There’s something about the twice-a-year Texas-Nebraska matchup that puts everything in the framework of past, present and future.
There’s a past, especially in the late 1990s to mid-2000s, when no matter how much Texas improved, no matter how much the championship banner glowed at Gregory Gym, the Longhorns would fall short against the Cornhuskers.
There’s a past when current Longhorns and Huskers were high school seniors, choosing between playing in Austin or playing in Lincoln. Those same players would team up with each other for USA Volleyball, like senior outsider hitters Juliann Faucette (UT) and Tara Mueller (Nebraska) in 2007, and sophomore utility player Sha’Dare McNeal (UT) with sophomore outside hitter Hannah Werth (Nebraska) in 2009.
Then there’s a more recent past, where the teams have split the series and neither could claim the upper hand.
Wednesday’s game even showed flashes of last year’s team that beat the Cornhuskers three times. There was Faucette bickering with officials like Ashley Engle, in turn enlivening the packed-beyond-capacity Gregory crowd. There was freshman libero Sarah Palmer holding down the backcourt like Heather Kisner. And there was Amber Roberson, spiking it from the back line like Destinee Hooker.
There’s also the present. The Longhorns have won seven in a row and 10 of their last 11, and showed that they can hit with the best of them on Wednesday night. The team’s Achilles Heel in Lincoln — serving errors — switched to the Huskers’ feet, as Nebraska hurt itself with nine serving errors to Texas’ four.
Senior middle blocker Jenn Doris and Faucette both notched their sixth career win against Nebraska, more than any other player in Texas history.
“I think it says a lot about the program,” said Faucette, who posted a 14-kill, 15-dig effort. “The four years that Jenn and I have been here, the Nebraska rivalry has been huge.”
The future remains bright, albeit uncertain. Texas still has tough outings left against Texas A&M and Oklahoma at home and 12th-ranked Iowa State in Ames this season.
As for the seemingly ageless Nebraska rivalry, a decade and a half of players in red and burnt orange circling two dates on their calendar every year may come to an end when the Cornhuskers leave for the Big Ten in 2011.
But just because there won’t be conference implications between the two in future matchups doesn’t mean there will be any less intensity.
“I’m sure there will be [the same excitement],” Nebraska head coach John Cook said. “That’s going to hang around for a while.”