NET's new “Nebraska Volleyball: Culture of a Champion” documentary previewed

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August 17, 2018 - 6:45am

A new NET Television documentary follows the Husker volleyball team’s unlikely journey to the 2017 national title. “Nebraska Volleyball: Culture of a Champion” premieres Sunday at 5:30 p.m. CT on NET Television. Brandon McDermott of NET News talks one-on-one with “Culture of a Champion” producer Brock Lohr.

Brandon McDermott, NET News: Talk about the opportunity to make this new documentary on Nebraska volleyball.

The new NET Television documentary, "Nebraska Volleyball: Culture of a Champion," follows the team's unexpected journey to a fifth national championship in 2017 and looks back at the origins of the program's success. It premieres Sunday at 5:30 p.m. CT on NET Television.

In another NET News Signature Story featuring an interview from "Culture of a Champion," producer Brock Lohr talked one-on-one with former Husker volleyball coach Terry Pettit. Listen to or read that story HERE.


NET News reporter Brandon McDermott (left) talks with NET Television producer Brock Lohr (right) about "Culture of a Champion" (Photo by Mike Tobias, NET Television).


The 2017 team won Nebraska's fifth national championship (Courtesy photo)

Brock Lohr, NET Television producer and producer of "Nebraska Volleyball: Culture of a Champion": NET has been covering Nebraska volleyball since the '70s and so we really got to grow together. Nebraska volleyball started off with just 100 fans and so I think NET's job was to bring more viewership to the program and as Nebraska volleyball got better so did NET, and from the 2006 championship to the 2015 championship, there's been already two documentaries that have been made. This was our opportunity to make a third documentary. The 2006 documentary was called “Dream like a Champion” and it was really about the program's history, the Terry Pettit-era and kind of turned it over to Coach (John) Cook. The 2015 documentary, “Destination Omaha,” was really just about that season and about this one goal that they put out there and that determination to make it happen, and it was really a special thing when you had 17,000 people in Omaha at the Century Link, winning that national championship. This one, it had the same feel. You have this team in 2017, they weren't expected to win, but they make it to the Final Four and they have this big match with Penn State to get to the championship in the Sprint Center. Obviously we know what happens. They (Nebraska) win the national championship. But we had this great story line there of Penn State did what they did (seven national championships between 1999 and 2014) and Coach Cook really changed everything he did to match what they did (from) 1999 to 2014. So Coach Cook set up this culture at Nebraska that really mimicked what Penn State had. He took this team that had no expectations and took them to a national championship. So that's really what “Culture of a Champion” is about, is this culture that he created. Even though you don't have the talent that you need, you still can find a way to make it to the national championship and that's really what he did. We had a great opportunity to meet with Terry Pettit (Nebraska volleyball coach from 1977 to 1999). We talked with Russ Rose, Penn State head coach, and really got to tie back to the history of the programs and find out some interesting things along the way.

McDermott: You kind of touched on this already. We cover the 2017 season. They win the national title, but “Culture of a Champion” also digs into the past and the foundation for the program's success. Why focus on that?

Lohr: Nebraska volleyball has been great for a really long time and it goes back all the way to when Pettit took over in the late 1970s. I always relate it Nebraska football. You have Devaney who comes in and he has all the success through the 1970s and then Osborne takes over. That's not very common to have a program that has two coaches back to back really lead you to a lot of success, and so I find it very similar in the fact that Pettit had 20-some years of success and then seamlessly Cook comes in and takes over and he really just takes it to another level. Now he's won four national championships and Terry Pettit had a big part in that because he was able to hand-pick his successor and he hired Coach Cook for a second time in 1999, and Coach Cook came back as associate head coach and then Pettit decided to retire and John Cook took over. It was really interesting to me that there was that seamless transition and he really picked up where Pettit left off and I got to talk to Coach Cook a little bit about him taking over the program and this what he said.

John Cook, Nebraska Volleyball Head Coach (“Culture of a Champion” interview): If you're taking over a really tradition-rich program and a very successful program, the goal should be okay, how can I take it to the next level? What do I have to do? What can I learn what's been done and take it to the next level? That's what's really taught us to dream big here.

Lohr: You have this national perspective that when you think about women's volleyball, you think Penn State volleyball. But let me ask you a question. Nebraska and Penn State have played 31 times. What do you think the overall record is?

McDermott: I don't know, right around .500, 16 and 15 or so?

Lohr: That's the crazy thing is that Nebraska (leads the series) 21 and 10. And you wouldn't think that just because when you think Penn State volleyball, you think they've dominated volleyball for a long time, but Coach Pettit and Coach Cook have been very successful against Penn State.

McDermott: All-American Setter Kelly Hunter was a key to last year's success but there's also a link to the past.

Lohr: Absolutely. Kelly's mom (Lori Melcher) was a setter from 1977 to 1981, and so you have this great history in her family of being a part of Nebraska volleyball and we really got to see what Kelly meant to the program for Nebraska. In the last seven matches against Penn State she is 7-0, and what she was able to do as a starter and as a three-time captain at Nebraska really set the tone for the last three seasons. She won the Big Ten Championship twice. She won the National Championship twice and so you have that rich history and her family really drove her success when she got here. I got a chance to talk to Kelly and she shared some great stories from the early days of Husker volleyball.

Kelly Hunter, former Nebraska volleyball player (“Culture of a Champion” interview): My dad always jokes that it was basically him and my grandma in the coliseum watching whenever my mom played. I don't doubt it, but I think it's cool for her to see the way Nebraska volleyball has developed and how we've had our fan base grow so much. Just seeing the support and the love that they have for us, just makes us want to play that much harder for them. Because any time we even walk in the gym they're cheering as loud as they can and for any great play or anything they're just always up and so excited, and I think that kind of puts a little fire in our hearts too.

McDermott: What can people take away from “Culture of a Champion,” even if they aren't hardcore volleyball fans?

Lohr: I think the thing that you learn and I think what Coach Cook has really done this year, he talks about the culture that he creates and the “with each other, for each other” theme that they came up with this year. He's going out across the state and really talking to a lot of businesses, to a lot of other teams, and talking about how culture is so important to success. I don't think that you have to be a volleyball fan to really fall in love with that idea and that you can be successful if you have the right mentality, if you're all bought in on a goal, and really going after something. You know that's kind of a Nebraska theme too. You have this culture in Nebraska that people are hardworking and they're driven and I think that's something that fans really can buy into. It's something that's really worked out well for Nebraska.



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