Huskers back to business at Kansas State on Sunday

By Lincoln Arneal

Volleyball Day in Nebraska exceeded all expectations and provided core memories that will last a lifetime. 

However, those good vibes must be suppressed for a bit. For as momentous as the world-record crowd of 92,003 in Memorial Stadium was, it was just match No. 4 of 29 for the Huskers. 

While the event was memorable, NU coach John Cook said it might be hard to learn much from the match because it was a break from routine. However, he compared it to the Super Bowl, which could help prepare his players for the next time they step into a big atmosphere. 

“Just being a part of a big event and all that goes with it and everything going on is going to prepare them for the next time this happens, or we get to a final four,” he said. “They’re going to be used to this show that goes on besides the volleyball match and all the attention and everything that goes with it.”

The fourth-ranked Huskers’ next match won’t be nearly as big of a spectacle, but it will be part of a celebration as Kansas State is opening its new volleyball-centric gym – the 3,000-seat Morgan Family Arena – this weekend. NU’s opponent in Memorial Stadium, Nebraska-Omaha, is scheduled to make history again as the Mavericks play the inaugural match Friday night. Nebraska takes on the Wildcats Sunday at 4 p.m. 

The new arena replaces Ahearn Fieldhouse, which had a capacity of 5,000. It was built in 1951 and served as the main basketball gym until 1988. It will be torn down next summer. 

Kansas State sold out of season tickets this year. General admission tickets were available for Friday’s match, but the meeting between the former Big 12 rivals is sold out – the only sellout of the Wildcats’ 13 home matches this season. 

KSU is also beginning a new era on the sidelines with Jason Mansfield taking over as head coach. He replaces Suzie Fritz, who amassed a 393-263 record over 22 years. She led the Wildcats to their only conference title in 2003 and 13 of the school’s 19 NCAA appearances. 

Mansfield was previously an assistant coach at Washington (2018-22), Illinois (2016-17) and Stanford (2004-15).

He became the second K-State coach to win his first three games as the Wildcats posted victories last weekend with victories against Portland State, San Diego State and Cal State Fullerton in Oregon. 

Mansfield’s staff includes assistant coach Fiona (Nepo) Fonoti, a three-time All-American setter at Nebraska who helped lead the Huskers to the national title in 1995. She was previously an assistant coach at West Virginia and Iowa State.

The Wildcats feature four native Nebraskans in junior defensive specialist Molly Ramsey from Norris, sophomore setter Ava LeGrand from Papillion-La Vista South, sophomore outside hitter Shaylee Myers from Lincoln Southwest and sophomore middle blocker Brenna Schmidt from Elmwood-Murdock. Myers appeared in all 10 sets this season and is averaging 2.40 kills per set on .365 hitting.

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