Saturday night at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, the Huskers volleyball team face off against the Texas Longhorns for the National Championship. Nebraska won the National Championship over Texas 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-21).
Texas took a two-point lead early in the first set, but Nebraska tied the score at seven before Texas opened the lead again. Nebraska took their first lead at end of a 4-1 which led to Texas taking their first timeout of the set trailing 11-10 to the Huskers.
Texas re-took the lead out of the timeout, 12-11, but Nebraska took it back again off a Foecke kill 14-13, and another Foecke kill made it 15-13 Big Red.
The teams traded points and Nebraska held the advantage until opening up a three point advantage 20-17 and forcing the second and final Longhorn timeout of the set.
Texas closed the score to 21-20 Nebraska on a two-point run after their timeout at which point Nebraska called their first timeout of the set.
Texas tied the set again at 22, but a Foecke kill gave Nebraska the one-point advantage back. Texas then tied it again at 23, before an Amber Rolfzen kill gave the Huskers their first set point, which they made good on with a Hall/Hunter block to take the set 25-23.
The Huskers outhit Texas in the first .220-.310 led by Mikaela Foecke's eight kills to hit .667.
Cecilia Hall earned the first Husker point of the second set, but then Texas go two straight, aided by Foecke's first error of the night, to take a 2-1 lead.
Nebraska re-took the lead 4-3 on a block by Amber Rolfzen and Kelly Hunter and maintained the serve advantage until they opened up the two-point lead 8-6.
Texas tied the score again at nine, but Foecke insured that Texas wouldn't re-take the lead by drilling a shot down the line.
Texas took the next two points, however, and took the 11-10 lead, but Nebraska put together a run of their own to take the lead back 12-11.
Nebraska held the one-point advantage and extended it to two on a Townsend ace into the media timeout with the 15-13 lead.
Sydney Townsend aced Texas again out of the timeout to extend the Husker lead to 16-13 and Texas immediately used their first timeout of the second set.
The Huskers overpassed the Texas attack out of the timeout and the Longhorns capitalized, making the score 16-14 Nebraska. The Longhorns pushed the run to three and tied the score at 16, leading to the first Nebraska timeout of the set.
Kelly Hunter got the ball back for the Huskers with a dump to the middle of the Texas defense, and a Kelsey Fien kill on the next point gave the Huskers the 18-16 lead.
Nebraska kept the pressure and the attacks on the Longhorn defense, who could not get a good attack, and pushed the lead to 20-17 and forced the final Texas timeout of the set.
Texas closed the score out of the timeout, tying the score at 20 after a long rally. Texas made it a 4-0 run and took the 21-20 lead before the Huskers used their second timeout of the set.
Mikaela Foecke tied the score again at 21 for the Huskers, but Texas held the serve advantage. Nebraska took the lead back after a Foecke kill and an Foecke/Amber Rolfzen block.
Mikaela Foecke had another kill to make the score 24-22 and give the Huskers their first set point. Kadie Rolfzen's serve sailed long to give Texas the serve on Nebraska's seconds set point. The Huskers finished the set 25-23 on an attack out of bound by the Longhorns to take the 2-0 set lead.
The Huskers hit .378 in the second set to .297 for Texas. Through two sets, Foecke had 16 kills and was hitting .556. Amber Rolfzen had six kills and no errors to hit .600 and Cecilia Hall had six kills on eight attempts to hit .625. Sydney Townsend's two aces were the only ones for the Big Red.
Texas scored the first point of the third set, and then took a 2-0 lead on a block by Chiaka Ogbogu on a Hall attack. Texas made the score 3-0 before a Kadie Rolfzen solo block scored the first Husker point.
Annika Albrecht made it 3-2 Texas with an ace on her first serve of the set, but a Foecke attack sailed wide to give Texas the 4-2 advantage.
The Huskers tied the score at four with a Rolfzen/Rolfzen block on Texas' outside attack, but the subsequent serve went into the net to give the serve and the lead back to Texas, 5-4.
Texas opened their lead back to two points, but the Huskers closed the gap again and tied the score at eight with Amber Rolfzen on the service line. Kelly Hunter took the lead for the Huskers by once again dropping a ball right in the middle of the Texas defense.
The Huskers kept the serve advantage briefly, and then opened the lead to two points, 11-9, on a Fien kill that led to Texas' first timeout of the third set.
Texas tied the score up again at 12 as Mikaela Foecke's attack brushed the antenna, and then her next swing just missed the corner to give Texas the 13-12 advantage.
The Texas lead was short-lived, however, and Nebraska opened up to 16-13 on a four-point run which forced Texas' final timeout of the set.
A Kadie Rolfzen solo block out of the timeout gave the Huskers a 17-13 lead, but Texas won the next three points to close the gap to 17-16 and lead to the first Husker timeout of the set.
Kadie Rolfzen placed a beautiful ball to the corner of the court for a kill, her third of the match, to make the score 18-16 Huskers. Texas hit a ball out of bounds to make it 19-16, and a Kadie Rolfzen ace made the score 20-16 Huskers.
Texas missed wide again to make the score 21-16, but Amy Neal converted on her next swing to end the four-point Husker run.
The Huskers took their first match point with the score 24-19, but Texas wouldn't go quietly into the night. Texas put together a two-point run that resulted in a Nebraska timeout. However, Nebraska got the first point out of the timeout to clinch the National Championship, winning the third set 25-21.
For the match, the Huskers hit .311 to .215 for the Longhorns. Mikaela Foecke paced the Husker attack, recording 19 kills with four errors on 39 attempts to hit .385. Amber Rolfzen hit .625 with 10 kills on 16 swings with no errors, and Cecilia Hall had seven kills with two errors on ten swings to hit .500.
Nebraska had eight blocks as a team. Texas had five. The Husker blocking was led by the Rolfzens, who had four blocks apiece. Justine Wong-Orantes and Kadie Rolfzen both had double-digit kills, with Wong-Orantes notching 17 and Rolfzen getting 10.
The Husker serve stayed aggressive all night, and made it very difficult for Texas to get their offense running. The Huskers only recorded four aces on the night, but many times the serve forced Texas out of system, meaning the hitters couldn't put everything they had on their swings.
Mikaela Foecke was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Kelly Hunter, Justine Wong-Orantes, and Amber Rolfzen joined her on the All-Tournament Team. Texas' Yasmeen Bedart-Ghani and Amy Neal along with Kansas' Kelsie Payne rounded out the team.
Coach Cook said that the Huskers played their best volleyball of the season Saturday against a team they lost to early in the season. He followed that up in the press conference by saying that this team has improved from beginning to end of the season more than any other team he's coached, calling it his #1.
Both Kelly Hunter and Coach Cook were asked about Foecke's night and mentioned the fact that Texas adjusted their block in the third set to try to slow her down. It worked somewhat, but the other Husker hitters helped.
This team finished an amazing season on an incredible note. Looking ahead, there is some senior leadership leaving, but most of the contributors will be back, and we'll get our first look at Briana Holman at game speed.
The Huskers will hold a celebration with the fans on Sunday, December 20 at 1 pm at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.
What a night, what a year, what a team.