Rumble in Rice much more than a game

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
Navigate Left
Navigate Right

Richard Rhoden, Sports Editor

It was an event that will not soon be forgotten by all that were in attendance.

The usual black and gold that line the inside of Rice Auditorium on any given day was traded for the state’s more recognizable red and blue of Nebraska and Creighton in an exhibition volleyball matchup in which the roots of the game were buried much deeper than the stat line shows.

Even during the soccer and football scrimmages earlier that morning, red and blue t-shirts wandered around the Wayne State College campus in anticipation of one incredible sporting event dubbed as the Rumble in Rice.

Even an hour before the first serve of the match, fans of Wayne State, Nebraska, Creighton and just fans in general filed into Rice Auditorium in droves, filling the place to the rafters—around 2,000 in attendance, a sold-out crowd.

The event started with an emotional speech from Wayne Mayor Ken Chamberlain, giving fans a look into the life of the town of Wayne six months removed from one of the most traumatic days in its history.

Chamberlain spoke of the WSC athletes that walked through the fields in cleanup efforts, the support of neighbors near and far and just how far Wayne has recovered since that day.

“It was just a phenomenal event, it goes to show the true support that Wayne State College has for the city of Wayne,” Chamberlain said. “We had armies of students out in the fields in the days following the tornado cleaning stuff up.

“This event was just another way for coach Kneifl and his players to get out and be supportive and the turnout from the people was just spectacular.”

Nebraska may have swept the match 25-15, 25-19, 25-22, but nobody left Rice Auditorium that day feeling like they had lost. Nebraska, Creighton, Wayne State and all the fans in attendance left with a sense of pride and joy.

There were three particular fans, however, that got special VIP treatment from the Nebraska bench.

They are the daughters of Wayne High School volleyball coach Traci Krusemark and husband Matt. Kiara is a fourth-grader, and twin sisters Jala and Kyla are in first grade. The Krusemarks were a family hit hardest by the tornado, as their home was completely destroyed by the storm.

The girls made bracelets for both teams in each school’s colors, and got the chance to hang out around the bench for much of the game.

“It was great to be able to help out those that were really affected by the tornado and see the support from people all around,” Chamberlain said. “It is really neat to be a part of a little town in northeast Nebraska and see everyone from far and wide show up and be supportive like that.”

Junior outside hitter Kelsey Fien led the Huskers with 12 kills on .333 hitting, while Amber and Kadie Rolfzen each had nine kills, setter Mary Pollmiller dished out 33 assists to go with five kills of her own and Melanie Keil recorded a match-high six blocks.

Nebraska controlled the match throughout, hitting .265 to Creighton’s .109. The Huskers ended up with 16 more kills, paced by Fien’s dozen.

As for the Bluejays, their top attacker was Jess Bird with 11 kills and a .474 attack percentage followed by Melanie Jereb with seven kills. Maggie Baumert was credited with 26 set assists while Kate Elman recorded 15 digs.

Fans were also treated to an autograph session after the match, as people lined up to get a signature from both the Huskers and Bluejays.


Oftentimes in sports, the main and most important ingredient is family.

One of the many subplots in the Rumble in Rice event revolved around the Rolfzen family. Ryan, a senior at Wayne State, a 6-7 forward who just completed his basketball career almost two months ago, was now a spectator in Rice Auditorium—of his two sisters Kadie and Amber.

“It was kind of weird, but definitely fun at the same time,” Ryan said. “It was weird in the fact that I am done now, I have played my four years here, finished my last game here not too long ago, and then get to see them play here one more time before I graduate in a few weeks was just great.

“I know that they had always talked about having aspirations to play here and even Coach (John) Cook talked about playing in small towns for spring games when he recruited them, so I know they always wanted to come play here. I knew coach Cook and coach Kneifl were good friends and so it was just a lot of fun for me to see them out there playing.”

Even Kadie and Amber understood the excitement of their older brother, and helped to boost their excitement, if it was even possible.

“It was cool to know that we have come up so many times to watch our brother play and sit in the stands supporting him and to just be able to play on the same court as him as he was the one in the stands,” Kadie said. “He was so excited that we were coming up there and just knowing how much he loves it up there just made it more exciting for me to play on his home court.”

Amber agreed that it was nice to see Ryan in the stands instead of the other way around in Wayne.

“It was exciting getting to go up to Wayne and play knowing Ryan got the chance to sit in the front row,” Amber said. “He has always been our biggest fan since day one and was just as excited for us to come up there as we were.”

After the match, members of the Nebraska volleyball team, including Kadie and Amber, got to tour the town of Wayne and see some of the damage that is still visible from the tornado, along with the recovery efforts still in progress.

Sometimes we all need a reminder that life isn’t all about sports, as Kadie was reminded of.

“It was cool to be able to come up to Wayne America and just see some of the town that was wrecked by the tornado and know that we are helping out the cause,” Kadie said. “We had three little girls on our bench who lost everything and while they are supporting us we are supporting them as well. It’s a good reminder that life isn’t all about the sport we play.”

It was the chance to help an entire community and knowing they made a difference is what sticks out to Amber.

“It’s always rewarding to know that you are making a difference in someone’s life, let alone a whole community,” Amber said. “Having someone there supporting you despite everything they are going through is special and it goes to show that there is no place like Nebraska, not just the school but the whole state in general. Everyone is willing to help out a community in need at all costs.”

Ryan has collected plenty of memories playing in Rice Auditorium over the past four years, but he says that one of his more favorite moments came with him in the bleachers.

“Watching my sisters play in Rice is one of my top memories, I was there for the Women’s Central Regional Final a few years ago, but just seeing how supportive the community of Wayne was and everyone coming out from the surrounding cities, it was just neat to see people come out and support their teams in small town Nebraska,” he said.

Ryan even noticed that some of the same people that showed up to every Wayne State home event, and sit in the same seat showed up to this special event—sitting in the exact same seats.

“It’s pretty cool to see that kind of support,” he said.


When the tornado made its way through the town of Wayne six months ago, the Wayne State volleyball team was on the road, preparing to take on conference foe MSU Moorhead.

Because of the circumstance, and combined with being in the middle of their season, coach Scott Kneifl and his players were not able to join and help out with many of the other WSC teams as much as they wanted—but vowed to do something.

“I am good friends with coach (John) Cook and coach (Kristen) Booth, and in talking with those two they thought it would be a great idea to come up here and play, they came up here and put on a great show,” Kneifl said. “It was a great event that really helped out the community. The summer sports complex is something that was devastated by the tornado and being able to give back a little bit to the community makes our program proud.”

With tickets being sold out in just over a week, combined with the silent auction that included a Wayne State neon sign, and other Nebraska and Creighton memorabilia donning signatures of their universities’ finest, the money raised through the event is estimated to be around the $15,000 range.

“It took a lot more effort than something thrown together the day of,” Kneifl said. “Selling the tickets, doing the different things with preparation, I’m just really thankful that Creighton and Nebraska programs were willing to come up here and help Wayne out.”

It wasn’t just like any other event at Wayne State. It also wasn’t the same way that other students at Wayne State volunteered their help.

However, coach Kneifl raved about the student and community support for not only this, but for what the event was for by coming out to Rice and opening their wallets generously.

“The support was outstanding, during the silent auction alone they raised around $2,400, and that will go a long way to writing out a pretty nice sum to the city,” he said.

There were a lot of unsung heroes that helped out with the event, many of them being players on the Wayne State volleyball team. Walking around the event, it would have been tough to go too far and not run into someone else who puts on the WSC black and gold uniform in the fall, playing on the same court that two Division I opponents used last Saturday.

“I am really proud of them because they play for a top 25 Division II volleyball program, it’s not like they are bad players by any means and they got put to work a little bit,” Kneifl said. “Never once did they ever act like they were too good for the event, knowing we are helping out the community and knowing when they come back to town 10 years from now and they see the summer sports complex it was something we were proud to help with.”

Kneifl said that selling tickets had to be one of the toughest things that needed to be accomplished for Rumble in Rice to happen, and that it was done straight out of the volleyball office.

“Korie (Lebeda) and Kim (Depew) did a fantastic job with selling the tickets and doing what they needed to do to get that done,” Kneifl said. “Our girls also did a fantastic job, on game day they were out there doing different jobs and preparing the gym for the event, placing stickers on seats and little things like that.

“All of the little things that no one really thinks about, they were out there doing, so it’s really nice to put on an event like this and when over half the proceeds are going to something that is so close to us, it means a lot.”

Wayne Mayor Ken Chamberlain expressed gratitude with everyone associated with the event, and says it shows the type of people we have not only in this community but the entire state in general.

“You see the effort that was put forward to put this kind of event together and it just really shows the type of people we have here not only in the community of Wayne but the students at Wayne State as well,” Chamberlain said.

Kniefl said that it takes a lot of people to put on this type of event, and that it wouldn’t have been possible without the chain of command represented by Wayne State.

“I just want to thank everybody that helped out, the endless people on our Wayne State staff that put this together,” Kneifl said. “It takes a ton of people to put an event like that together and all of those people did fabulous jobs. It’s just really nice that our campus could come together a little bit and do something for the community.”

Rice Auditorium will return to the same gym that Wayne State uses on a regular basis, but for just one day, it was something much more than that.

It hosted the spearhead for recovery.

One thing is for sure: Rice Auditorium was without a doubt rumbled.