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Volleyball: #5 Huskers Take #7 Penn State

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On Senior Night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, the Huskers closed out their regular season slate by sweeping the Penn State Nittany Lions, beating them for the second time this season.

David McGee

The Huskers closed out the regular season with Senior Night on a late Saturday night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, sweeping the Penn State Nittany Lions 25-18, 25-18, 25-22.

By the 8:30 PM CST first serve, Minnesota had already taken down Indiana to secure sole possession of the 2015 B1G Championship, meaning that the outcome of the match would do little more than give bragging rights and momentum going in to the NCAA Tournament.

Penn State won the first point of the match on a Kelsey Fien hitting error, but then the Huskers ran off four straight, including an ace, on Annika Albrecht's serve to open up an early 4-1 lead.

The Huskers opened the lead up to five, 7-2, before Penn State closed it down to three again. Annika Albrecht had a kill out of the back row, and Amber Rolfzen recorded a block to open the lead back to five points, 9-4, and force the first Penn State timeout.

The Huskers extended the lead to 11-5 after the timeout by playing great defense and straight baffling the Nittany Lion blockers.

Penn State continued to struggle to find any answers against the Huskers with Nebraska having opportunities on overpasses, free balls, and roll shots the helped push the Husker lead to 16-7 and resulting in Penn State's second, and final, timeout of the first set.

Kelly Hunter aced Penn State out of the timeout to push the score to 17-7, and the Huskers held that advantage, trading points with the Lions, until Penn State put together a run after trailing 22-11 the Nittany Lions went on a 5-1 run that led to a Husker timeout with the score 23-16 Nebraska.

The Huskers earned set point out of the timeout, 24-16, but an errant Kadie Rolfzen attack and a Penn State block of Cecilia Hall put the crowd on edge, but a Kadie Rolfzen kill ended the set 25-18.

The Huskers hit .200 for the first set, led by .286 from Mikaela Foecke who had three kills on seven attempts with one error. Kadie Rolfzen also had three kills and hit .167. Penn State hit .081 in the first set thanks in large part to four Nebraska blocks.

Penn State started the second set off by winning the first point, but like the first set, Nebraska quickly took the lead back on a Hall/Kadie block to make the score 3-2 Nebraska.

Errors continued to plague Penn State. A hitting error and Husker ace pushed the score to 5-2 Nebraska. However, Penn State put together a run and tied the score at six.

A six-point Nebraska run on Kadie Rolfzen's serve made it 12-6 Nebraska. Penn State Coach Russ Rose used his first timeout of the set to try and find any answer for either the defense or offense of Nebraska.

A Nebraska net violation ended the Husker run and gave the Penn State serve receive a brief respite, and Penn State began to close the gap on Haleigh Washington's serve. However, that run was ended when Washington sailed her serve long.

The Huskers took control of the match once again, going on a 5-2 run to open the score up to 19-12 before a net violation gave Penn State the serve.

Penn State closed the score again to 19-14, but the Huskers, fueled by a Kadie Rolfzen ace, opened it back up to seven at 21-14 to force the second Penn State timeout of the set.

Penn State capitalized on the timeout and took the first point, but then the Huskers took the next three to earn the set point at 24-15. Penn State took three straight points to make the score 24-18 and force Coach Cook to take the first Nebraska timeout of the set.

Kelly Hunter got the kill out of the timeout to give the second set win to the Huskers, again 25-18.

The Huskers hit .226 in the second set while Penn State hit .108. Both Husker outsides, Foecke and Kelsey Fien, had six kills, but Foecke was hitting .385 after two sets. The Huskers added four more blocks and eighteen more digs in the set as well.

The teams started the third set trading points with the Huskers taking the first and holding the de facto one-point advantage until the Huskers took the 8-6 lead on Annika Albrecht's serve.

Penn State took the next two and tied it at eight, but Foecke got the serve back for the Huskers with a scorching attack. The Huskers then held a two-point lead again at 11-9, but traded points briefly before Nebraska took a 15-11 lead at the media timeout.

The Huskers extended the lead out of the timeout, opening it up to 18-13 on a Penn State net violation. The Huskers returned the favor on the next point, however, making it 18-14 Nebraska.

A controversial overturn gave the Huskers the 20-15 lead and led to a Penn State timeout. The officials called the point for Penn State, but Coach Cook challenged, believing that Albrecht's serve had hit the floor. The official overturned the call, and the Huskers took the five-point lead.

The Huskers held on to the lead, but Penn State started to work their way back in to it. The Huskers had a 22-18 lead as Penn State began to close back in and Coach Cook took his first timeout of the set to slow the Nittany Lions' momentum.

Kadie Rolfzen was blocked by Megan Courtney out of the timeout and Penn State cut the lead to 22-19 Nebraska, but Mikaela Foecke drilled her attack home to give the Huskers the serve and the 23-19 lead.

The Huskers had a hard time getting in system out of the timeout, and it allowed Penn State to close the score to 23-22 before Coach Cook used his second, and final, timeout of the third set.

A long rally out of the timeout ended with the Huskers earning their first match point with the score 24-22 and Mikaela Foecke serving. Penn State used their second, and final, timeout of the set before the freshman could serve.

Foecke served aggressively at the Penn State Libero and after a sloppy point, Hunter and Amber Rolfzen got the stuff block to end the set 25-22.

Kenzie Maloney played defense like she was still wearing the black jersey. It was clear that her turn in relief of Wong-Orantes gave her added confidence because she was setting, covering, and digging as though she was still the libero. That's the kind of defense that will be critical in the NCAA tournament. Albrecht, Maloney, and Wong-Orantes can certainly frustrate opposing offenses by simply keeping balls alive.

Even when things looked dicey against the defending National Champions, the Huskers didn't seem to lose their cool or their confidence. The Nittany Lions put together a great run late in the third set to close to within one, but the Huskers kept focused and closed it out on the back of another freshman in Mikaela Foecke.

Speculation is dangerous, but this team's goal all year has been Destination Omaha with the chance to win a National Championship in Nebraska. In all likelihood, the Huskers will be a two-seed in the tournament and have to knock off either Washington, Minnesota, Southern Cal, or Texas (who has already beaten us once) just to get to the Final Four.

The NCAA Selection Show is tonight at 8 PM Central on ESPNU. Tonight we'll find out who is coming to Lincoln and see more about the Huskers' path to the Final Four.

GBR.