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NCAA Volleyball Semi-Finals, Huskers Knock off Jayhawks

In the first match of Thursday night at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, the Texas Longhorns knocked off the Minnesota Golden Gophers to advance to the National Championship match Saturday night. The late match saw the Huskers take down the Kansas Jayhawks to join the Longhorns in Saturday's match.

On Thursday night, the final match-up for the 2015 NCAA Volleyball season was set at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.

The first match of the night was a battle from start to finish with Texas taking it 3-1 (26-24, 27-25, 23-25, 25-21). In the first three sets, the biggest lead for either team was three points. Texas took a four-point advantage early in the fourth set and later made it five, 23-18, before sealing the match with a 25-21 win.

Texas outhit Minnesota .296-.271. Amy Neal led all Longhorn hitters with 25 kills, though she only hit .194. Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani hit .583 for the Longhorns with 15 kills and only one error. Texas had eight blocks on the night to eleven for Minnesota. Texas, however, outdug the Gophers 63-69.

The Huskers started on the right foot with Kelly Hunter acing the Jayhawks with the first serve of the match. The Huskers went on to punch their ticket to the championship 3-1 (25-20, 25-21, 20-15, 25-16).

The teams exchanged points with the Huskers holding the serve advantage until a Kadie Rolfzen attack traveled long and Kansas took a 4-3 lead.

Kansas made the score 5-3 with a kill off a Nebraska overpass, but Kadie Rolfzen returned the favor on the next point.

Nebraska re-took the lead 7-6 with Mikaela Foecke on the service line and a Foecke ace made it 9-6, but Kelly Hunter was blocked on her swing to give Kansas the ball with the Huskers up 9-7.

The Huskers took the next point and opened the lead even further, making it 11-7 before Kansas' Tiana Dockery got the sideout.

The Huskers held the lead between two and four points and led 15-12 at the media timeout with three aces, two from Kelly Hunter and one from Mikaela Foecke.

Kansas scored first out of the timeout, and Mikaela Foecke sailed her next attack out as well as Kansas closed to 15-14, but Kadie Rolfzen's next swing found hardwood and sent her back to the service line.

The Huskers maintained the advantage, helped by an almost impossible save of a shanked ball. The Huskers couldn't corral the Kansas serve, and Kelsey Fien passed the ball backwards at an impossible angle to keep the point alive that the Huskers eventually won. It led to a Kansas timeout with the score 19-17 Nebraska.

Kansas made it 19-18 Nebraska out of the timeout, but Nebraska put together a three-point run to make the score 22-18. The run was punctuated by a Foecke kill on an overpass and resulted in Kansas' second timeout of the set.

Annika Albrecht's serve out of the timeout found the tape on the Husker side, but the Huskers got the serve back by terminating yet another Kansas overpass.

The Huskers capitalized on sloppy play by the Jayhawks and won the set 25-20. The Huskers hit .308 led by Cecilia Hall who had four kills on four attempts to hit 1.000. Kadie Rolfzen and Foecke each had three kills. The Huskers had three aces in the set to none for Kansas.

Kansas scored first in the second set, but Nebraska quickly took the advantage back and a Foecke kill gave the Huskers a 5-3 lead.

Kansas tied the score at six, but Kelsey Fien took the serve and advantage back for the Huskers. The Huskers slowly opened the lead further, making it 11-7 on a Hall/Kadie Rolfzen block and leading to the first Kansas timeout of the set.

The Huskers kept the edge thanks to great attacking and Kansas service errors. On Mikaela Foecke's serve, the Huskers began to pull away and forced the second and final Jayhawk timeout of the set with the score 18-12 Nebraska.

The Huskers kept the momentum and extended the lead to 20-13 on Sydney Townsend's serve.

Although the Huskers appeared to have the set well in hand, Kansas put together a two-point run to make the score 23-18 Nebraska and Coach Cook used the first Husker timeout of the set.

Kadie Rolfzen gave the Huskers their first set point with a kill off the block and out of bounds, but Kansas kept the set alive with a kill of their own. They Jayhawks added another point before the CenturyLink Center crowd of red came alive. A missed connection between Hunter and Amber Rolfzen made the score 24-21 Huskers and led to Coach Cook using the second and final Nebraska timeout of the set.

Kadie Rolfzen recorded her eighth kill of the night out of the timeout and the Huskers went to intermission up two sets to none on Kansas with the 25-21 second set win.

Cecilia Hall was still perfect through two sets, with six kills on six attempts. Foecke was hitting .545 with seven kills and Kadie Rolfzen was hitting .500 with eight kills. Through two sets the Huskers were outhitting the Jayhawks .300-.232. The Huskers had one service error through two sets while the Jayhawks had committed seven.

Kansas took a quick 2-0 lead in the second before Kadie Rolfzen scored Nebraska's first point. Kansas clung to that lead until a Foecke ace tied the score at five.

Nebraska made the lead 7-5, but Kansas came back to tie it at eight. Nebraska maintained the service advantage while the teams traded points until Kansas took the 12-11 lead.

Kansas opened the lead two points at 13-11 and held the same advantage at the media timeout, 15-13.

Kansas made it 16-13 out of the timeout, but Kelsey Fien buried a set from Hunter to give Amber Rolfzen the serve. The Huskers closed the gap to one, but couldn't get any closer which forced the first Husker timeout with the Big Red trailing 19-16.

A long rally out of the timeout ended with a Hall kill, her eighth of the night. However, Kansas held tight to their advantage, and opened it up to 22-18 before the Huskers used their second and final timeout of the set.

A setter dump by Kansas made the score 23-18 Kansas and saw Meghan Haggerty inserted into the match for Amber Rolfzen. The Huskers started to rally at that point, closing the score to 23-20 before Kadie Rolfzen's serve missed the sidelines and gave Kansas their first set point 24-20. Kansas made good on the opportunity, blocking a Haggerty slide to take the set 25-20.

The Huskers hit .078 for the third set, while Kansas hit .171. Kadie Rolfzen was leading all Husker hitters with 12 kills and one error to hit .379. Foecke was hitting .250 with nine kills on 24 attempts. Cecilia Hall had two kills and two errors on six swings for the third set, but was still hitting .500 for the match.

The Huskers came out much stronger in the fourth set, winning the first two points, but Kansas promptly tied the score at two.

Kansas re-took the lead 5-4, but the Huskers tied it on a Kansas attack error. The Huskers then took the lead back 6-5, but missed their next serve.

The Huskers held the service advantage and then opened up a three-point lead, 11-8, which led to the first Jayhawk timeout of the set.

The lead stayed three for Nebraska until a Kelsey Fien kill with Sydney Townsend made the score 16-12 Nebraska and led to the final Kansas timeout of the set.

Hall and Hunter blocked the Kansas swing out of the timeout to push the lead to 17-12. A Kelsey Fien kill extended the Husker advantage to six.

Kansas closed to 18-14 on a Kadie Rolfzen hitting error which led to the first Husker timeout of the set.

Tiana Dockery scored another Kansas point out of the timeout after the Huskers mishandled the serve and then blocked Kelsey Fien to make the score 18-16 Huskers.

A Hunter/Hall block followed by a Kadie Rolfzen kill made the lead 20-16 Huskers. A Kansas hitting error and another Husker block made it 22-16.

Late in the match, the Huskers finished points while Kansas looked sloppy and desperate. Cecilia Hall got a kill to earn the match point, and then sealed the 25-16 win with a block.

The Huskers hit .235 in the final set to .000 for Kansas. For the match, the Husker outhit the Jayhawks .207-.159. Three Husker hitters were at or above .300 for the match. Foecke (.300) had 12 kills, Hall (.333) had 10, and Kadie Rolfzen (.343) had 14.

The Huskers outdug the Jayhawks 64-61. Annika Albrecht had ten digs and Justine Wong-Orantes had seventeen. As a team, the Huskers outblocked the Jayhawks 11.5-8 led by Cecilia Hall's seven blocks.

Up next the Huskers face a team who beat them earlier in the season. The Huskers took on Texas in September in Austin and fell in five sets. In that match, however, the Huskers were without Amber Rolfzen and the outside hitter position was not solidified.

What will be a defacto home match for the Huskers on Saturday night cannot be overstated. The Huskers will have the HUGE crowd on their side (Thursday's 17,551 set an all-time NCAA Volleyball record) Saturday night in the CenturyLink Center.

Coverage of the final will be at 6:30 central Saturday on ESPN2.