Nebraska, again: Florida volleyball falls in national title game for second time

By Adam Silverstein
December 16, 2017
Nebraska, again: Florida volleyball falls in national title game for second time
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Image Credit: John Burgess / UAA

The magical season for No. 2 Florida Gators volleyball and head coach Mary Wise came to a disastrous end on Saturday night as Florida was roundly dominated in the 2017 NCAA National Championship by a strong performance from the No. 5 Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Nebraska beat Florida 3-1 (25-22, 25-17, 18-25, 25-16), though the Gators were never really in the match after giving up a 15-11 lead in the first set.

The Cornhuskers used a 7-0 run to go up 18-15 and outscored the favorites 14-7 on the way to taking the early one-set advantage. Nebraska continued its momentum by completing an extended 39-24 scoring stretch (dating back to Florida’s aforementioned 15-11 lead) to go up 2-0 following a dominant second set.

It was almost impossible not to draw comparisons between the starts of this match and the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, the last time UF and UNL met in athletic competition with this much on the line. The Gators led 10-3 in that national title game only to get outscored 32-3 and trail 35-10 at halftime.

This time around, Florida showed some fight by coming out of the break and earning a decisive win in the third set, giving itself a chance to pull off a miraculous comeback. That would not transpire for the Gators, however, as the Huskers went up 9-1 in Set 4 and held off a short rally to pick up the four-set win.

Florida volleyball competed for the national championship on Saturday for the first time since 2003, a loss to USC. The 2017 campaign marked Wise’s first return to the Final Four since that season, while the Gators’ 30-2 record this year is their best since 2010, when they were 27-1 and unceremoniously eliminated in the Sweet 16.

UF was fighting to be the first team in SEC history and the first team from the Sunshine State to win a national title in volleyball. Wise, the NCAA Division-I career leader in winning percentage (.846) was also looking to become the first woman to lead a team to a crown in the sport.

Alas, all did not go the Gators’ way on Saturday as Florida and Wise still remain on the outside looking in on programs like Nebraska, which captured its fifth national title in victory.

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