The final season inside the hallowed doors of the NU Coliseum begins Saturday night with a traditional 2012 season-opening scrimmage. For every Husker fan out there who's wanted to experience Nebraska volleyball at one of the most popular sites in women's intercollegiate athletics, it's now or never. Since the rest of the Coliseum season is sold out and the Huskers will be moving into a reconfigured Devaney Center in 2013, this is the last chance for non-season ticketholders to bid farewell to an old barn that always will live in Hannah Werth's heart, mind and soul.
One of three senior captains on a defending Big Ten championship team and a 2012 preseason fourth-ranked team, Werth is almost poetic when she describes what a farewell season means to her. "The Coliseum is alive and always will be alive," she said. "I was 15 years old when I came here (from Illinois) on an unofficial visit as a freshman. I remember looking up and seeing the entire back wall filled with Allison Weston and all those Huskers whose jerseys are retired. I remember the way the light hit those jerseys. It made me focus in on every name. As soon as I looked up, I knew at that very moment I was coming to Nebraska and going to be a Cornhusker."
Perhaps it's time for Husker fans who watch Nebraska only on television to shell out $8 (for general admission) or $10 for reserved tickets to attend the last Red-White Scrimmage in the Coliseum. Even though it's "just a scrimmage", you'll see why the Huskers have won 93.62 percent of their 580 home matches. You'll understand the intimacy of the 4,030-seat facility nestled into the Nebraska campus once you walk past the powerful Roman columns that grace the front steps.
52-4 in Postseason, 17 Undefeated Teams
Into those doors walk the greatest fans in volleyball, and they've seen their favorite teams dominate like no one else. The Huskers' postseason record in the Coliseum is 52 wins and 4 losses. They have 17 undefeated seasons in 36 years inside the Coliseum's doors. From 2004 to 2009, they won 90 consecutive home matches and have two more home-court winning streaks that reached 65 matches and 63 matches.
Anyone want to guess how many conference matches the Huskers have lost in 36 years in the Coliseum? That number would be six. Yes, that's five fingers on one hand and one finger on the other. In other words, over nearly four decades, Nebraska loses an average of one conference match every six years. That's why the Coliseum is so magical, so wonderful and so worth trying to soak all of it in one final time.
Kristi Reetz, assistant ticket manager, said Wednesday that Nebraska has sold 2,700 tickets in advance of the scrimmage. "It's always best to buy tickets beforehand," she said, "but we'll be selling them at the door Saturday. A lot of fans have always wanted to see us play in the Coliseum, and for many of them, this will be their last chance."
Tradition, Work, Blood, Sweat and Tears
Hannah Werth promises the Huskers will be ready to rock and roll, even if the "season-opener" is "just a scrimmage".
"I fell in love with the Coliseum, and I still don't know how to describe the place," Werth said. "I think it's all that tradition, all that hard work and all the blood, sweat and tears we go through to put those kinds of numbers up. Every time I walk in here, I feel the history and realize what all those girls who went before us had to achieve. I mean, I've heard stories about the players having to set up chairs and invite people in to watch them play.
"Look what they built!" Werth said. "They built a dynasty, and it's up to us, every year, to carry on the tradition that they started. It's just remarkable, and I really am glad that I get to play all four of my years inside the Coliseum."
John Cook often compares the Coliseum's intimacy and atmosphere to Cameron Indoor Stadium, the home of Duke basketball. Nebraska's head volleyball coach likes comparing the two because both feature frenzied crowds that are comfortable about jamming the bleachers and confident about raising roofs and psyching out opponents.
Cook once said: "If the volleyball gods wanted to build a volleyball court, the Coliseum would be it. It's a very intimate setting, and everyone feels part of the event."
NCAA Record 164 Consecutive Sellouts
While a scrimmage does not count as an official match, Saturday night may well be the only opportunity for non-season-ticket-holding fans to experience the Coliseum, the Husker home for 164 consecutive sellout matches - the longest such streak in the history of college women's athletics ... in any sport.
Saturday night continues Nebraska's championship legacy for its final season in the NU Coliseum, but the scrimmage isn't the only live opportunity to watch the Huskers.
Lonna Kliment, director of Athletic Ticket Marketing, encourages Husker fans everywhere to watch Nebraska host Notre Dame on Sunday, Aug. 26 at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha. The match will begin at 1:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $15 for reserved seats and $12 for groups of 15 or more. Tickets can be purchased on ticketmaster.com and handling fees may apply.
"There will be no game played at the Devaney Center this year, so this match presents a unique opportunity for the Huskers to play on a bigger stage against a tough opponent," Kliment said. "It also allows more of Husker Nation to support our volleyball team."
From Nation's Best to World-Class Status
Kliment said that Nebraska's Ticketing and Marketing teams are working diligently on a plan that will enable a smooth transition from the Coliseum to the Devaney Center.
"We believe we will be moving from the best volleyball facility in the country to the best volleyball facility in the world," Cook said. "That's been our goal all along."
Kliment encourages Husker fans to consider becoming new season ticket holders when the team moves to the Devaney Center. Fans who want to get a head start on the 2013 season can join a 2013 volleyball wait list.
"The Devaney Center will be a great facility, and we're very fortunate to have a world-class facility for the future," Werth said, explaining why she's at peace about never getting the chance to play there.
"The Coliseum means the world to me," she said. "It's alive, and it has a heartbeat. I'm sure our fans want to bid it farewell like we do. The Coliseum means a lot to those of us who got to play here. It means a lot to our coaches and our fans. We all want to leave that place as champions, and the way I look at it, we owe that to everyone who's gone before us."
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