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The top 10 Husker games from 2021 (and, yes, volleyball dominates the list)

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It's official: 2021 is in the books.

If you like to load your planner with Husker games, note the first NU competition of the new year (men's hoops vs. Ohio State on Sunday), the Red-White Spring Game (April 9) and football in Ireland (Aug. 27).

Yes, it's time to look ahead, but hey, how about one more look at 2021? That noted, we take a look at our top 10 Husker games of the year.

This is a "games" list, but we also want to give shoutouts to the Nebraska bowling team for winning an NCAA championship, Kate Smith for her Big Ten championship in women's golf, Mayson Conner's bronze-medal leap in high jump at the NCAA outdoor championships, Abigail Knapton wrapping up the best diving career at NU, and the Huskers' fourth-place finish at NCAAs in men's gymnastics.

1. Hooked 'em in Austin

The sport: Volleyball.

The date: Dec. 11.

The site: Gregory Gym in Austin, Texas.

A victory that punches a ticket to the final four in any sport makes for a euphoric moment (and will be high on this list).

To do so against a nemesis that beat you in the NCAA Tournament the previous season and on its home floor? Even sweeter.

NU coach John Cook called it one of the greatest wins in program history, and that's saying something.

The underdog Huskers knocked off No. 2 Texas in four sets. The Horns couldn't get anything going against NU's stout defense, and Madi Kubik, Lindsay Krause and Texas native Ally Batenhorst led the offensive attack.

NU was back in the Final Four.

2. Hog-tying Arkansas

The sport: Baseball.

The date: June 6.

The site: Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

More than 11,000 rabid fans, most of them cheering for the home team, were hoping to see No. 1 Arkansas wrap up a regional title.

Spencer Schwellenbach and a tough-minded group of Huskers crashed the party, or delayed it, anyway.

Schwellenbach pieced together one of the more memorable individual performances in program history, pitching 4⅔ shutout innings of relief, silencing one of the top lineups in the country, and the crowd.

Griffin Everitt had the game's biggest hit, a two-out, two-run single in the fifth to give NU the lead for good.

NU fell short a day later in the rematch, but a message was sent: Will Bolt had NU baseball back on track.

3. A classic with buddy Wisconsin

The sport: Volleyball.

The date: Dec. 18.

The site: Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

A week after beating Texas in the Elite Eight, Nebraska was playing for a national championship. Standing in the way was No. 4 Wisconsin, which was seeking its first national title and had won seven straight vs. the Big Red.

The Huskers took the first set, setting the tone for one heck of a match.

The margin of victory in each set was no more than three (Badgers won 22-25, 31-29, 25-23, 23-25, 15-12), the Huskers and Badgers totaled 60 points in the second set and NU was down 7-0 in the fifth set before pulling to within 14-12 on Cook's challenge of match point.

The match had it all — defense, drama, digs — and it was the most-watched NCAA volleyball final on TV.

It was a classic.

4. Wolverines have last bite

The sport: Football.

The date: Oct. 9.

The site: Memorial Stadium.

Coming off a 56-7 drubbing of Northwestern, and two near-misses against nationally-ranked Oklahoma and Michigan State, the stage was set for the Frost era to have a breakthrough win.

Night game. John Harbaugh's unbeaten and No. 9 Michigan team in town.

Adrian Martinez busted through for a 5-yard touchdown to give NU a 29-26 lead with 7:08 remaining. The sold-out crowd could feel it, but Michigan knocked in a pair of field goals and jumped on a critical fumble to escape with a 32-29 win.

No matter your rooting interests, you have to admit, this was a highly entertaining football game.

5. Igniting a Big Ten title run

The sport: Baseball.

The date: May 22.

The site: Bart Kaufman Field in Bloomington, Indiana.

Nebraska, in the midst of a Big Ten title chase, trailed Ohio State 9-2 in the sixth inning in the first of three weekend games.

The Huskers could have shifted their focus to Indiana, their nightcap opponent, but no.

Nebraska scored the next nine runs to stun Ohio State 11-9. The cherry on top was Jaxon Hallmark's tiebreaking RBI single in the ninth inning.

About 24 hours later, NU rolled Ohio State 9-0 to seal the Big Ten championship with three games to play.

6. Looking like days of old

The sport: Football.

The date: Oct. 2.

The site: Memorial Stadium.

The way the season finished, Nebraska's dominant 56-7 win against Northwestern felt like it occurred in 2018. Indeed, it was 2021.

NU rolled up 657 yards, including 427 rushing yards in a rare conference game rout to move to 3-3.

The pre-fourth quarter light show had the crowd buzzing and after the final whistle, it was bring on Michigan.

NU would lose its final six games, but on this night, O Street was hopping and Husker fans were talking bowl plans.

7. Making noise in Omaha

The sport: Volleyball.

The date: April 18.

The site: CHI Health Center Omaha.

In a strange spring season that was, including the entire NCAA Tournament being played in Omaha, the Huskers made another familiar run through the field, reaching the Elite Eight.

Standing in the way in the Sweet 16 was Baylor and national player of the year Yossiana Pressley, and NU was without All-American Lauren Stivrins, who was injured.

The Huskers didn't miss a beat, sweeping the Bears (25-21, 25-17, 25-19) behind eight aces and strong defense (Baylor hit .141).

8. Besting the Buckeyes

The sport: Women's hoops.

The date: Jan. 16.

The site: Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The signature win of the Huskers' 2020-21 season came against the then-unbeaten Buckeyes, who arrived at PBA ranked 15th nationally.

NU was without second-leading scorer Isabelle Bourne, so the Huskers needed someone to step up.

Hello, Sam Haiby and Kate Cain.

Haiby had 11 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Cain had 22 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocks to lift NU to a 63-55 victory.

It was NU's third win against a top-15 opponent in 17 days.

9. 4OT with the Wolfpack

The sport: Men's hoops.

The date: Dec. 1.

The site: PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Was it a pretty game? Nope. But add an overtime period and expect some drama.

Now add three more overtimes.

Nebraska and North Carolina State needed four extra sessions to decide this one, with the Wolfpack coming out on top 104-100.

The Huskers had numerous chances to win before losing a game that also featured a second-half scuffle (remember an injured Trey McGowens on the floor with his scooter?)

Yup, this one had a little bit of everything.

10. Picking up steam against Boilers

The sport: Volleyball.

The date: Nov. 27.

The site: Holloway Gymnasium in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Nebraska lost to No. 5 Wisconsin in four sets a day earlier, so the question was how would the Huskers respond against another top-10 team.

The Huskers had an immediate answer.

Behind Kubik (16 kills and 10 digs) and Kayla Caffey (13 kills), the Huskers bounced back with a 25-21, 25-10, 22-25, 25-15 victory at No. 6 Purdue.

How big was this win? What followed was a run to the national championship match.

Honorable mention

NU baseball at Arkansas (June 7): Game tied at 2-2 in the eighth inning before Hogs escape 6-2 to win regional.

NU baseball vs. Rutgers (May 10): NU scores six in the first inning, but doesn't score again until the 13th inning; prevails 7-6.

NU volleyball vs. Pittsburgh (Dec. 16): Huskers drop first set but dominate in next three to reach national championship match.

NU volleyball vs. Minnesota (Feb 21): No. 4 Huskers bounce back to sweep No. 5 Minnesota 25-17, 25-15, 25-22 in the spring season.

NU football at Wisconsin (Nov. 20): Despite miscues, including game-opening kickoff for TD by the Badgers, NU goes toe-and-toe with the No. 19 team.

NU men’s hoops vs. Illinois (Feb. 16): Huskers take No. 6 team to OT before falling 77-72. NU leads 64-58 with 2:25 remaining in regulation before Ayo Dosunmu takes over.

NU men’s hoops vs. Penn State (Feb. 23): Teddy Allen nearly ties school-record for points in a game, finishing with 41 on 16-of-24 shooting. Penn State prevails, though, 86-83.

NU women’s hoops vs. Creighton (Nov. 17): Huskers win 67-62 to snap a five-game losing streak to the rival Bluejays.

 

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