The last time a University of Nebraska-Lincoln athletics program played at the CenturyLink Center, the Bluejays stole the show with an early 18-2 advantage and Doug McDermott scored 33 points as the Creighton men’s basketball cruised to an 82-67 victory on Dec. 8, 2012. A new Nebraska team wearing a different set of jerseys will roam the Bluejays’ home court Tuesday night.
The Creighton volleyball team will host the Nebraska Cornhuskers at the CenturyLink Center on Tuesday for the first time since 2008.
The Bluejays dropped a 3-1 match last season in Lincoln during the first meeting between the two schools since a match in 2011 in the Ameritas Players Challenge.
“We are really excited this year because it is actually at the CenturyLink and we’re just really excited to go out and compete,” junior outside hitter Jess Bird said. “Our nerves aren’t really there as it was like last time.”
Nebraska has dominated the all-time series with the Jays. The Huskers have won all 13 meetings and have lost a total of only two sets, including one last season.
Of the 13 meetings, the match has only been in Omaha a total of three times.
Despite the dominance by the women in red and white, Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth believes the matchup allows fans to see the amount of volleyball talent the state features on both sides of the net.
“The great thing about playing Nebraska is we’ve got a team with a lot of Nebraska kids, they have a lot of Nebraska young women on their team, and I love the idea of showcasing how great volleyball is in this state,” Booth said.
The Jays feature nine players from the state of Nebraska, while the Huskers have seven.
“Nebraska really does produce great volleyball players and I think it’s exciting just because all of the players that are on either Creighton or Nebraska are from the Nebraska area,” senior defensive specialist Kate Elman said. “Some are from Lincoln, some are from Omaha (and) some are from small-town Nebraska. I think that when we get to [Tuesday] a lot of volleyball people from everywhere in Nebraska will be able to come and watch someone that they probably know or that they’ve heard of.”
The CenturyLink Center has a history of producing large crowds for Creighton men’s basketball games, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and the Olympic Swim Trials, but it also draws many fans for volleyball.
The Jays hosted the No. 1 Huskers in front of 12,112 fans on Sept. 26, 2006, which stands as the second largest regular-season volleyball crowd in the history of the arena.
The CenturyLink Center also hosted the largest crowd in NCAA history to watch a women’s volleyball game. The arena packed in 17,430 for the NCAA Semifinals in December of 2008.
Creighton expects another large crowd on Tuesday.
“It’ll be our first chance to play in front of 15,000 people, and I think that’s what’s really exciting about it,” Elman said. “We’ve all played in big-moment-type games where things are on the line (and) there’s huge crowds around, but this will probably be the biggest place that any of us have ever played in.”
Both Nebraska and Creighton hope that Tuesday will be the first of three matches they will play this season at the CenturyLink Center. The arena hosts the NCAA Semifinals and Championship Dec. 17-19.
Excitement for the Jays-Huskers matchup has been building for over a month. Billboards and other forms of advertisements for Tuesday’s game appeared as early as the first of August.
The Nebraska volleyball program has a large following, but Creighton is hopeful the crowd will feature more blue than red.
“We’re super excited to hear about all the people that are like, ‘hey, we’re going down to your game (and) we’re wearing blue,” Bird said.
The Huskers ranked No. 5 in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association poll and the Bluejays received votes.
Creighton swept the No. 10 Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday in Cedar Falls, Iowa for the Jays’ first victory against a top-10 team in 23 tries. It was also their first sweep in 63 matches against ranked foes.
Nebraska ranked in the top-25 in each match against the Bluejays and in the top-10 in 12 of the 13 previous matches against Creighton.
Booth noted that while a win against the Huskers would be good resume-builder, the game means more than a win or loss for either squad.
“When we play Nebraska it is a celebration,” Booth said. “It’s a celebration of being a small state that has unbelievable talent and really showcases that atmosphere. I hope a lot of people come out and see what great talent is in this state.”
First serve for Tuesday’s match is scheduled for 7 p.m. The match against the Huskers is the fourth game in the Bluejays’ program-record nine-match home stand.