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Keith Zimmer directs Nebraska Athletics' Life Skills and Enrichment program, as well as the N Club, which is hosting a Weekend of Champions Reunion to honor and celebrate the 1986, 1996 and 2006 Husker volleyball teams during this pivotal weekend featuring three of the nation's top four ranked teams.
"This is very, very special and unparalleled anywhere in the country," Zimmer said. "Our alumni players, coaches and support staff should take a great deal of pride, knowing they played a critical role in Nebraska truly becoming the mecca of college volleyball. They have clearly inspired countless athletes to follow in their footsteps to achieve greatness in the classroom, on the court and in the community."
The roar of top-ranked Nebraska's crowd Friday night in a three-set sweep of Wisconsin was woven into the fabric of a performance so fresh and clean that the Huskers were never behind the entire evening. It was a perfect and robust way to welcome home yesteryear's heroes with a halftime celebration and a goose-bump inducing introduction of USA Olympic volleyball libero starter Kayla Barnwarth, a Husker who was inspired by the 1986 and 1996 Final Four teams and the 2006 NCAA Championship team.
Nebraska's 1986, 1996 and 2006 Teams Inspire the Huskers' No. 1-Ranked Team
"Our current No. 1-ranked team was no doubt inspired by our 1986, 1996 and 2006 National Championship team," Zimmer said. "They look up to all three." The photo above, featuring sophomore outside hitter Mikaela Foecke pointing the way and junior middle blocker Briana Holman, reinforces Zimmer's statement.
"Our '86 team was our first-ever team to play in an NCAA championship match," Zimmer pointed out. "Our '96 Final Four team was our first-ever Big 12 championship team, and our 2006 team won the National Championship in Omaha in front of a then NCAA record crowd (17,209 fans). That attendance record was finally broken last December when Coach Cook's team won another national title in Omaha."
All of those accomplishments are being elevated this weekend. "We want these great student-athletes to soak all of this up," Zimmer said. "We're proud of this program that started in 1975 and now leads the nation in All-Americans and Academic All-Americans. They enjoyed a .939 winning percentage in the front of 4,000 loyal fans in the Coliseum. In the past four seasons, they've attracted 8,000-plus with standing-room-only crowds.
Loyal Nebraska Volleyball Alums Show a 'Lot of Love' on a Memorable Night
"This has all been attainable because of you and your investment into this program as student-athletes and now loyal alums," Zimmer told the Husker letterwinners.
Cook took a stroll down memory lane and saw "a lot of love" on a memorable night. He was understandably proud of his top-ranked team in front of 8,476 fans. The Huskers' had a .330 hitting percentage and held Wisconsin to .179. "We did a nice job of playing every point really hard and really well," he said.
Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst welcomed all reunion particiants who had a 90-minute dinner in the Devaney Center's suite area before joining the crowd that was at its best for national television.
Terry Pettit, who coached the '86 and '96 Husker teams, reinforced his reputation as a prominent professional speaker. All three honored teams had keynote speakers. Karen Dahlgren-Schonewise represented the '86 team, Mandy Monson the '96 team and Amanda Gates-Sjuts the 2006 national champions.
Here are closer looks at all three teams that are being honored this weekend, which will conclude Sunday afternoon against Minnesota:
2006 Husker National Champions Won Title in Front of Record Omaha Crowd
Kori Cooper (second from left above): “Tonight was special. To me, it really felt like home. There is no place like playing in front of a Husker crowd. It’s just an amazing feeling to see everyone again. I live in Austin, Texas (where she is head coach at Cedar Park High School). Tonight was the first time I’ve been to a game at the Devaney Center. There’s just nothing like seeing this building so full. You really can’t put it into words. I’m getting married in May and this was so great to share this experience with my fiancé (George Clements). Until this week, he’d never been in Lincoln. He’s floored. This place blows his mind. The environment is unreal. What an amazing feeling for everyone.”
Tracy Stalls Insalaco (seventh from left above): “So many flashes come to mind when I reflect on the special time I had here. I see my teammate's faces all throughout. I hear us singing whatever we can, and I see the faces of faithful Husker fans who scroll through my mind. I remember Coach Cook's passionate declarations of our mission, both in his office and at practice. What a thrill it is to share some of these memories with my husband for the first time 10 years later. I’ve grown in many ways and come back with fresh eyes. I appreciate what I was while standing in what is. I’m grateful for my teammates, family, friends, coaches, Husker staff and all the fans who celebrated this season in a such a meaningful way.”
2006 Huskers at 10-Year Reunion: Brooke Bartek, Lincoln, Neb.; Kori Cooper, Amarillo, Tex.; Amanda Gates, Columbus, Neb.; Maggie Griffin, St. Charles, Ill.; Christina Houghtelling, Cambridge, Neb.; Rachel Schwartz, Lincoln, Neb.; Tracy Stalls, Denver, Colo.
All-America Setter Nepo: Huskers' Expectation, Dedication to Excellence Pivotal
Fiona Nepo (pictured with two children in red at far right): There is NO Place like Nebraska!! The expectation and dedication to excellence in every aspect of the volleyball program has continued and gone beyond anything in the country. That’s what makes Nebraska the No. 1 program. The coaches are beyond words. The fans are absolutely amazing, and I am so proud to be a part of this awesome program. I cherish all the friendships I've made the most! The Devaney Center is definitely bigger and better for the players, coaches and fans, but I believe the atmosphere is still the same…great fans, great coaches and great volleyball!”
Lisa Reitsma Rautenberg (pictured in back row, third from right): “I will always remember our five-game match against Penn State in 1996 at the Coliseum. That was the most fun, most intense and definitely the loudest match I ever played in. The crowd was just amazing! It was so loud and so electric, you could just feel everyone around us, and I know they definitely helped us out. No other volleyball venue can compare to the Coliseum back when we played and the Devaney Center now. Both created an electric atmosphere. That’s the “norm” at Nebraska because we have the best fans in the country.”
1996 Huskers at 20-Year Reunion: Lisa Avery, Shawnee Mission, Kan.; Kim Crandall, Papillion, Neb.; Kate Crnich, River Forest, Ill.; Maria Hedbeck, Sollentuna, Sweden; Katie Jahnke. West Bend, Wis.; Megan Korver, Panama, Neb.; Denise Koziol, Norfolk, Neb.; Jaime Krondak, Lincoln, Neb.; Stacie Maser, Lincoln, Neb.; Mandy Monson, Wallace, Neb.; Fiona Nepo, Honolulu, Hawaii; Lisa Reitsma, Sanborn, Iowa.; Renee Saunders, Omaha, Neb.; and Tonia Tauke, Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Walk On Turned All-American Very Proud to Be Part of NU's Rich Tradition
Karen Dahlgren Schonewise: “I am very proud to have been a part of the rich tradition of Nebraska volleyball. Coach Pettit had a vision for the program and worked hard to achieve it. He knew he needed athletic players, not just volleyball players, so he looked for great athletes that he could train in the skills of the sport. I was one of those players. I never played club volleyball and when I attended a Husker Volleyball Camp the summer before my senior year, Coach Pettit asked me to walk on. It was very gratifying for me personally to develop into a high-level player under his training. It is humbling to be part of the great history of Nebraska volleyball, and it’s a source of pride for all of us to see Nebraska Volleyball continue to excel.”
Enid Schonewise: My Instagram moment looking back at our team is beating Stanford. It was our first-ever match in a Final Four. We played in Stockton, California, and the Stanford players walked in the gym with their side ponytails, laughing and goofing around. They were so low key that they were almost lackadaisical. I think they were thinking: ‘Nebraska? Really?’ Well, the truth is we were all Nebraska-raised girls and proud of it. We were all saying ‘they are going down!’ I remember Angie Milliken getting called into the match across from me. She played outstanding. We beat Stanford on their turf and made it to the National Championship match two nights later. It was amazing, even surreal. I'll never forget that Instagram moment.”
1986 Huskers at 30-Year Reunion: Linda Barness, Rochester, Minn.; Virginia Stahr, Waco, Neb.; Barbie Young, Sidney, Neb.; Susie Hansen, Lincoln, Neb.; Karen Dahlgren, Bertrand, Neb.; Tisha Delaney, Festus, Mo.; Lori Endicott, Springfield, Mo.; DeLisa Debolt, Dubuque, Iowa; Kathi DeBoer, Firth, Neb.; Angie Millikin, Ogallala, Neb.; and Enid Schonewise, Beatrice, Neb.
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