OMAHA — No. 3 Texas had the benefit of a raucous home crowd in its Elite Eight matchup against Florida. The Longhorn faithful helped fuel a 3-2 victory over the Gators at Gregory Gym, with the fans erupting after every Texas ace and kill.
“You can just feel the gym,” junior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu said following Texas’ Sweet 16 victory over UCLA. “It's just electrifying. Just knowing that our crowd is right there behind us makes us more confident and makes us want to put on a show for them.”
But the Longhorns won’t have the benefit of a home crowd on Saturday night as they take on No. 4 Nebraska in the national championship game. In fact, they will face just the opposite. The Huskers will be the de-facto home team playing at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
Thursday night’s semifinal matches featured an attendance of 17,551, the most in NCAA semifinal history. A vast majority of fans were Nebraska supporters, and Saturday night will have a similar fan breakdown.
But senior outside hitter Amy Neal said she isn’t worried about the Nebraska-heavy crowd.
“I honestly think it’s kind of fun that it’ll be packed with Nebraska fans,” Neal said. “I don’t think it’ll be causing us too much pressure.”
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Saturday will be a rematch of a Sept. 4 battle in which the Longhorns took down Nebraska in five sets at Gregory Gym. But little can be taken from that match, as Texas was fueled by junior opposite hitter Ebony Nwanebu, who transferred to the 40 Acres from USC prior to the 2015 season.
Nwanebu registered a game-high 22 kills on 54 attempts in the victory, wreaking havoc on the Huskers defense. But a multitude of injuries sidelined Nwanebu through the entirety of the season, making the Nebraska match her lone appearance of the year.
“We were all having bets whether [Nwanebu] was going to come out in the Final Four here,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “[The Longhorns] are doing a lot of the same things, but if you look at their stats, their outside hitters get a lot of the swings. They got five people that can kill the ball, and they have good arms, so they are going to be a big challenge.”
Members of Nebraska's volleyball team celebrate after defeating Kansas 3-1 on Dec. 17 to advance to the National Championship. Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff
Texas has won 12 consecutive matches and 26 of its last 27. The Longhorns have now hit their stride, giving head coach Jerritt Elliott an air of confidence as his team approaches the national final.
“Numbers don’t lie,” Elliott said. “What you like as a coach is the way we played last night. Hopefully we can continue to play at the level we are.”
NCAA National Championship
- No. 4 Nebraska vs. No. 3 Texas
- TV: ESPN2
- Time: 6:30 p.m.
- Where: CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Nebraska