The last time Nebraska and Washington played in volleyball, the match ended with an uncomfortable exchange between John Cook and Jim McLaughlin.
Both head coaches have acknowledged this week that they haven't had a follow-up conversation about what happened that 2010 night in Seattle.
“We haven't had coffee together, but I haven't been in Seattle and he hasn't been in Lincoln,” Cook said Thursday at the CenturyLink Center after putting his team through its final practice before Nebraska plays Washington in a regional semifinal Friday night.
McLaughlin told The World-Herald earlier this week that the coaches have only traded some text messages since his Huskies upset second-seeded NU in this same round two years ago.
A controversial point late in the four-set match led to Cook and McLaughlin exchanging words during their handshake. Assistant coaches had to step in to cut off any further confrontation, although Cook afterward said he only told McLaughlin “Nice match” and told him a ball was out on the point in question.
That match followed two other significant showdowns between the programs. Nebraska beat the Huskies in 2008 to advance to the final four, while Washington toppled No. 1 NU in the 2005 national championship match.
“Every match has just been good volleyball — a good match, very exciting match, very intense match,” McLaughlin said Thursday. “Both teams played well in all the matches. I would expect this would be just another dogfight for sure, and we'll have to be prepared for that.”
Cook echoed what McLaughlin said about the battles.
“Whenever we've played, there's been a lot on the line,” Cook said. “It hasn't been like a preseason tournament or nonconference (match) somewhere in some gym. These have all been big matches. Center stage.”
Huskers want 'revenge'
The Huskers and Huskies have enough players back from that 2010 match that there will be some familiarity for the 6 p.m. contest.
“They have a style to the way they play,” Cook said. “They're running a two-setter system, which I never thought I would see Washington do, but it's still Washington volleyball.”
NU senior outside hitter Gina Mancuso said the Huskers still feel the sting from that 2010 defeat.
“It feels like we didn't really lose in a fair situation,” Mancuso said. “So I think that motivates us even more and it's empowered us to get out and practice as hard as we can.
“Like Coach has been saying, we just want to play our best volleyball, and I think there's definitely some revenge that we want, and we're looking forward to getting that tomorrow.”
NU ready for five sets
Mancuso said Nebraska will be well-prepared if it gets into any five-set matches Friday or Saturday. The Huskers have played the maximum six times in their last 17 matches, with a 3-3 record in those contests.
“I think that's definitely helped us, so that physically and mentally it's given us experience,” Mancuso said. “Unfortunately we haven't always come out on top in five sets, but I think now we know what needs to be done and how to do it to finish on top and be successful.”
While NU is 4-3 overall in five-set matches, Washington is 5-2. It took five sets in the second round for the Huskies to get past Hawaii.
'Great support' in Omaha
Cook said he's happy to be back at the CenturyLink Center, where Nebraska will have a decided home advantage this weekend.
“I don't know how many tickets have been sold, but we've played here in front of 6,000 to 17,000 and I think it's always a great atmosphere,” he said. “We always get great support here. Omaha's a great college sports town ... and this is a really good big arena to be playing volleyball in as well.”
On the opposite bench, Washington realizes that it will be different than when the Huskies played NU two years ago in Seattle.
“I think we definitely have to provide our own energy, considering a lot of the crowd will be for them,” Washington junior Jenna Orlandini said. “I think we just have to play together, and we've done that.”
Pac-12 prepared Ducks
Oregon is one of two Pac-12 teams in Omaha and one of four left in the NCAA tournament. Coach Jim Moore said coming out of that conference has the Ducks prepared for just about anything at this point.
“We talk about that all the time,” Moore said. “It's great to play 'stupid-good' teams all the time, I guess. You get a little tired of getting beat. I think we're as prepared as we can possibly be.”
No. 5-seeded Oregon (27-4) went 16-4 against Pac-12 teams, with three of those matches going five sets. The Ducks play BYU in the first match Friday at the CenturyLink Center.
Hamson a big challenge
Part of Oregon's challenge on Friday night will be containing BYU junior Jennifer Hamson, a 6-foot-7 right-side hitter and the West Coast Conference player of the year.
The Ducks have no player taller than 6-3.
“We're not going to stop Jennifer Hamson,” Moore said. “We're going to have to do some things to slow her down the best we can and hopefully we can dig some of those.”
Hamson is a two-sport star for the Cougars, also playing basketball for BYU women's coach Jeff Judkins.
How's it all work? BYU volleyball coach Shawn Olmstead said it starts with Hamson doing an “outstanding job” handling the double duty, and the two coaching staffs working together.
“We sat down together, our entire staffs, and had a calendar and met as this season unfolded,” Olmstead said. “The reality is you start at one point and get to another point, when we started to see that there were some really good things happening, if we continue this we can get a good seed for the NCAA, etc. They've worked really well in those terms as well.”