What it Means to Play on the DI NCAA Volleyball Championship Sport Court 

By Kayla Banwarth

Kayla Banwarth on a Sport Court Volleyball Court

I was fortunate to play in a NCAA Championship semifinal when I was a Husker, and to this day it remains one of the most special nights of my life. It was Dec. 18, 2008, and the final four teams played in our home state of Nebraska. I remember there was a huge blizzard that weekend. But, that didn’t stop Husker Nation from coming and filling up the Qwest Center (now the CenturyLink Center). It was a Sea of Red. It was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself when I was yelling to the person next to me.  17,430 fans bought a ticket to watch volleyball that night, and they definitely got their money’s worth.

Nebraska played Penn State that night in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament. Penn State was, and remains, a dynasty. They were the No. 1 ranked team. They hadn’t lost A SET all season, and they went up 2-0 on us that match.

Kayla Banwarth on a Sport Court Volleyball Court

But then something happened, something indescribable. We came together as a team. We knew that the only chance we had at winning this match was if we did it together. It was time to battle. We won sets 3 and 4 and took Penn State to the fifth set. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to pull out the deciding set. But the way we played as a team, and the way that Husker Nation believed and cheered us on is what made it special. Obviously a win would’ve been nice. But winning isn’t what makes it special. It’s the journey you’ve been on and the people who have traveled that road with you that make it worth remembering. And there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s a night I’ll never forget.