyball Day in Nebraska. It then jumped to No. 2 after ranked wins over Stanford and Kentucky in September, then overtook the top spot after defeating No. 1 Wisconsin in five sets in October.

Simply put, the Huskers have been dominant. Sixteen of the Huskers’ 28 regular-season wins came via a straight-set sweep. That impressive run resulted in seven players receiving all–Big Ten honors. Junior libero Lexi Rodriguez was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for the second time, freshman Bergen Reilly won Big Ten Setter of the Year and outside hitter Harper Murray was voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Junior transfer opposite hitter Merritt Beason was named the AVCA Region Player of the Year. Cook was also named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the fourth time.

Nebraska women’s volleyball team

Nebraska has played in front of sold-out crowds all season, and is two wins away from a national title.

It is a young squad (featuring zero seniors) that’s been battle-tested, but the Huskers’ biggest test yet may come in their semifinals matchup with No. 1 seed Pittsburgh on Thursday evening in a meeting of the country’s top defenses. The Panthers finished the regular season ranked No. 4 with a 25–4 record and earned a spot in their third straight semifinals after overcoming an 0–2 match deficit to No. 2 Louisville in the Elite Eight. Nebraska is 13–0 all-time against Pittsburgh.

If they get past the Panthers and reach the title game, the Huskers will have a chance for redemption. Nebraska was handed its lone loss this season by Wisconsin, a sweep in Madison on Nov. 24 that ended a 27-game winning streak for the Huskers. Now, the No. 1 seed Badgers await on the other side of the bracket with a semifinals game against No. 2 seed Texas, the reigning champions, and a spot in the championship on the line.

A lively crowd is to be expected for the semifinals matchups in Tampa, Fla. Beyond the record-setting showing at Memorial Stadium, Nebraska has been setting attendance records over the past 22 years and holds the longest consecutive sell-out streak for any NCAA women’s sport (319). It is that type of support that continues to be a defining characteristic of Nebraska’s women’s volleyball program.

“Just how dedicated Husker nation is and how every sporting event they go to—they’re just a fan base that you can’t forget about,” Rodriguez told Sports Illustrated in August about her favorite Nebraska tradition. “I think just having that every year, every game, is a tradition that I don’t think will ever die.”

Thursday evening, fans will gather at their homes in Lincoln to watch their Huskers compete in their return to the semifinals. Such an occasion will surely call for big screens, good food and great company.

For many fans around the country, that type of gathering may happen on only an NFL Sunday—but for the team that drew a crowd bigger than each of the last 12 Super Bowls earlier this year, no celebration is big enough for Husker nation.