MADISON, Wis. >> Hawaii and Nebraska. Nebraska and Hawaii.
The two storied women’s volleyball programs have been ranked 1-2 in national attendance for 25 years. Hawaii led the country from its first full season in the Stan Sheriff Center (1995) until Nebraska built and filled its Devaney in 2013, the Huskers running their NCAA record for consecutive sellouts to 270 with last week’s opening-round wins over Ball State and Missouri.
It’s not just the size of the crowd that makes the two arenas the acknowledged meccas for volleyball. It’s the atmosphere created by the passion and respect for the sport and those who play it.
Jaylen Reyes may be biased when saying that the Sheriff and Devaney Centers are two of the best environments but the Kamehameha Schools graduate has plenty of first-hand experience. Reyes grew up in the first while his father, Tino, was the Hawaii men’s associate head coach for Mike Wilton for 17 seasons, and is in his second season in the latter as the assistant coach for Nebraska.
His two experiences collide Friday when the fifth-seeded Huskers (27-4) take on the 12th-seeded Rainbow Wahine in the NCAA third round at the sold-out UW Field House (7,052).
“Hawaii and Nebraska haven’t played against each other in a while and, as excited as our players are about that, I think they’re more excited for me,” Reyes said on Wednesday. “I know we’re going to have our hands full with Hawaii.
“We have great respect for their serving, especially Norene (senior setter-hitter Iosia). If they serve us off the net, that will be a problem.
“It will be about the volleyball cliche: winning the serve-and-pass game. That’s key for us. That and handling Hawaii’s middles.”
Wahine junior middle Sky Williams and freshman Amber Igiede have anchored the “Manoa Roofing Company” with the Wahine averaging 2.65 blocks per set with 16 matches of 10-plus stuffs.
If Reyes had to pick a third-best arena for volleyball, it would be Friday’s site: Wisconsin’s Field House. It’s a neutral site but Reyes expects there to be more Husker fans who were able to make the seven-hour drive up from Lincoln than Wahine fans flying 4,160 miles from Honolulu.
“It’s a cool environment,” said Reyes, a libero at Brigham Young. “It will be interesting to see who the Wisconsin fans cheer for.
“We have the experience of having played there in the Big Ten. Playing in the Big Ten feels like an NCAA tournament match every night.”
This year, Reyes is joined on the Husker bench by former Warrior setter Joby Ramos (2013-14), a Roosevelt graduate who is Nebraska’s graduate student manager.
“I think it’s going to be a fun match,” Reyes said. “But when I hear ‘Let’s go ’Bows’ I’m going to have to stop myself from saying it, too.”
The Wahine arrived Wednesday morning following flights to Chicago and Madison. Their plane in Chicago had to be de-iced. The temperature in Madison was 10 degrees (windchill minus-2).
NCAA REGIONAL CAPSULES
A look at the teams according to seed (record, national rank in parenthesis):
No. 4 Wisconsin (26-6, No. 5)
The Badgers won the Big Ten (18-2). Wisconsin opened the NCAA tournament with sweeps of Illinois State and UCLA to run its win streak to three.
Wisconsin’s last loss was at Penn State (3-2). The other defeats have been at home to Marquette (3-2), Baylor (3-1) and Washington (3-1), and at Washington (3-0) and Ohio State (3-1).
Kelly Sheffield is in his seventh season (184-48) and was named Coach of the Year in the Big Ten and AVCA Northeast Region.
Junior Dane Rettke, a 6-8 middle, was named the Big Ten and Northeast Region Player of the Year. She was joined on the all-region team by 6-1 junior hitter Molly Haggerty; 6-foot junior Sydney Hilly, the Big Ten Setter of the Year, and 6-3 junior hitter Grace Loberg
The Badgers are in their 17th regional, their seventh straight. Wisconsin has made the NCAA tournament 22 times (48-22), with its best finish coming in 2013 when it finished second to Penn State.
No. 5 Nebraska (27-4, No. 6)
The Huskers tied for second in the Big Ten (17-3) with Minnesota and Penn State. Nebraska opened the NCAA tournament with a sweep of Ball State and a four-set win over Missouri, extending its win streak to four.
The Huskers losses have been to Stanford (3-0), at Purdue (3-2) and to Wisconsin twice by sweeps.
Nebraska leads the series with Hawaii 7-4. The teams have not met since Oct. 21, 2007, a 3-0 Huskers sweep in Lincoln, Neb.
The Wahine’s last win came in the NCAA regional final in Lincoln on Dec. 14, 2002, a 3-1 victory that sent Hawaii to the final four in New Orleans. The only other time the teams have met in the NCAA tournament was in the national semifinal in 2000, where Nebraska defeated Hawaii 3-1 and went on to win the championship, John Cook’s first season at NU.
Cook is in his 20th season (587-80 overall, 74-15 NCAA tournament) with four national titles (2000, 2005, 2015, 2017). The Huskers are 115-32 all-time in NCAA tournament matches, also winning the 1995 championship under Terry Pettit.
The Huskers are in the NCAA regional for the eighth straight season, 25th in the last 26 seasons and 35th in school history, an NCAA record. Nebraska and Stanford are the only two programs to appear in the NCAA tournament since it began in 1981.
Nebraska had four players named to the AVCA North Region team, led by Texas transfer Lexi Sun, a 6-2 junior averaging a team-best 3.54 kills per set. All-American Lauren Stivrins, a 6-4 junior middle, is a two-time all-region player, and 5-10 sophomore setter Nicklin Hames has 15 double-doubles (assists-digs) this season. Madi Kublik, a 6-3 hitter, was the Freshman of the Year in both the Big Ten and North Region.
Nebraska, with no seniors on the roster, set a school record for attendance — 8,632 — against No. 2 Stanford on Sept. 18.
No. 12 Hawaii (26-3)
The Wahine won the Big West title for the first time since 2016, finishing 14-2. Hawaii opened the NCAA tournament with a 3-1 win over Northern Colorado and a sweep of No. 20 San Diego, extending its win streak to 13.
Robyn Ah Mow is in her third season at her alma mater, with three NCAA appearances, the first two ending in the first round. The All-American setter was named the Big West Co-Coach of the Year and the Pacific North Region COY.
Hawaii has missed the NCAA tournament just once: during an injury-plagued 1992 season, where the Wahine finished 15-12, the closest to a losing season for retired coach Dave Shoji. Hawaii is 81-34 all-time in the NCAAs with three national titles (1982, 1983 and 1987) and one AIAW (1979).
The Wahine’s losses are at Baylor (3-0), at Cal Poly (3-0) and at home to UC Irvine (3-2).
Hawaii senior setter-hitter Norene Iosia, a four-time first-team All-Big West selection, was named the conference’s Player of the Year as well as to the Pacific North all-region first team. She has 19 double-doubles and leads the team in assists, aces and digs.
The Wahine had four players named to the All-Big West first team in Iosia, freshmen Hanna Hellvig and Amber Igiede, and junior middle Sky Williams. Hellvig, the conference Freshman of the Year, and middle Igiede were honorable mention all-region.
Redshirt junior hitter Jolie Rasmussen, the team kill leader (3.35 kps) until her injury on Sept. 12, returned after missing 20 matches last week and played sparingly against UNC and USD.
Hellvig adds 3.14 kills per set. Williams contributes 1.91 on .401 hitting with 1.11 blocks per set.
No. 13 Texas A&M (23-7, No. 25)
The Aggies finished tied for third in the SEC (13-5) with Missouri.
Laura Kuhn, in her second season (40-20), was named SEC Coach of the Year after leading the Aggies to their best home record (12-1) since 2000.
A&M is making its 25th appearance in the NCAA tournament (28-24) and made it to the elite eight twice (1999 and 2001). The Aggies advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 2009 with a sweep of St. John’s and a 3-1 upset of Rice, creating a two-match win streak.
The Aggies finished 13-5 in the SEC. Their losses have come at Louisville (3-2), at Texas (3-0), at Tennessee (3-2), at Missouri (3-2), twice to Florida (both 3-2), and at LSU (3-1).
TAMU had four players named All-South Region in junior setter Camille Conner, senior hitter Hollann Hans, senior libero Camila Gomez and junior middle Makena Petterson. Conner has the only triple-double in the SEC this season (kills-assists-digs), Hans has 14 double-doubles (kills-digs), Gomez has 447 digs this season and Patterson leads the SEC in blocks and blocks per set.
NCAA WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT
At Madison, Wis., UW Field House (7,052) Seed and record in parenthesis
Friday’s third round
>> No. 25 Texas A&M (13, 23-7) at No. 5 Wisconsin (4, 24-6), 9 a.m., ESPNU
>> No. 18 Hawaii (12, 26-3) vs. No. 6 Nebraska (5, 27-4), 11:30 a.m., ESPN3
>> Series: Nebraska leads Hawaii 7-4
Saturday’s fourth round
>> Friday’s winners, 1 p.m., ESPNU
>> Radio: 1420-AM/92.7-FM (Saturday only if Hawaii advances)
>> Online: ESPN3.com