It was 2 in the morning when the charter plane landed in Scottsbluff to refuel.
The Nebraska softball team, riding cloud nine after upsetting Oregon and clinching a Women's College World Series berth, filed indoors.
Twenty minutes on the ground and they should be back in the air.
Thunderstorms in eastern Nebraska. Of course. With all of the bad weather this spring, the Huskers had rarely played on schedule. One more delay seemed fitting.
Inside the Scottsbluff airport waiting room, the Huskers flipped through late-night shows on a big-screen TV and stumbled on an ESPNU replay of their 4-2 super-regional victory. Beats infomercials. They watched the fourth, fifth and sixth innings casually.
Then came the seventh. Coach Rhonda Revelle noticed her players leaning toward the screen, locked in to every pitch.
“It was like little kids getting ready for Christmas,” Revelle said.
When Hailey Decker fired to Mattie Fowler to complete the 48th double play of the season, the Scottsbluff airport erupted. It felt like the Huskers were living it all for the first time.
They won't have much more time to celebrate. Of the WCWS participants, NU has by far the quickest turnaround.
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Washington was the only other team to win a super regional on the road. But while UW clinched its bid on Friday, the Huskers didn't qualify until Sunday night. They're the two lowest-seeded teams remaining and they meet in the first game at 11 a.m. Thursday in Oklahoma City.
Revelle, as of Monday night, hadn't had much time to watch film. But her first observations of Washington, the Pac-12 runner-up, show a team comparable to NU. Take the names off the stat sheet, she said, and you wouldn't know which team is Washington and which team is Nebraska.
The Huskers don't have experience on their side — 11 of Revelle's 16 players hadn't even played postseason softball until this year. But after the Oregon trip, no set of circumstances seems too daunting.
The third-seeded Ducks hadn't lost a single home game all year until NU won two of three. After the clincher, Revelle's phone displayed 179 new text messages and 43 emails. That kept coming throughout the night.
“Our phones were just blowing up,” Revelle said.
Following the two-hour delay in Scottsbluff, the charter landed in Lincoln at 4:35 a.m. When Revelle hit the pillow, the sun was peeking over the horizon.
Her team took it easy Monday. No practice. Mandatory ice bath. Plenty of sleep. And an email from Coach — at 3:17 p.m — laying out Tuesday's practice.
What does a hall of fame coach tell her underdog team entering the biggest week of the year?
Revelle came up with this email title: “Getting just a little bit better … TODAY.”
Sunday is gonna be pretty hard to beat.
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