In a historic night for women's sports, the University of Nebraska hosted a volleyball match against the University of Nebraska Omaha at Lincoln's Memorial Stadium, drawing a record-breaking crowd of 92,003 fans. This shattered the previous world record for attendance at a women's sporting event, which stood at 91,648 and was set during a UEFA Women's Champions League soccer semifinal in 2022. The previous United States record was also surpassed, as in 1999, 90,185 fans packed the Rose Bowl for the Women's World Cup Final between the US and China.
The event, dubbed "Volleyball Day in Nebraska," was not a major championship or global event, but rather the Cornhuskers' season opener. In-person classes were canceled on the Lincoln campus to encourage attendance, and a post-match concert led by American Idol season 10 winner Scotty McCreery added to the festivities. The match was announced in February, with tickets going on sale in April. Within just three days, over 82,000 tickets were sold, showcasing the immense excitement and popularity surrounding the event.
Nebraska's volleyball program has a storied history, having won five national championships, with the most recent title in 2017. The team also holds the NCAA women's sellout streak record, having sold out 306 consecutive regular-season matches. The Cornhuskers' success and dedicated fanbase contributed to the remarkable attendance at Memorial Stadium.
The atmosphere at the stadium was electric as the Cornhuskers made their entrance, led by junior libero Lexi Rodriguez, head coach John Cook, and junior outside hitter Merritt Beason. The crowd erupted in cheers as the team took to the makeshift volleyball court set up on the football field. The stadium's speakers blasted “Sirius” by the Alan Parsons Project, creating an exhilarating atmosphere. The excitement reached new heights as three fighter jets and another military aircraft flew overhead, adding to the spectacle.
The match itself showcased the talent and teamwork of the Cornhuskers as they defeated the University of Nebraska Omaha in three straight sets (25-14, 25-14, 23-14). The victory was a fitting end to a memorable night for the home crowd.
NCAA President Charlie Baker expressed his admiration for the growth and popularity of women's volleyball, stating, "The athleticism, the teamwork, the games themselves are just unbelievable. I'm not surprised that they sold out this place in basically 48 hours." College volleyball has seen a surge in popularity, with the sport rapidly catching up to basketball as the most popular women's sport in the country.
The immense success of the event has the potential to further elevate the sport of volleyball. Head coach John Cook compared it to a pivotal moment for women's soccer when they played in the Rose Bowl, noting the significant impact it had on the sport's popularity. The record-breaking attendance at Memorial Stadium presents another opportunity for the sport of volleyball to shine and captivate a larger audience.
For the players, the magnitude of the event was not lost on them. Sophomore middle hitter Bekka Allick expressed her awe, stating, "It honestly leaves me speechless... It's hard to grasp 94,000 people." The team was determined to make the most of the occasion and not take any moment for granted.
In the end, Nebraska's historic volleyball match at Memorial Stadium showcased the growth and popularity of women's volleyball, breaking attendance records and captivating the nation. The event served as a testament to the passion and dedication of fans, while also propelling the sport to new heights.
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