LINCOLN — Megan (Korver) Demma’s oldest son is 8, the right age to start to understand his mom used to play volleyball just like the young women he sees when the family tunes in to a Nebraska match from their home near Phoenix.
So when she was invited to a reunion to honor all the Huskers who played in the NU Coliseum, Demma, an all-conference middle blocker in 1996 and 1998, made sure to book an extra plane ticket so her son could come stand on the floor where it all happened.
“It’s an end of an era. I was very proud to play in the Coliseum,” Demma said. “I think it’s important for him to see it.”
Demma is one of more than 70 former letterwinners slated to be at the Coliseum on Friday night for what is expected to be the largest-ever gathering of Husker volleyball alumnae. They’ll be joined by former coach Terry Pettit, who led Nebraska for 23 years before stepping down after the 1999 season.
The group will attend a pre-match reception and be honored on the floor following the 7 p.m. match between No. 4 Nebraska (17-2, 9-1 Big Ten) and No. 20 Ohio State (15-7, 6-4).
The event is being held to allow all former players to receive a final ovation in the building that has been home to Nebraska volleyball since the program was started in 1975. The team will move to a renovated Devaney Center next season.
Today, the Coliseum is one of the most hallowed courts in college volleyball, built by more than three decades of star players.
“I’ve played in a lot of places around the country and around the world, and none compare to the 4,100 (fans) in the Coliseum,” said Allison Weston, the 1995 national co-player of the year and the program’s first three-time All-American.
Weston, the captain of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, will be at the Coliseum for the first time since a reunion of the 1995 national championship team in 2000. She currently works as an EMT in Missoula, Mont.
Karen (Dahlgren) Schonewise has made it back to the Coliseum much more recently. An All-America middle blocker in 1985 and 1986, Schonewise’s family moved to Omaha two years ago from Lawrence, Kan., where she was the head coach at Kansas from 1994-97. She attended the Huskers’ five-set win over top-ranked UCLA in August.
Schonewise said the Coliseum looked very different than the one she played in. Schonewise recalled her teammates setting up folding chairs for fans to sit in on the north side of the court.
“There were no bleachers down below. The environment now is considerably more fun,” Schonewise said. “We set up the nets, we set up the chairs before the match. It was part of what we did. It was part of getting ready for game day.”
Every generation of Huskers has been nearly unbeatable at the Coliseum. Nebraska has 19 undefeated seasons in the building and holds an all-time record of 518-33 there, including winning streaks of 90 (2004-09) and 63 (1999-2002) matches. The Huskers have currently won 39 straight regular-season matches at the Coliseum.
More than just the home of winning streaks and memorable matches, the Coliseum is a symbol of the entire Husker volleyball experience, tying together nearly 40 years of championship history with unmatched accessibility. The intimate venue puts the crowd right next to the floor, and players may find themselves on the floor for an hour after the match signing autographs.
“I think everybody sensed we were part of something bigger,” Weston said. “We were a part of something people wanted to be a part of and were ambassadors to that. It’s been years since I’ve signed an autograph, and we did that once a week for a lot of people. It was very humbling, very much an honor. I try never to take it for granted.”
After the Huskers’ match with the Buckeyes, each player will be introduced to the crowd and receive a pair of gifts. Pettit said he had a hand in thinking up the gifts, and hinted one might involve a mounted set of tickets to a match at the Coliseum.
As to the other keepsake, the former coach remained mum.
“I’m involved with the other thing, and I shouldn’t say what it is,” Pettit said. “But it’s pretty neat.”
Contact the writer:
402-444-1201, email@example.com; twitter.com/OWHJeffSheldon