TV Memories, Moments from Past NCAA Championships

  0 Wendy Mayer | December 14th, 2017 | College - Women's Indoor, News

ESPN’s championship week broadcasts will be put together by several industry and NCAA Volleyball veterans.

Since they are the storytellers and often see behind the scenes moments, some of which never make it to TV, we checked in with these individuals to find out about their most memorable moments, how NCAA Volleyball compares to other events they have worked and any behind the scenes funnies they wanted to share.


BRAD SHELDON, Remote Director

How many years have you worked on NCAA volleyball?

This is my 10th season directing volleyball and my fifth directing the National Championship. My daughter played in high school and club in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

How does this tournament compare to other events that you’ve worked on? 

I think volleyball in general is different than other sports, in that you play the best of five sets every match. And just because a team may get swept 3-0, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was a blowout. The crowd plays an integral part in volleyball. Look at Nebraska – their last two National Championships were played in Omaha. I am not saying that’s why they won, but it had to help with the motivation.

What is/are your most memorable moment(s) from championship coverage?

I would say that the 2016 regionals were awesome. I was at Nebraska-Penn State and Penn State was up 2-0 and had two match points to advance and Nebraska came back to win in five. BYU had Texas in the same situation and Texas won. Stanford goes to Wisconsin beats them in an epic match.

Penn State winning in 2014 in Oklahoma City. Micha Hancock is from Tulsa, so it was like a homecoming.

And Nebraska beating Texas in 2015 in Omaha. The crowd was just so intense.

Any funny moments?

The fun thin about Championships now is that, the last three years – 2015 in Omaha, 2016 in Columbus and 2017 in Kansas City – on the off day, there has been a NEW Star Wars movie released and we go see it. In 2015, Holly Rowe dressed up like Princess Leia with light saber and everything.



How many years have you worked on NCAA volleyball?

I’ve worked in volleyball for four years.

How does this tournament compare to other events that you’ve worked on? 

This is one of the most exciting and entertaining events I’ve worked on.

What is/are your most memorable moment(s) from championship coverage?

My most memorable moment was the Lexington Regional in 2015 when half of the players in Ohio State had food poisoning and battled through a five-set match with the entire team sick as can be and fighting for their tournament lives. It was one of the grittiest performances I have ever seen, especially (Taylor) Sandbothe.



How many years have you worked on NCAA volleyball?
My first year calling the tournament was 2007 in Sacramento, Penn State vs. Stanford. And I have been fortunate enough to get work each one since and I am very grateful for the opportunity.

What is your most memorable moment from championship coverage?

My favorite day was the 2008 semis day, both matches went five sets after both had started 2-0. Penn State lost its first and second set of the WHOLE season that night, and almost lost the match, vs. Nebraska in front of an incredible Omaha crowd of 17,530, if I remember the numbers right.


PAUL SUNDERLAND, Play by Play Announcer

What is your most memorable moment from championship coverage?

This is only our second year together…  As far our brief history, it has to be last year between Penn State and Nebraska. Nebraska was down 2-0 and came back to win.




HOLLY ROWE, Sideline Reporter

How many years have you done the volleyball championships?

That is a loaded question, because I used to regional finals for NCAA Productions back in the late ’90s, like in 1999 I think I started. Then I have done the national championship, I think this is my fifth one. Including regional finals, I think I have done 10 to 12 years of postseason volleyball.

How does the NCAA Tournament and the finals compare with the other sporting events you work?

I will tell you like I tell all of my football colleagues, volleyball is the best thing you will ever see in person. It is the best sporting event you will ever see live because you just cannot appreciate the height, the power, the quickness. We try to do our very best to showcase this on television, but it is just breathtaking.

We worked an event earlier this year called the VERT Challenge. It was a really good field, it was Texas, Nebraska, Florida and Oregon. And I literally during one of the matches started crying like ‘I love this sport so much.’ I literally got choked up at the scorer’s table because it is a beautiful sport. And as a little short person, I think I have jumping envy and an appreciate of what these athletes are able to do.

I started covering volleyball very early in my career. The very first interview I did as a student reporter with the Utah Chronicle was with the new volleyball coach at the University of Utah named Beth Lanier. So, I have been covering volleyball since Beth Lanier’s first year at the University of Utah and then I covered BYU volleyball with Elaine Michaelis for 10 years and then I did BYU men’s volleyball when Carl McGowan was the coach there and I actually covered Kevin Hambly as a player. So, I covered Kevin’s matches when he was playing and later he was around the program.

I played volleyball through junior high and part time in high school so I feel like I have had a very long love affair with volleyball. I wish I got to cover it more, but it just happens to fall during football season for me. But I am always trying to find ways I can do more volleyball, because I just love it so much.

It is funny because in a weird way I have seen a lot of history. I actually covered a collegiate volleyball match that Misty May played in when they came to play at BYU. I covered John Dunning when he was the coach at Pacific and Pacific upset I think it was Nebraska in a regional final. So in this really weird eclectic way I have a long history of kind of key moments in volleyball history even though I am not doing it full time. So, my database goes back a long way in a very unusual way.

What is your most memorable moment in championships coverage?

I would say it is probably the final with Micha Hancock for Penn State, when Penn State repeated as national champions just because that class really was accomplishing things that no other class had done. And I loved her, she was the setter for Penn State and just a really unique player and leader, and ironically, some of the young women who are competing tomorrow were on that team as freshmen – Haleigh Washington was on team as a freshman, Simone Lee was a freshman … Just that match and being able to see Penn State make history and do something not a lot of teams are able to do, that was very special and I liked that team a lot.

And then I would also say – and you’re going to laugh at me, but it was a cool little moment you can find on social media – last year, we were trying to illustrate to viewers at home just how tall the Stanford team was, so me at 5-3 I got inside a Stanford team huddle with a camera and tried to film up to show you just how imposing these women are, and song and dance broke out. It was just hilarious to be inside the team huddle as they were singing and dancing in the locker room. That was one of my favorite moments. It was just the cutest moment. They were all singing at the top of their lungs as I am shooting up at their faces, trying to show you how tall these tall trees of Stanford really are.

(Below is another example from 2017)

View this post on Instagram

One of team goals for the defending national champions this weekend “stay loose” I believe @stanfordwvb may have that skill.

A post shared by Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) on

Are there stories that weren’t related to the game that you have told over the years that stick out to you?

Every single person who is competing in this event has a uniquely personal story. I think of Jenna Gray for Stanford, she and Audriana Fitzmorris grew up together here in Kansas City and as little girls, as 9 or 10 year olds in 2010, came to the national championship match and have pictures of themselves on the court and now here they are all of these years later competing for that national championship. So that is a cool story to me of these kids that got to dream and see these women and think ‘gosh someday I want to do that’ and now here they are getting to inspire that next generation of kids.

Another thing that I think is interesting is that these kids are all balancing school work. One of the funny stories, and I don’t know if we will get it on because I think the Penn State/Nebraska match is going to be epic … so Michaela Foecke is taking a final tonight (Wednesday), right now probably about the reproductive systems of animals because she wants to be a large animal vet and go to vet school. So she was telling us all about the reproductive system of a sow, which is the female pig and how they carry their embryos. Not every story makes the air. One day I will write a book about all of the great stories that never made the air, because I literally have thousands. That is a great story that doesn’t always lend itself to action and what is happening because volleyball is so fast.

I would rather tell the stories of the student athletes because there are so many of them. But, I saw somebody say something mean on twitter one year, like ‘Holly Rowe is doing volleyball? What? She doesn’t know anything about volleyball…’ And I was like wait just a minute, I am pretty sure I have been doing volleyball since 1995 or 96, so I have a deep and long-lasting love affair with volleyball and I have been covering it for a really long time.

Any funny moments?

The best thing was we were doing an open or what we call a standup, the section where you first come on the air and where you are standing out on the court and it is the first time the viewer really sees you, so we call that our standup or our open. We started at a quiet point and then all of a sudden they started serving and I got whacked in the head with a ball.  I had to just try to keep talking even though I was like, I might be concussed right now. Volleyball is always the best for oh, stray ball, watch out.

You are live on television, you get whacked and you just have to keep going. I am getting about where I stand now, that’s for sure.



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About Wendy Mayer

Wendy Mayer

Wendy Mayer has worked in athletics media relations for the last 20 years. The Northwest Missouri State alumna is currently senior writer for after spending the last 15 years with Purdue athletics.

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