Nebraska fans love stories like that of Christina Houghtelling, NU volleyball coach John Cook says.
After a stellar three-sport high school career at Cambridge, Houghtelling surprised many by signing to play volleyball instead of basketball at NU.
Even though basketball had been her first love, she’s never regretted the decision.
"Just the experiences, the people I met. I had a chance to go play overseas. It feels like that is where I was meant to be," she said. "Everything just worked out great. I was really glad I went that direction."
So was Cook. Houghtelling saw action for four years and played three positions. When she left in 2007, that group of seniors had gone 126-7 in the previous four years and won a national title.
Houghtelling was named the AVCA player of the year in 2005 after averaging 3.69 kills, 2.49 digs and 1.03 blocks per game and helping lead NU to a runner-up NCAA finish. She also was a first-team academic All-American.
When Cook asked her what changed from her first year, when she hardly played, to her junior season, she responded with a quote he still uses.
"She basically decided that she wasn’t happy with where she was at. She wanted to be great," he said. "She just transformed her body and worked really hard and got a lot of confidence from all that hard work to put herself in position to have a great junior year. Her stats were incredible. She was also a great student and from a small town, and Husker fans love stories like hers."
She continues to play sand volleyball and she works for a tax and accounting firm in Colorado.
Sports have been a part of her life as long as she can remember. Her dad, Ken, played several and was an assistant football and basketball coach at Cambridge.
She started with swimming and then competed in volleyball, basketball and track and field in high school.
Houghtelling's team never won a state title in volleyball or basketball, but she combined for three all-class gold medals in the high jump and triple jump.
In 2003, she was named The World-Herald’s girls high school athlete of the year.
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Best athlete from Nebraska you've played with or against: "This is tough. I would have to say just the best all-around athlete was Rochelle Schmidt. She was from Indianola and she was a senior when I was a freshman. She was just one heck of an athlete. Humble. She worked hard. She played two sports at Doane and that just goes to show her character and athleticism. She’s the one that stuck out to me the most. She was a really good triple jumper. She was like a jumping bean. Republican Valley was a powerhouse. They were one of our biggest rivals."
Best moment: "Besides being named the AVCA player of the year, it was in track in 2001 when it all fell into place and I won the all-class gold in the high jump and triple jump. That was a surreal experience. Team-wise, the highlight was when we beat Florida in 2005 to make it to the final four. Being in Omaha at the Qwest Center and taking Nebraska to the next level — that was one of the coolest moments."
Early sign of greatness: "I still don’t really know. We were just always around it. You just realize you have a gift and you go with it. I did all the sports in high school and spent a lot of time in the summer. I guess I blossomed from there. It just happens over time. You do realize what gift you have. My dad played basketball, golf, softball and he did coach basketball and football at Cambridge. We were always just around sports. I was never pushed. We fell into it and loved it."