With the NCAA floor in place, the Devaney Center played host to the NCAA Regional Semi-finals on Friday night.
The first match of the night, Texas v. American, had surprises in store, as the #1-seeded Longhorns lost the first set 24-26, and looked vulnerable and sloppy at times against the Patriot League Champion American Eagles.
Texas eventually won 3-1 (24-26, 25-14, 26-16, 25-20), advancing to Saturday night’s Regional Final against the Huskers.
The Huskers opened up a lead early in the first set against the #9-seeded San Diego Toreros on the strength of their play. In nearly every facet of the game, the Huskers looked great. They out passed, out hit (.325-.250), and out served (no errors to USD’s two) the visitors to open up a nine-point lead.
San Diego eventually got as close as four again, but Robo ended the set 25-20 with a cross-court dart.
Kelsey Robinson hit .400 with eight kills and two errors. Justine Wong-Orantes, Kelsey Robinson, and Mary Pollmiller each had four digs.
The second set was closer from the start, with the Huskers never opening a lead bigger than four points. The Huskers barely pulled off the set win 25-23 on an Alaysia Brown service error.
The Toreros actually out hit the Huskers .264-.250 for the second set, but the Huskers were error-free in their serving through two sets while USD committed five more errors in the second set.
Nebraska went down 0-3 early in the third, but turned it into a lead in short order, at 5-4. The game stayed close all the way to the media timeout with San Diego up 15-14. In that span, neither team led by more than a point.
They Huskers forced a Torero timeout after two straight Alexa Ethridge aces opened up a 19-17 lead. USD used their second timeout down 23-20.
The Huskers won the third set 25-22 to earn the 3-0 sweep and a rematch with the Longhorns on Saturday night at Devaney.
For the night, Robo hit .265 with 14 kills, and Meghan Haggerty had 11 kills on 17 swings with one error to hit .588.
Justine Wong-Orantes had 14 digs on the night and added one of four Husker aces. Alexa Ethridge added two consecutive aces at the end of the third set to give the Huskers a late surge of momentum. Brenna Lyles had the other ace.
The Huskers outblocked the Toreros 9-4 on the night.
There were two huge individual accomplishments on the night as Kelsey Robinson crossed the 500 kill mark for the season, and Amber Rolfzen crossed the 100 block mark, both huge accomplishments for the season.
In September, the Huskers lost 3-2 to Texas in Austin. The Huskers have made huge improvements in serving and blocking since then, as well as adjustments to the offense.
When asked about Texas adjustments since the last match, coach Jerritt Elliot said, "Last time we played them we were in a 6-2. Now we’re in a 5-1. I think we are a lot more confident in terms of our serve receive patterns and getting used to it. That match was so early in the season, you are still trying to figure out some wrinkles and get accustomed to one another. I feel like we are getting better balance with our middles. We are able to utilize them a lot more when need be. We have a good team and when we are playing well, we are really good."
It’s difficult to compare the early season match to what we can anticipate on Saturday. Texas dominated American by simply hitting over their block. However, as Coach Cook pointed out in the press conference tonight, both Nebraska and Texas have girls that touch better then ten feet. So our blocking will be more of a challenge for them.
Texas also is not as quick at the net as San Diego, which works in the Huskers’ favor when it comes to executing the defense at the net. The Longhorns’ passing was sloppy on the night Friday and while that can’t be presumed to happen again, Husker fans can take heart that the Huskers looked very good on the floor, giving the offense a lot of good chances.
The match will be televised on ESPNU at 8:00 CST live from the Bob Devaney Sports Center.