At least 100 bright-eyed kids line the the long side of the volleyball court. The smiles are stuck on their faces and their bodies jitter in anticipation. The 6,105 fans stand as the pep band plays the fight song. Then it happens: Jessica Vander Kooi is introduced to the Hearnes Center.
As she runs across the court, the young girls reach their hands out as if to grab her. They can’t, but it’s OK, because Vander Kooi is coming back. As she runs down the long line of kids, she high fives each kid not once, but twice.
The kids jump, scream and clap and the crowd cheers louder. Then it happens again. The reaction for each of the 10 MU volleyball players was the same as they were introduced. This happens at every home game, but Wednesday against No. 1 Nebraska, everything is amplified.
When the teams came out for warm ups, nearly an hour before gametime, the fans were cheering. When the Cornhuskers served, student cheer groups Volley Zou and Kreklow’s Krazies held their hands towards the player and unified to make a deep “Ooooo” sound. When the ball was in play, the silence was only broken by a heckle from a band member. Then, when MU scored, a high-pitched cheer took over the arena.
Despite MU’s straight-game loss, the third best attendance in program history kept the bottom two decks full until the end.
Jordyn Berry, 12, and friends Madison Blackburn, 11, Mary Cherrington, 12, and Emily Pieper, 12, students at Smithton Middle School, come to most MU games to cheer on the Tigers. Kylie Regier, 23, flew in from Georgia to celebrate her birthday with her family in Independence. The Regier family drove almost two hours to cheer on their beloved Huskers. Many in the crowd were players themselves, such as Rose Wolf, a freshman from Waynesville High School who came to the match with her team.
It wasn’t the result that most fans wanted, but they still have five opportunities to get that coveted double high five this season.