More than 60 former Husker volleyball players showed their solidarity to the program Friday night.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Coliseum Reunion a Championship Legacy

By NU Athletic Communications

Randy York’s N-Sider

“Winston Churchill said ‘in the beginning, we build buildings. In the end, we are shaped by the buildings we live in.’ I think the Coliseum shapes Nebraska volleyball. It’s an environment that creates intimacy. It’s a classic structure and in a lot of ways reflects what the Nebraska program is all about.”Terry Pettit

You know what everyone said about Bob Devaney. He built it ... and they came. They came to Memorial Stadium for 50 consecutive years, and they’re still coming; they’re still selling out; and they’re still showing the world how a classic structure reflects what the Nebraska program is all about. Devaney hand-picked Tom Osborne to succeed him and when a fellow College Football Hall-of-Famer averaged more than 10 wins and fewer than two losses over 25 straight seasons, not to mention winning three national championships, one arguably could say that Osborne perfected what Devaney built.

Well, guess what? Terry Pettit did for Nebraska volleyball what Devaney did for Big Red football. He also built a championship legacy inside another historic Nebraska landmark – the NU Coliseum, and in this, final season No. 37 in the Coliseum, the Huskers have gone above and beyond the foundation Pettit built. This one's for Ripley. The Huskers’ all-time volleyball record inside the Coliseum’s hallowed doors is 552 wins and 38 losses. Pettit hand-picked John Cook to succeed him, and since Cook’s teams have compiled a 349-20 record in the same building, not to mention winning two national championships, one arguably could say that Cook perfected what Pettit built.

Did we mention that under Cook, Nebraska has a consecutive sellout streak of 174 matches? It’s not only the longest home sellout streak in college volleyball history, but also the longest sellout streak in any NCAA women’s sport.

No wonder more than 60 former Husker players from 1975 to now gathered Friday night to watch No. 20 Ohio State upset No. 4 Nebraska in four close sets in the Coliseum.

Penn State Match Next Up at 2 p.m. Sunday

Somehow, with a Sunday 2 p.m. BTN matinee match against No. 1 Penn State looming and a major program celebration scheduled immediately after Friday night’s match against the Buckeyes, the Huskers did a very un-Nebraska-like thing. They went flat in a house where they almost always keep the locks on the  doors. By no means, however, was this loss a meltdown. The Buckeyes were tough. Plus the ball bounced their way, enabling Ohio State to win its eighth road match in nine tries this season – a mark that's second only to unbeaten Penn State, which has been perched atop the national poll for five straight weeks.

Yes, this particular loss took some luster from the post-match celebration of a proud program. But let’s get real. Cook’s winning percentage of 83 is the fifth best in NCAA history, and Pettit’s 82 percent ranks seventh.

Who knows? Maybe this rare home setback will spur the Coliseum to another level when the Huskers host the Nittany Lions Sunday.

One thing is certain. Despite Friday night’s loss, Tom Osborne, John Cook and Terry Pettit were nothing but classy in honoring former players who attended the match. They all came together to celebrate how one culture positively influenced another. Both head coaches hugged the student-athletes who represented four decades of talent that turned good to very good and then transformed very good into great.

Big Red Fans Jointly Salute Two Legends

It wasn’t easy for Osborne to follow Devaney, and it hasn’t been easy for Cook to follow Pettit, but somehow, through a shared passion, Nebraska fans have no trouble saluting the program’s endless pursuit of excellence while honoring two legendary coaches at the same time.

Just like Devaney and Osborne, Pettit and Cook have defined the essence of a championship legacy. Just like Bob and Tom, Terry and John have become inextricably linked and equally iconic. Everyone, it seems, has his or her own idea of how one legend enables another, but The N-Sider decided the best way to describe the respective volleyball legacies is to ask those inside the program how a culture of discipline, based on the principle of greatness, helps Nebraska separate itself from other successful programs.

Cook pursues purpose and perfection with the same vigor and guts that Pettit did. Pettit, of course, was a true trailblazer, but Cook is also a pathfinder who’s always looking for ways to get better. He’s big on communication and leadership development. He goes above and beyond to develop "off the court" initiatives that continue to distinguish Nebraska.

After Friday night’s disappointment, Cook showed his customary resolve. He acknowledged Nebraska’s national leads in Academic All-Americans and All-Americans. He also pointed to the Huskers’ NCAA record for home-court sellouts. All are important, he said, but no more so than having a program that sends highly trained professionals and teachers out into the world after they graduate.

Winning: Result of Family, Team, Academics

Results are what we all seem to focus on, but in Cook’s book of core values, winning is probably the fourth cornerstone of the volleyball house he’s built. Family, Team and Academics are the other three. John Cook is a Golden Rule guy with high championship standards. He's designed specific rules for engagement and has developed a formula he believes can relate to coaches, teammates and others all at the same time.

Talk about practicing what you preach. Cook is always tackling the twin issues of fear and failure. He spells out 12 ways to achieve happiness and has six priorities to accomplish what he calls mature leadership. To Cook, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are all about systems and records, preparation and strategy, fundamentals and commitment, trust and daily improvement.  

"Courage is the word that comes to mind when I think of Coach Cook,” said Larry Widman, one of two sports psychologists that work with the Husker volleyball team (Todd Stull is the other one). “When you take over a team with Coach Pettit's tradition, it takes courage. Over the years, I’ve seen John continually show courage, but never more than I did two years ago when he acknowledged his need to reinvent himself and manage stress. His willingness to share that about himself and to be very open to others is one of the most courageous things I’ve seen by a coach, or really by anyone, in all my years as a sports psychiatrist.”

Ron Hruska, a biomechanical consultant to UNL through Athletic Medicine, is the director of Lincoln’s Postural Restoration Institute. Cook considers Hruska to be an important part of his volleyball program, and Hruska sees Cook’s vision as an important part of his success. “John Cook and Dr. Lonnie Albers empower their staffs to become the best in the nation in implementing innovative concepts and integrating consultants and other university department specialists,” Hruska said. “When needed, they balance student-athletes in the areas of nutrition, mental health, spinal alignment, podiatry and biomechanics.”

Cook views every one of those areas as traditional staples for implementation and integration. “To me, that’s part of having a premier program with multifaceted outcomes that reflect excellence,” Hruska said.

Baylor: Volleyball a Triple Crown Commitment

John Baylor, the radio play-by-play voice of Big Red Volleyball, agrees with Widman and Hruska. “One thing that distinguishes Nebraska from other programs is the profound purpose that permeates everything that Nebraska volleyball does,” Baylor said. “Since the 1970's, we’ve had two leaders at Nebraska make it clear that volleyball is a commitment to the sport, to the student-athletes and for the fans.

“Nebraska may have an equal or two out there among its rivals, but I don’t think any other programs have exceeded the way Nebraska approaches the sport, and I don’t think that will ever change,” Baylor said. “That’s the constant.”

Pettit and Cook stand by their well proven blueprints for success. Both continue to tweak their respective philosophies to create "that extra edge". Cook does it as a head coach in a competitive sport, and Pettit does it to sharpen his skills as a popular seminar leader on motivation and performance.

“I think Nebraska will continue to be an elite program because of its remarkable commitment to every aspect of the sport,” Baylor said. “If you’re serious about achievement, Nebraska volleyball has to be a model that you'd consider for emulation. That’s a central part of the success over all these years."

One NU Volleyball Legend Followed Another

“Another part that really distinguishes Nebraska is that, unlike other programs, it was able to go from one legend to another without any drop in performance,” Baylor said. “There was no Gene Bartow following John Wooden here. Terry Pettit’s success on the court not only has been maintained, but improved almost on an annual basis since Coach Pettit got everything rolling in the '70s. That’s just remarkable. Perhaps the greatest legacy that Coach Pettit gave Nebraska was going to such great lengths to make sure that his successor would preserve the standard that he left behind.”

Nebraska may have dropped a rare home volleyball match Friday night, but the proof of Baylor’s statement was on the floor for another sellout crowd to see, another group of athletes to cheer and another example of why There is no place like Nebraska. Even though Husker players and coaches were disappointed and fans didn’t see what they expected, a rock-solid program still honored their past to preserve their future. And a good 90 percent of another sellout crowd stayed in their seats and showed the Buckeyes why tradition is so important at Nebraska.

So please join The N-Sider in saluting the following Huskers. They watched the match, supported their alma mater and graciously accepted gifts from a Big Ten icon/AD for their peak performances over the years inside the Coliseum:

1970’s: Vicki (Ossenkop) Highstreet; Linda (Brown) Dutton (1975); Nancy (Wilkinson) Nielsen (1977); Kim (Hermes) Cockrell (1978).

1980’s: Lori (Melcher) Hunter (1980); Marla (Mueller) Lichty (1980; Laurie (Schadegg) Thomas (1981); Terri Kanouse (1981); Gwen Egbert (1982); Cathy Noth (1984); Martha (Mitchell) Goodman (grad assistant, 1984); Michelle Smith (1985); Annie (Adamczak)-Glavan (1985); Michelle (Stratbucker) Reiners (1985); Enid Schonewise (1986); Karen (Dahlgren) Schonewise (1986); Tisha Delaney (1986); Barb (Young) Gutshall (1987); Kathi (DeBoer) Weiskamp (1987); DeLisa (DeBolt) Weyhrich (1987); Lori (Endicott) Vandersnick (1988); Jarilyn (Obermiller) Spiehs (1988).

 1990’s: Val (Novak) Warrior (1990); Becki (Bolli) Leuhr (1990); Cris (Hall) Crippen (1991); Janet (Kruse) Sellon (1991); Stephanie (Thater) Brown (1992); Eileen (Shannon) Asmussen (1992); Laura (Luther) Fox (1993); Kim (Tonniges) Seizys (1993); Kelly Aspergren (1994) Jennifer McFadden (1995); Allison Weston (1995); Stacie (Maser) Potthoff (1996); Kate (Crnich) Riggins (1996); Renee Saunders (1997); Lisa (Reitsma) Rautenberg (1997); Denise (Koizol) Alderson (1998); Megan (Korver) Demma (1998); Jaime (Krondak) Stutheit (1998); Kim (Crandall) Eyman (1999); Mandy (Monson) Franklin (1999); Tonia Tauke (1999).

2000’s: Kim (Behrends) Buckendahl (2000); Angie (Oxley) Behrends (2000); Amber (Holmquist) Limbaugh (2002); Rachel (Baumstark) Hopkins (2002); Lindsay (Wischmeier) Peterson (2002); Anna (Schrad) Zajicek (2003); Michelle (Lynch) Sjuts (2004); Meghan (Smith) O’Connell (2005); Melissa (Elmer) Groth (2005); Dani (Mancuso) Helu (2006); Christina Houghtelling (2007); Maggie Griffin (2007); Tracy Stalls (2007); Rachel Schwartz (2008); Amanda (Gates) Sjuts (2008); Kayla Banwarth (2010); Brigette Root (2011); Jordan (Wilberger) Sauer (2011); Brook Delano (2011).

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