The 14th-seeded University of Nebraska Huskers Volleyball team only needed four sets to dispose of the 3rd-seeded University of Washington Huskies 3-1 (20-25, 25-20, 25-22, 29-27). The win advanced the Huskers to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
The Huskers got down to the Huskies in the first set, and it began to look like the home court advantage at the Alaska Airlines Arena was going to boost Washington on. However, the Huskers fought back and tied the set at 18, which led to a Washington timeout.Washington finished strong in the set, and took the 1-0 lead in the match.
From that point, the Huskers were mostly in control of the match. Washington had leads, but the Huskers managed to mostly contain Krista Vansant, Washington’s all-time kills leader, and played phenomenal defense. The Huskers had eight more digs than the Huskies, 70-62, with Kadie Rolfzen’s 16 leading the way. Four Huskers had double-digit digs; Justine Wong-Orantes had 13, Mary Pollmiller had 12, and Annika Albrecht had 11.
After being outhit by Washington .310-.147 in the first set, the Huskers put a lot more attacks on the floor. For the match, the Huskers hit .293-.235 including a .419 in the third set, as set where Washington hit .400. It’s not often a team loses a set in which they hit .400,
Leading the way for the Husker hitters was Cecilia Hall with 14 kills to hit an other-worldly .824. It’s traditionally uncommon for a middle to lead the way, and she had significantly fewer attempts than either outside, but the top teams in the country (think Penn State, Texas, Stanford) have a true offensive threat at middle. Hall has been rounding in to that this season. Kadie Rolfzen also had 14 kills, but she had 47 attempts to Hall’s 17 to hit .128. Mary Pollmiller had nine kills on fourteen attempts, including balls as a true attacker rather than the dump.
Nebraska got the win despite abysmal serving, with only two aces and fourteen errors, and being outblocked by Washington 13-7.
The Huskers showed persistence and total team fight to advance in the tournament. In addition to having a better hitting percentage than the Huskies, the Huskers had fifteen more total swings. There were quite a few long rallies in this match, with both teams playing incredible defense, and the Huskers won their fair share of those points.
The Huskers meet the BYU Cougars tonight (12/13) at 10:30 Central on ESPNU. The Cougars defeated the Florida State Seminoles in the other regional semi-final in Seattle 3-1. Florida State was the #6 seed in the tournament, so this will be a match-up of underdogs. However, BYU robbed Nebraska of the opportunity to avenge the August 29th, season-opening loss to the Seminoles.
In addition to Cecilia Hall’s apparent arrival as a high-level offensive middle, Mary Pollmiller as a legitimate attacking option (meaning that she is getting set and not dumping or hitting overpasses) is a wrinkle the Huskers haven’t shown this season and will certainly take teams off-guard. The fact that four Huskers were in double-digits for digs shows that this team has the mindset necessary to advance to Oklahoma City next weekend for the Final Four.