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NCAA volleyball title match adds to season of broken records

TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 17: A general view during the 2023 Division I Women's Volleyball Championship between the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Texas Longhorns at Amalie Arena on December 17, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Texas took home the NCAA women’s volleyball title Sunday, sweeping No. 1 overall seed Nebraska to win its second straight championship.

The win came in front of a record-breaking crowd of 19,727 – breaking the indoor volleyball attendance record set just days before during the NCAA semifinals. And it caps off a record-breaking year for attendance in women’s volleyball, centered around Nebraska.

“You think you’re invincible. You think it’s destiny. ‘It’s ours.’ And I think Texas experienced that,” Nebraska coach John Cook said.

The Cornhuskers set the record for the largest crowd at a women’s sporting event, hosting 92,003 fans at an outdoor match at Memorial Stadium. They also had the largest home season total with 255,953 people turning out. And now, they are part-owners of the largest NCAA volleyball game.

Yet despite Nebraska’s historic season, there weren’t any doubts Sunday about Texas being national champion once again. Libero Asjia O’Neal served 10 consecutive points in the second set, which proved pivotal in the 3-0 sweep.

“Volleyball is a huge game of momentum,” O’Neal said. “During that run, I could totally feel the momentum shift to our side. We were playing with so much confidence and joy and I just knew that we had the game in the bag. … I was smiling because I was so happy with how we were feeling. You just feel it. I felt we were going to win the match.”

And the serving really became the key to the game.

“They had a level of serving we haven’t seen all year and that really impacted us in our momentum and our confidence and then everything started going their way and they got all the momentum and we just couldn’t ever get it back,” Cook said.

Texas took home the title in the first NCAA volleyball championship match to be televised on ABC.

“We had all the confidence in the world,” Texas star outside hitter Madisen Skinner told ESPN after the match. “I’ll say it until I die — this team was peaking right now and we just had so much trust and belief in one another. I mean our service pressure was insane. It gave us so many options in transition.”

O’Neal called it “the most joyous season I’ve ever had in my life.”

“We were just able to play free — we love each other and support one another and throughout the whole year, it was just so fun,” O’Neal said. “It was definitely challenging at times, but just today as an example, everyone played free, everyone had confidence in one another, and we were able to go out and take down some really incredible teams.”