Gina Mancuso is ready to bear down on the final weeks of her Husker career.
By Randy York
Has it really been a year since Kansas State shocked Nebraska in a five-set, second-round NCAA volleyball match at the NU Coliseum? Surely, all Husker fans remember how numbing that was, especially for a certain first-team All-American outside hitter who had 25 kills and 17 digs in a rare Husker home loss.
“I promise you that we’re going to come out fighting next year, and I promise you that our season won’t end like this,” Gina Mancuso said at the time, vowing in Tim Tebow fashion, that no individual and no team was going to work harder to prevent something like that from happening again.
“Do I remember saying that? Yes, I do,” Mancuso said Wednesday before following up with an impromptu update. “Our motivation and our work ethic for this weekend started a year ago after we lost that match. We can honestly say that we’ve done everything we can do almost every day since that loss. We’re all excited. It’s a great opportunity to have K-State (first and second round) and Washington (Omaha regional) in our bracket. That provides a lot of motivation on top of the motivation we already had.”
While Mancuso is hoping the Huskers can gain some measure of revenge the second time around, she knows the sheer mention of that word is a confession of pain, and that’s okay, along as everything is kept in proper perspective. Nebraska Coach John Cook has been around long enough to know that before anyone decides to embark on a journey of revenge, someone should dig two graves.
The Huskers, however, are “in a much better place than we were last year,” Cook said. “We were just hanging on last year … hanging on trying to win that conference. I think we were worn out. It wasn’t necessarily volleyball wear-out. It was just a long, draining season for our first year in the Big Ten.”
Mancuso said then and still believes now that K-State wanted that second-round win that punched a ticket to a regional in Hawaii more than Nebraska wanted it. As tempting as it is to look ahead, Mancuso said the No. 4-seeded Huskers must focus on Thursday’s first-round foe, Maryland Eastern Shore.
“We’re so much better prepared this year,” Mancuso said, admitting that an Omaha regional gives the Huskers extra incentive to play four matches in Nebraska to reach the National Semifinals in Louisville. Mancuso still remembers her 2009 freshman season when the Huskers squandered a similar opportunity. Nebraska swept Coastal Carolina and Northern Iowa in Lincoln and swept Iowa State in Omaha before losing to Texas in the regional final and failing to qualify for the National Semifinals.
For Mancuso and her teammates, revenge isn’t the right word to describe what they want to accomplish in the next two weekends. Resolve is a more accurate description of the Huskers’ psychological makeup for NCAA Tourney Time. Resolve, after all, was at the root of Mancuso’s 2011 post-match vow, and that resolution will remain ingrained in her mind until the Huskers wind up in Louisville.
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