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The Antelope

UNK volleyball to break attendance records in Lincoln

Coach Rick Squiers has led the team to the postseason for 23 consecutive years. Photo by Kolton Maturey / Antelope Staff

The UNK volleyball team will participate in the “Volleyball Day In Nebraska” event in Memorial Stadium on Aug. 30. The event is on track to break the NCAA volleyball attendance record by selling out over 83,000 tickets in less than 48 hours.

The Lopers will play Wayne State in an exhibition match, while UNL will face UNO in a regular match following the first game.  

“I am grateful to be a part of it and play some good competition,” said Rhianna Wilhelm, a redshirt senior setter. “It’s just unbelievable to imagine, I am so appreciative that UNK gets to be a part of this monumental event. It is something I could have never even dreamed of.”

The 2021 NCAA championship game between the Huskers and the Badgers holds the record for the NCAA’s most-attended volleyball match, with a crowd of 18,755. The projected 83,000 attendees will put the event’s numbers close to the overall one-day United States women’s sports attendance record. The 1999 Women’s World Cup Championship between the United States and China holds this record with 90,185 fans in the Rose Bowl Stadium.

The court will be placed on the north side of the field, with a standing-room area around the court for students. After both matches, a concert performed by Scotty McCreery will take place at midfield.

The volleyball team has experienced large crowds in the past. UNK’s 2005 NCAA tournament matchup in the Health and Sports Center against Grand Valley State still holds the Division II attendance record with 5,025 fans. The top six all-time attendance records were all played in the Health and Sports Center. 

UNK volleyball coach Rick Squiers has experienced coaching his team in front of those large crowds, but this one will be unprecedented.

“It is so different than anything we have ever done,” Squiers said. “Imagine what it is going to look like coming out of the tunnel to see a volleyball court in the stadium with a giant crowd.” 

The upcoming match presents a few challenges to the Lopers, such as the outdoor atmosphere. The team plans to hold at least one practice outdoors the week of the match to acclimate to weather conditions like heat or wind. 

This is not the UNK’s main topic of concern, however. 

“We are playing an outstanding opponent that may very well be preseason No. 1 in the country,” Squiers said. “That will be a challenge within itself.”

Wayne State went 30-3 last season, making them the top team in the Division II central region for the postseason. UNK went 28-6 in 2022.

With Nebraska being known for successful volleyball programs, this event is well-suited for the state. 

“This is something that has been talked about for a really long time, trying to get different volleyball teams together from the state because it is so strong at the high school and collegiate levels,” said Marc Bauer, UNK’s athletic director. “The stadium being chock-full of people to watch volleyball, it will be iconic because it has never been done.”

UNK and Wayne State will start their match at 4:30 p.m. with doors opening at 3:30. First serve of the UNL and UNO game will follow after the match. 

Newcomer Jaden Ferguson, of Lincoln, joins the Lopers after transferring from Northwest Missouri State. Photo by Kolton Maturey / Antelope Staff
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