When the ESPNU broadcast revealed the Creighton-South Dakota matchup on the restaurant’s big screen, CU’s Brittany Witt promptly walked over to one of her best friend’s parents.
“All right. So, are you wearing red or are you wearing blue at the game?”
She was joking — because of course, Elizabeth Loschen’s mom and dad are going to be supporting their daughter, who’s third in kills for the Coyotes this season and will play a critical role for South Dakota in its first NCAA tournament appearance.
Then again, the Loschens were technically sitting there with the Jays for their selection show party Sunday. And Witt’s never seen them cheering for a team on the other side of the net — she and Elizabeth have played volleyball together since ninth grade.
So at the very least, Creighton’s starting libero had to playfully acknowledge the obvious: Friday’s match will be a little weird.
“We’ve spent a lot of time together,” Witt said. “It’s just going to be different now that we’re on different sides of the court. But I think both of our families are going to be cheering for each other, even though they’re different teams.”
Witt and Loschen aren’t sure how they’ll react Friday.
They talk and text all the time. They forged a friendship around volleyball — driving together down Interstate 80 for club practice in Lincoln, rooming together on road trips and winning state titles together at Omaha Marian.
The Witts made sure to get tickets for the UNO-South Dakota match in Omaha earlier this year. Loschen came back home for Thanksgiving and watched from the stands as Creighton clinched a Big East title last week.
But the two buddies didn’t consider the idea that their teams could meet.
“We honestly never really thought we would play each other,” Loschen said. “But this actually works out best. It’s a game that we didn’t see coming. So we’re just really excited.”
South Dakota wasn’t even supposed to be here.
Denver had won the past four Summit League tournament championships. It was riding a 25-match winning streak. It had a 76-3 home record the past five seasons.
Yet the Coyotes won a five-set thriller, clinching the Summit League title and the automatic NCAA berth. And now they’ll try to pick up another upset — against a team they know well.
Creighton’s Jaali Winters and Megan Ballenger were on the same club team with South Dakota’s top outside hitter, Hayley Dotseth. Bluejay senior Taryn Kloth grew up 45 minutes from South Dakota’s campus. Creighton setter Madelyn Cole said she played in Europe with middle blocker Taylor Wilson. Setter Madison Jurgens, from Diller-Odell, hasn’t missed a game for the Coyotes this year.
Then there’s the Witt-Loschen connection.
They’re going on vacation together after the season. They’ll hang out before that, too. But for one night, they’ll have to be adversaries.
“It’s definitely exciting to get to play against her,” Witt said. “I know how competitive she is, and I know how competitive I am. So it’ll be fun to see each other go out there and play.”
Witt’s father, Tom Witt, resides in Falls City.