While my wife and I suffered through another painful Nebraska football season, we got caught up in the school’s highly successful women’s volleyball program this year. We watched every game we could get on TV and were rewarded for our faithful support when the Husker women made it to to the national championship match last Saturday against Wisconsin.
That the Husker women lost in a nail-biter of a five-set match to Wisconsin was not important in the long run. Most people probably didn’t even know the tournament and the game were on TV.
But what an uplifting experience. There was no drama over pouting players not getting enough playing time and entering the transfer portal. There were no stories about multi-million dollar coaching steals or buyouts. There were no deceptive comments about vaccination status. There was never a display of bad behavior on the playing field or court.
It was just incredibly good athletic ability on display by a group of young women who truly loved the game and their team.
I think that the athletic prowess of volleyball players far surpasses that of most other sports I’ve witnessed. They fly around the volleyball court in a syncopated precision. They smash the ball into the opponents’ court at up to 60 miles per hour. They dive and tumble on the floor to reach balls in contorted positions that would render me paralyzed. And not only are they amazing athletes, but they have more a sense of team than any other sport I’ve watched.
And at the end of each volley, whether they won it or not, they give each other high fives and were all smiles.
Four of the young Nebraska women really stood out to us. Lauren Stivrens, a senior from the Phoenix area who suffered through back surgery before she could return to the court as an All American this year. Lexi Rodriguez, a freshman All American from Illinois, who is the spark plug of the team’s defense. Did I mention she is just a freshman and is also the shortest person on the team? Nicklin Hames from Tennessee, a gum-chomping platinum blond setter who is amazing at setting up kills for her taller teammates and plays the entire game. And my favorite, Madi Kubik, from Iowa, who smashes the ball in all directions and comes back from every volley with a smile that looks like she is about ready to bust out laughing because she enjoys the game so much.
Two other freshmen, Lindsay Krause and Ally Batenhorst, are already starters and are certain to make the Huskers even more competitive next year. But as my wife pointed out, every player became our favorite at one time or another because they play so well.
Just to see these young women enjoy the game so much is worth the watch.
We’ve had great volleyball teams in our own back yard at New Mexico State University for years, and I feel sad to say I’ve never gone to one of their matches. I have friends who swear it’s the best athletic ticket in town. So we’ll go next year to watch.
But if you get a chance to watch Nebraska women’s volleyball sometime next year, please do so. As I said before, it’s just an uplifting experience.