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Husker Coach Kelly Hunter credits fans for historic Volleyball Day

Ethan+McCormick+calling+the+Kearney+vs.+Wayne+State+Volleyball+Game+for+KLPR+91.1+ahead%0Aof+the+Nebraska+game+on+Aug.+30.+%28Courtesy+photo%3A+Ethan+McCormick%29
Ethan McCormick calling the Kearney vs. Wayne State Volleyball Game for KLPR 91.1 ahead of the Nebraska game on Aug. 30. (Courtesy photo: Ethan McCormick)

Titan alum and Husker assistant volleyball coach Kelly Hunter credits fans for elevating a normal “match” to a whole new level on Aug. 30, when 92,003 people piled into Memorial Stadium to watch the Huskers take on the UNO Mavericks. The widely publicized event set a world record for most fans at a women’s sporting event and obliterated an NCAA record that had been set just 11 months earlier, when 17,037 Wisconsin fans packed into Fiserv Forum to see the Badgers take down Marquette. 

Nebraska head coach John Cook, right, and assistant coach Kelly Hunter watch the from the sideline during the third set of a Volleyball Day in Nebraska match against Omaha, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023, at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. (Printed with permission: Nikos Frazier/ Omaha World-Herald)

“The idea came about because people on Twitter were tagging [head coach] John [Cook] and Nebraska Volleyball and saying, ‘Hey let’s play a game out in the stadium. We need to break this record that Wisconsin set last year,’” Hunter explained. “So it was really their idea, and something that we thought might be far off, and then we just chose to roll with it and go for it.” 

Hunter said the team never expected to get this kind of request from fans, never for Memorial Stadium. However, fans went all in. They seemed to see the possibilities before the team did, that this could be history, and that they would come and support. 

“We didn’t open up the full stadium to start – and then sold that out within days,” Hunter said. “Just seeing the popularity and excitement around it, we were able to open the full stadium up.” 

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The Huskers invited high school teams to come and watch. They also hosted Wayne State College to play UNK. They wanted to make this an experience of a lifetime. 

For Hunter, it wasn’t just playing that made it special. It was experiencing all those old Husker football traditions. 

“For me the biggest thing – just being a Nebraska girl, playing for Nebraska and now coaching for Nebraska – the thing that stood out to me the most, and that made me emotional, was doing the national anthem with the flyover and then the tunnel walk,” Hunter said. 

The Air National Guard brought the thunder with the flyover. 

“Being a part of those Nebraska traditions that usually only the football team gets to be a part of – obviously our fans and everyone there got to be a part of it as well,” Hunter said. 

Everyone dreams big, the assistant coach said, but Husker fans took that to a whole new level. 

This day put Nebraska and volleyball on the map, getting national attention from sources such as ESPN and NBC. 

     During the Kearney-Wayne State game, the UNK radio station KLPR 91.1 Radio, had the call. The man behind the mic for most UNK games, Loper sophomore and Bennington High School graduate Ethan McCormick, got to do play-by-play for the game in Memorial Stadium. 

“I can’t compare this to other games I’ve called, because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that many people and that atmosphere can’t match,” McCormick said. 

UNK is the smallest of the state universities, but after playing in Memorial Stadium, the volleyball team has grown its fan base. 

“The exposure for UNK volleyball will help them grow. They’ve had bigger crowds since that day,” McCormick said. 

Hunter grew up playing volleyball through club and other teams, including the Papio South Titans, who won three state championships and a national title during her time on the team.  

Maddox Allen

She said her experience led her to help younger girls get into the sport and reach for those higher levels. 

It’s a good time to be in volleyball, the assistant coach said. “The fact that we’re on social media, we’re on TV so often – I think social media is huge, especially for the younger fans and the little girls who want to play volleyball for the Huskers and just play at a high level,” she said. 

Nebraska fans have a long history of supporting their sports teams. With the rise in popularity of women’s sports across the globe and having nationally ranked high school and college teams inside the state, Memorial Stadium proved to be a great place to shatter an attendance record.

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Maddox Allen, Staff Reporter
Hey guys! I'm Maddox and this is my first year on staff. I spend most of my time doing, well, media. I am currently in PLV Media, as well as doing personal media on the side. I enjoy going out to the lake, fishing, and just being outdoors. I can't wait to have you all see what I make along with my staff!
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