Sarah Pavan is one of the most devastating hitters in Nebraska volleyball history, and on Sunday, the Huskers will raise her jersey to the rafters alongside those of Karen Dahlgren, Lori Endicott, Janet Kruse, Cathy Noth, Allison Weston, Stephanie Thater and Nancy Metcalf.
Nebraska will retire Pavan’s jersey during the Huskers game against Iowa State.
“We’ve been working on this for several years trying to get her back, but because of her commitment, trying to become an Olympic beach player, which she did in the last Olympics, she’s been playing on all these weekends in September all over the world,” Coach John Cook said. “So it just happened to work out. We’ve got it all lined up; I think her parents are coming in.”
Pavan is also a part of an historic class being inducted into the Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night. She’ going into the hall with Tom Osborne, Bob Devaney, Peaches James, Darin Erstad, Mike Rozier and Tom Schlesinger.
“Not only is she going to get her jersey retired, she’s getting inducted into the Hall of Fame here with Coach Osborne and Coach Devaney,” Cook said. “I don’t know how you have any bigger compliment than that … She’s probably the most decorated volleyball player in the history of volleyball. When you look at the awards she won volleyball-wise and academic, I’m not sure anybody could top that. It’s going to be great to have her back and honor her for her career here.”
A look at Pavan’s bio on Huskers.com shows a list of accomplishments so long that it doesn’t fit on the screen all at once. First of all, Pavan holds Nebraska’s career record for most kills (2,008) and kills per set (4.56) and the single-season record for kills per game (5.10 in 2006).
She was a four-time first-team AVCA All-American, a two-time Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year, a three-time Big 12 Player of the Year and four-time All-Big 12 first teamer, the 2006-07 Big 12 Female Athlete of the Year, the 2006 AVCA National Player of the Year, the 2004 AVCA National Freshman of the Year, a four-time AVCA All-Central Region member and 2004 Central Region Freshman of the Year, the 2004 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, the 2006 NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player, a two-time NCAA Championship All-Tournament team member, a four-time NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team performer and numerous regular season tourney plaudits, national and conference weekly honors and academic awards.
“The other cool thing about Sarah, she was a great student, really loved school,” Cook said. “She chose Nebraska because, if you guys remember this story, her dad randomly picked out and called up a professor out of the book — it was an engineering guy — and talked to him for 45 minutes about academics here because she was looking at Stanford, everywhere. She chose to come to school here because of that conversation with that engineering professor. I talked to her earlier this summer and she hasn’t gone to med school yet, but she’s getting all these degrees, taking all these classes. She has not stopped being an academic learner which is really cool because she’s traveled all over the world, played all over the world, but still continues with that. Maybe some day she’ll be a doctor.”
Pavan was certainly a surgeon on the court. During her four years in Lincoln, the Huskers went 126-7, a ridiculous 94.7 winning percentage. As a 6-foot-5 right side hitter, Pavan had the physical tools to be great, but it was her intangibles that made her a hall-of-famer in Cook’s mind.
“She was one of the most competitive players I’ve ever coached,” Cook said. “I probably was not prepared as a coach for her level of competitiveness. Being around guys, you see that, but being around girls? I think that’s one of her strengths, plus she was really gifted. This is another great story. She was a four-sport athlete. She was 6-5; she played soccer, played basketball, badminton — that’s why she has such a great arm swing — and then of course volleyball. Another case for being multi-sport athletes for kids growing up.”
Nebraska match against Iowa State is set for 1 pm. at the Devaney Center on Sunday.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.