Jordan Larson (left foreground) celebrating Nebraska's victory over Washington in the 2008 NCAA Regional Final, which she says is one of her most memorable NCAA Tournament memories.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 6, 2017) – The NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship, which begins the Sweet 16 Round this Friday, invokes many memories for players who have competed in the 64-team field.
Several of the U.S. Women’s National Team shared some of their most memorable moments during their own NCAA Tournament experiences.
Jordan Larson (Outside Hitter, Hooper, Nebraska, University of Nebraska)
“My most memorable moment would probably be winning a national championship in front of our home crowd in 2006. It is a lasting memory because we came up short the year before losing in the final. It was nice to see our team bounce back.
“Also, another lasting memory was winning the five-set thriller up in Washington to advance to the final four back in Omaha in 2008. We had our backs against the wall and we probably should have lost in three or four, but we were determined to make it back. It was especially special for me because it allowed my mom to watch us live one last time. ❤️”"
Carli Lloyd (Setter, Bonsall, California, University of California)
“Final Four 2010. Beating USC in the semifinals and earning the right to compete in the finals for the first time in Golden Bear history. This memory is especially lasting because of the events that took place leading up to that match. We had faced SC twice in PAC 10 play and they had beaten us pretty easily both times. When the NCAA tournament was being seeded, my teammates and I were hoping we would get a chance to compete with them again. When that matchup came in the semis we knew we had a gnarly fight ahead of us and we were extremely anxious to get out there after all of the preparation we went through to be ready for it. We ended up playing the best match of the season that night and we beat them in three sets. It was one of the most incredible team efforts I have ever experienced.”
Kelsey Robinson (Outside Hitter, Manhattan Beach, California/Bartlett, Illinois, University of Nebraska)
“My greatest memory from the NCAA tournament was when we were able to host at Nebraska my senior year during the Elite 8. The gym was sold out and standing room only. I remember not even being able to yell the set I wanted because it was sold out. It was one of the most incredible nights as a competitor playing in that atmosphere. There’s nothing like the support you get as a Husker. Good luck to all those competing in the tournament!”
Megan Courtney (Outside Hitter, Dayton, Ohio, Penn State)
“My most memorable memory during my time competing in the NCAA tournament is winning it twice for Penn State. That would be the obvious answer. But everything that it takes to win is what I loved the most! Some examples of this are being a great teammate, helping each other be the best player they can be, and being in the moment each and every match. Going into every match with the mentality that this could be the last time this group plays together, so let’s leave it all out there for the teammate next to you!”
Lauren Gibbemeyer (Middle, St. Paul, Minnesota, University of Minnesota)
“Looking back on my college career, I have to say that making it to the NCAA Final Four is one of my fondest volleyball memories! There was a moment before our first final four match where I remember walking out to the court and looking around at the enormous venue that only four teams had earned the right to compete in. It was surreal and very humbling. Despite the goosebumps of making it to the Final Four, I have to admit that my favorite part of tournament time is the announcement of the prestigious NCAA tournament bracket! I will never forget sitting with my teammates with sweet anticipation to find out our future path through the tournament!”
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Outside Hitter, Champaign, Illinois, University of Illinois)
“My favorite memory was in 2011 during our National Championship run. We (Illinois) were getting ready for our first practice in Florida for Elite 8. We are on the court waiting for our time to start and we grab a ball cart. Each ball is as hard as a basketball. We all start talking and testing them and then point it out to our coach, Kevin Hambly. Before even testing the ball himself he goes into a long speech about managing distractions. ‘National Championships are about which team can manage distractions the best and overcome each obstacle, etc.’ I mean this speech was loooong. And then we go on to start practice with these basketballs. Five minutes in he turns to the people running our timer for practice and complained about the balls. And he continued to talk about managing distractions the entire tournament.”
Hannah Tapp (Middle, Stewartville, Minnesota, University of Minnesota)
“My most memorable moment during the NCAA tournament was beating Hawaii in Des Moines and making it to our program’s first Final Four in nine years. It was an amazing feeling because that group of girls had gone through it all together—the season before not turning out as we hoped without making the tournament, to coming back the next year and reaching the Final Four. It was really surreal.”
Justine Wong-Orantes (Libero, Cypress, California, University of Nebraska)
“The best memory I had was winning the national championship in 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska in front of all of our fans. It was the most special thing I had ever been a part of! To step out and see the arena filled with red shirts was so cool and it felt great that we had so much support. I wish Nebraska the best of luck for the rest of the tournament!”
Madi Kingdon (Outside Hitter, Hermosa Beach, California/Phoenix, Arizona, University of Arizona)
"My most lasting memory from playing in the NCAA tournament was my senior year at Arizona (2014). It was the furthest we had made it in awhile. We got to host a regional that year. Having the opportunity to play on our home court during tournament time was pretty awesome. We advanced to the second round but fell short of the Sweet 16. Losing hurts but looking back I have such fond memories of that year. Since we got to host, I got to finish my career in my home gym, playing in front of family and friends in my home state. In my last moments, I was thinking of winning, of course, but doing it with an incredible group of women. And even though we didn’t win, I finished my career with my best friends, amazing coaches, and a great Arizona crowd. For me that is forever a memorable experience."
Annie Drews (Opposite, Elkhart, Indiana, Purdue University)
“My favorite memory in the tournament was probably my sophomore year when we upset Missouri in the second round and then went to Illinois for the Sweet 16. Illinois is a fun rivalry for us in the Big 10 because it's only about an hour away from Purdue, and both of our student sections are crazy! But what made it so special was that we had a huge blizzard 24 hours before the game - two feet of snow, everything closed. But even with that, we had hundreds of Purdue fans, and the band met us at the hotel to play the fight song and follow us to the gym. The win was a great memory, and I'm thankful for that, but I remember feeling so lucky to have people care so much about what we are doing! Tourney time really is some of the best time of the year.”
Amber Rolfzen (Middle, Papillion, Nebraska, University of Nebraska)
“My most memorable moment was playing in the Final Four in Omaha (in 2015) and winning the national championship that year. Being from Papillion, which is about 25 minutes from the arena, there was no better feeling than almost literally playing at home for your dream school and accomplishing one of the dreams you had ever since you started playing the sport in front of 17,000+ people cheering for you. There was a lot of pressure for us to get to Omaha that year and it was a lot harder to achieve than most people think. At the beginning of the season, we all sat down and just talked that if we were going to do this (get to Omaha and win) then there's no other way to do it than to have everyone fully committed to the process. When everyone accepts their roles, no matter how big or small, and contributes to the success of the team in any way they can, it really makes it so much fun to play every single day with your teammates and that's exactly what we did that year and what contributed to our success.”
Liz McMahon (Opposite, Liberty Township, Ohio, University of Illinois)
“My most memorable moment was my freshman year, 2011, the fifth set of the national semifinal Illinois versus USC, where we punched our ticket to the championship for the first time in school history. The entire season we made it an effort to embrace every moment and to embrace each other fully; which made every practice, road trip and match more fun. Although we fell one match short of our goal which was heartbreaking, it was said to us after the match that "the sun will come up tomorrow just the same" and that is true. Only one lucky team gets to be crowned National Champs, but every team can still walk away with incredible memories of the work they put in and the girls beside them they got to soak it all in with.”
Amanda Benson (Libero, Litchfield Park, Arizona, University of Oregon)
“I’d have to say just the energy of the tournament. All of the teams, the fans, everyone involved in the NCAA tournament has a sort of spirit that you crave in December every year. The furthest I ever made it was to the Sweet Sixteen and getting to play in front of crowds and leave everything on the court in places like Nebraska and Wisconsin is something you never forget.”
Lexi Dannemiller (Setter, West Chester, Ohio, University of Michigan)
“Beating Stanford to get to the Final Four! Because no one thought we could do it. Especially after we lost the first set 25-20.”