The red was overwhelming.
When walking onto the court two years ago at the Final Four in Omaha, Neb., Kansas outside hitter Madison Rigdon remembers being welcomed by 17,000 fans — most of them wearing Nebraska’s school colors.
“It’s definitely intimidating, looking at it and being like, ‘Whoa, we have all the pressure,’ ” Rigdon said. “ ‘Everyone’s rooting for them.’ ”
Turnabout could be coming for Rigdon and her teammates this season … if the Jayhawks are able to advance far enough.
KU, ranked eighth in the AVCA preseason poll, has an additional reward if it makes the Final Four this year. The event is being held at the Sprint Center, meaning KU fans likely would overtake the arena.
“I think everybody on our team knows, ‘Boy, if we had a great regular season, we could maybe host and stay pretty local,’ ” KU coach Ray Bechard said. “But I think if you get one eye on that and one eye on the journey, you’re probably going to trip up somewhere.”
It’s still an idea KU players can’t help but think about.
Take Kelsie Payne, the reigning Big 12 player of the year and two-time first-team All-American. In trying to envision the intensity of a Final Four in Kansas City, she can only think it’ll be close to KU’s home match against Texas last season, where fans stood for the final 15 points of the fifth set.
That, though, was in front of 1,503 at Horejsi Center. The Sprint Center attendance would be tenfold.
“I know our fans would show out for us, and it’d be a sea of blue this time,” Payne said. “It would be insane.”
This all remains well into the future. KU opens its season Aug. 25 at North Carolina State, and after a beefed-up nonconference schedule, will begin matches against Big 12 opponents in late September.
That doesn’t change the reality that Dec. 14 and 16 — if things go right — could be two of the biggest days in program history.
“Our crowd would be the dominant (one), which would be awesome,” Rigdon said. “We have to get there first, but I think that definitely helps, knowing you’re close to home and that all your people will be there.”