The third and final day of action in the NORCECA Olympic qualifier eliminated one team's chance to play in Rio, earned one its berth, and saw two head to Japan for another chance.
In the first match pitted #15 Puerto Rico and #16 Canada. Neither team had won a match thus far in the tournament. Puerto Rico came out on top, earning third in the tournament and another chance to qualify for Rio at the Intercontinental Tournament in Japan this summer.
The first set was close, with Puerto Rico finally closing it out 32-30, but Canada was never really in the other sets. Puerto Rico swept the Canadians 32-20, 25-17, 25-20.
#1-ranked USA was a favorite in the tournament, looking to take advantage of the chance to play in the US, and opportunity that Coach Karch Kiraly said doesn't come about very often. The US team was taking on #7 Dominican Republic for the berth in the 2016 Summer Olympics. The loser, and second place team in the tournament, would play in the World Tournament, also in Japan and also this summer.
The United States swept the Dominican Republic 25-19, 25-19, 25-18 to earn the bid to the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. Once again, all three former Huskers were in the starting lineup. Jordan Larson-Burbach had the first kill of the match and Kelsey Robinson had the last in a nice former Husker bookend.
For the night, Larson-Burbach had nine kills and Kelsey Robinson had eight. Former Stanford Cardinal Foluke Akinradewo had ten to lead all USA attackers. The US cause was helped significantly by 13 service errors for the Dominican Republic and incredible defense by Kayla Banwarth who had 19 digs.
Larson-Burbach earned the 1st Best Spiker Award for the tournament and Kelsey Robinson earned Best Receiver.
Jordan Larson-Burbach was asked about the atmosphere and the experience and she said, "I had goosebumps practically the whole match. Just in awe. Just taking a moment before that last serve and taking it all in." She also said that as far as an international venue, Pinnacle Bank Arena was easily on par with other international venues.
The reported attendance for Saturday night was 10,213, far about the 6,200 and 6,500 from Thursday and Friday nights, respectively. This match had a feel much closer to what Nebraska Volleyball fans are accustomed to. There was a great energy in the arena and at one point, fans successfully modified GOOOO BIIIIIGGGG REEEDDDD (Go Big Red) to UUUUUUUUU SSSSSSSSSS AAAAAAAA (USA!) in addition the ubiquitous U-S-A! U-S-A!
Over the course of the three days, volleyball fans showed up and supported the national team in a big way. The product on the court did not disappoint and Husker fans brought the noise whenever Banwarth, Larson-Burbach, or Robinson were introduced.
The people of Lincoln, and all the fans who traveled to this tournament, truly showed how great Lincoln can be on the national stage once again.