[From Jon: I am pleased to announce that Corn Nation is adding a writer dedicated to volleyball, Ty Peteranetz. His introduction and first article are below!]
Hi Corn Nation!
I am a transplanted Colorado-born Husker fan. I moved to Omaha in 2011 after 30 years in Colorado to be the assistant volleyball coach at the College of St. Mary. I'm a teacher and missed that, so I resigned my position with CSM to go back to teaching. I played volleyball in high school, and have been coaching since 2001. Despite growing up in Boulder County, I've been a nearly life long Husker fan. I am the head volleyball coach at Dorchester Public School (where I also teach fourth grade). I am thrilled to be contributing to Corn Nation as a volleyball writer. The passion and hunger for Husker Volleyball is unmatched, and writing for you is truly an honor.
It was breath taking. Husker Nation finally got their first glimpse of the renovated Devaney Center last night, and it speaks the passion the fans here have for Husker Volleyball. According to the Husker Volleyball twitter account (@Huskervball), 8,243 fans watched an exciting scrimmage between the Huskers and select alumni led by Olympians Nancy Metcalf and Jordan Larson-Burbach. In the third set, teams were mixed up with current Huskers joining a few of the alumni for a Red v. White battle.
It certainly feels different inside Devaney. With Lauren Cook leading off the serving for the night, it was immediately obvious that it’s a bigger arena with the resounding "Cook!" not echoing like it did in the Coliseum. It might be a product of the fact that it was a scrimmage, but there is no doubt that fans will have to be louder. However, the fact that you can fit over 8,000 people in there should take care of that.
Devaney is a first class volleyball facility with Coach John Cook’s office overlooking the court, and a half dozen luxury suites with a fantastic view of the action. The floor being relatively unchanged and the banners honoring All-Americans keep the feel from the old house. Looking up, the ceiling supports were clearly designed to mimic the feel of the Coliseum.
As soon as we get the trophy cases full, the prestige of the program will be evident to fans and visitors to Lincoln. All in all, the university and all involved did a fantastic job of keeping the intimate feel that we’ve all grown accustomed to at Husker Volleyball matches, but bringing the feel of a big-time program not often seen in volleyball. Rumor has it that we will be the first and only self-supporting volleyball program in the country, joining only UConn and Tennessee women’s basketball as the only women’s sport to make that claim.
The match certainly equaled the excitement of the new venue. Having two alumni in their Olympic uniforms was exciting for both the fans and players. The alumni team was composed of the aforementioned Olympians Metcalf and Larson-Burback, Jordan Wilberger-Sauer, Brooke Delano, Lauren Cook, and Gina Mancuso. They were joined by Libero Brenna Lyles in the first set, and Alexa Ethridge in the second. The Alumni were coached by former Husker Maggie Griffin. Errors by a young Husker squad led to a big lead by the alumni team, and eventually a 25-19 win by the alumni.
The second set was marred by an injury to Tennessee transfer Kelsey Robinson who went down hard as she hustled to save an errant dig. She sat up holding her upper arm, and came out before the third set with her arm in a sling. The Huskers won set two 25-17, and after Coach Cook mixed things up a bit for set three, the alumni ended up being the overall winners 2-1 with a 25-22 third set win.
This was most fans’ first look at the "Twin Towers", Kadie and Amber Rolfzen in red. Neither looked like a Freshman, and Amber had considerable playing time recording four kills and four digs while adding two assists for good measure. Kadie added two digs in a limited role in the back row. Replacing a setter like Lauren Cook is always a tall task, but setters Mary Pollmiller, another Tennessee transfer, and Kelly Hunter ran an efficient offensive effort with Pollmiller getting 24 assists and Hunter recording seven. Morgan Broekhuis looked every bit the veteran adding kills from the outside and right side to the tune of a .357 hitting percentage. Meghan Haggerty’s experience in the middle last year should carry over to this year.
The Huskers bid farewell to Gina Mancuso, Hannah Werth, and Lauren Cook last year. Replacing that kind of offense is always daunting, but the Huskers certainly looked ready to answer the call this year. Kadie and Amber Rolfzen have been the subject of intense scrutiny since their freshman year of high school, so while the lights have gotten brighter and the stages bigger, they’re certainly accustomed to the attention. The connections between the setters and the hitters look comfortable already and smooth. Defensively, losing Lara Dykstra and Paige Hubl was frightening, but the Liberos and Defensive Specialists were in the right place digging and passing very settable balls.
Nebraska overcame the move to the Big Ten Conference two years ago by going out and winning the title. The Huskers play in the most competitive conference in college volleyball (Nebraska was picked to finish fourth in the preseason behind Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan, while six Big Ten teams are ranked in the Top 25), and it requires depth and experience to compete. There will be a lot of young players contributing this year, but the experience of players like Broekhuis and Haggerty and the addition of Robinson (barring a long-term recovery) and Pollmiller from the also-competitive SEC bode well for the 2013-2014 Huskers. While the preseason ranking of #10 feels low, it’s indicative of the unknowns in Lincoln. The Huskers can quickly quiet doubters with strong performances in the pre-conference season.