Sara Parks knows almost everybody on No. 10 Nebraska’s roster. She keeps in touch with many of them.
Nicole Wilson and Melissa Allerby played with three Cornhuskers last summer on the Nebraska Juniors volleyball club team.
No. 25 Missouri’s victory at Nebraska on Oct. 15 had a special significance as a homecoming for five Tigers. Junior Jenny Duitsman and freshman Wilson are from Lincoln, Neb., Parks, a junior, and sophomore Lindsey Hunter are from Papillion, Neb., and freshman Allerby is from Gretna, Neb.
“A lot of us have played against each other or together in club,” Parks said. “A lot of people have called us, ‘Nebraska at Missouri.’”
The Tigers and the Cornhuskers meet again at 7 p.m. Saturday at Hearnes.
Although the Tigers (16-7, 9-5) enter the match with a three-match losing streak, Missouri has confidence after stopping a 44-match losing streak to Nebraska.
Parks, who transferred to MU from Nebraska before last season, said she does not treat the matches against the Cornhuskers (21-3, 12-2) differently from any other match, but it was a special win.
“We want to beat them because they are a great team,” Parks said. “It’s always good to go to the Coliseum. It’s a great place to play and win a match, especially with so many girls from Nebraska on our team.”
Although Parks downplayed the importance of playing Nebraska, the others agree there is something special about the Cornhuskers.
Duitsman said it is fun for their families and Wilson looks forward to competing against three former club teammates.
“Being from Nebraska, it makes that not only a huge deal for us,” Duitsman said. “But also for our families. It makes it fun for all of us to go back home and for them to come here.”
Duitsman said a reason for strong high school and club volleyball in Nebraska is the tradition of the Cornhuskers. With Nebraska’s success, playing at Nebraska became a goal for many players.
Wilson said high school volleyball is strong and competitive in the upper level, Class A, but not at lower levels. Wilson attended Lincoln Christian, a Class C-1 school. Hunter and Parks, teammates at Papillion-LaVista, competed in Class A.
Duitsman played for the Lincoln Juniors club team and competed against Parks and Hunter, both members of the Nebraska Juniors. Wilson and Ellerby also played for the Nebraska Juniors.
Parks said that a combination of strong high school and club volleyball prepared her for college.
“Volleyball is a highly respected sport in Nebraska,” Parks said. “There are a lot of good coaches and a lot of good teams there.”
Hunter said Gwen Egbert, coach of Nebraska Juniors, was important in teaching them many things to help prepare for the Big 12.
Wilson said club ball had an impact on improving her game.
“Club ball made us very good,” she said. “Gwen was an awesome coach and she prepared us and knew how to prepare us.”
The Nebraskans said the common backgrounds help one another feel comfortable.
“It’s always nice having someone from your area,” Allerby said. “And also with commuting.”
Duitsman was the only Nebraskan on the team her freshman year but has built a strong bond with the other four. Hunter and Parks were teammates in high school, and Hunter said that helps on the court.
“I think it makes us feel at home,” Hunter said. “Sara and I played together for three years and we play together really well because we have chemistry.”