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NCAA Volleyball Tournament: Nebraska Short-Circuits Wichita State, Makes Sweet 16

After struggling early against Harvard, the Huskers took care of business in the final match of 2015 at the Devaney Center, sweeping the Wichita State Shockers in the second round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament.

A night after the Huskers had a tighter match against Harvard than most had expected, the Huskers' Volleyball team took on the Wichita State Shockers in their second round NCAA Tournament match. The Huskers looked more prepared and crisper on the night, taking the match 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-14).

The Shockers went up 2-0 right off the bat in the first set, but two Kadie Rolfzen kills, a Justine Wong-Orantes ace, and another mishandled Wong-Orantes serve flipped the advantage to the Huskers, 4-3.

Wichita State then went on a run of their own, firing off two straight to take the lead back, 4-5. A scorching Foecke kill tied the score at five.

After Wichita State took the 6-5 lead, the Huskers went on a 5-0 run to open up a four-point lead before a well-timed tip by Wichita State earned the sideout.

Wichita State cut slightly into the Huskers lead, but the Huskers held on to a three-point advantage at the media timeout, 15-12.

Wichita State made it 15-13 Nebraska out of the media timeout, but a Foecke kill and Kadie Rolfzen ace pushed the Husker lead back to four, 17-13. Wichita State then used their first timeout.

Nebraska opened the lead even farther after that timeout, leading to Wichita State taking their second timeout of the set with the score 20-14 Huskers.

Mikaela Foecke recorded the Huskers third ace of the set after the timeout and the Huskers extended their lead to 23-15 before a dump by the Wichita State setter stemmed the Husker run.

Wichita State put together a 3-0 run to close the score to 23-18 Nebraska, so Coach Cook used the first Husker timeout of the set to try to close out the first.

Kelsey Fien got the kill out of the timeout to earn the first Husker set point. While a Cecilia Hall swing was blocked, Kadie Rolfzen put one away on the next point to secure the set for the Huskers 25-19.

Usually, hitting .364 for a set ensures a win for a team, however Wichita State's fantastic numbers were outdone by a .417 for the Huskers. Nebraska's hitters only committed two errors in the first set and were lead by the error-free Mikaela Foecke who had six kills on eight attempts to hit .750. Kelsey Fien added four kills on nine swings with one error to hit .333.

The Huskers also added three aces in the set, a night after the team had zero. However, the Huskers didn't record a single block in the first set.

The Huskers took the first lead in the second set, going up right away 2-0. The Huskers held a four-point lead at 8-4 before Wichita State put together a 4-0 run and tie the score at eight. However, the next Shocker serve went long and the Huskers started a run of their own that ended with the Huskers up 11-8.

A Foecke kill on an overpass followed by a Hall kill on a subsequent overpass gave the Huskers a 15-10 lead at the media timeout.

The Huskers held the five-point advantage, extending it to six on a tough Foecke serve and forcing the Shockers to use their first timeout of the second set trailing Nebraska 19-13.

The teams more or less traded points the rest of the way in the set, with Nebraska opening the lead to seven at one point, and the Huskers took the set 25-19, but not before the second controversial line call in as many nights.

With the Huskers having set point, Annika Albrecht unleashed on a swing out of the back row that appeared to hit well inside the court, as was confirmed on the HuskerVision screen, but was called out. Oddly enough, it was in nearly the same spot as the controversial call against Harvard on Friday night, though this time with a different line judge.

Foecke added five more kills in the second set and was hitting .611 through two sets. No other Husker hitter was in double-figures, though Kelsey Fien had eight kills and was hitting .227 through two. As a team, the Huskers were outhitting the Shockers .329-.279.

The Huskers recorded two blocks in the second set, their first of the match, and added two more aces to push the total for the match to five. However, the high-risk/high-reward serving did hurt the Huskers as the team had three errors in the set, making the total for the match four errors for the Big Red through two sets.

Wichita State took the first point of the third set, but Nebraska quickly flipped the script and opened up a 5-2 lead early.

Wichita State closed to 6-5, but the Huskers opened the lead up again to 9-5 with Foecke serving. The Shockers sided out to stop Foecke's serve, but the Huskers got the next two to open the lead to 11-6 and force Wichita State to take their first timeout of the third set.

The Huskers opened the lead to nine points at 20-11 and the Shockers never fought back in to it, and the Huskers took the set 25-14.

Late in the set, Coach Cook put Meghan Haggerty and Alicia Ostrander in, much to the delight of the Devaney crowd. Haggerty contributed right away, burying her first swing, and while her first swing was blocked back, Ostrander also earned a the point in her first rally on the court. Haggerty ended the match with her second kill.

The Huskers outhit the Shockers .347-.225, led by Mikaela Foecke who hit .600 with 12 kills on 20 attempts with no errors. Kadie Rolfzen had 11 kills on 26 swings with just one error to hit .385.

Kadie Rolfzen also recorded a double-double for the night with 13 digs to go along with her 11 kills. Justine Wong-Orantes added 10 digs on a night when the Huskers had 52 total. Wichita State recorded 47 digs.

Wichita State's back up setter is McKenzie Fyfe, sister to Ryker Fyfe. While she doesn't play a lot, she did get inserted late in the final set, though it was lost on the Husker crowd holding up their "O's" for Alicia Ostrander.

Nebraska looked much better in the second round than the first. The serving was more aggressive which led to a total of six aces for the Huskers after they had zero against Harvard Friday. The aggressive serving also resulted in six service errors, however, but such is the nature of aggressive, high-risk/high-reward serving.

Wichita State runs a fast offense which was tough for the Huskers to handle early, but the way the Huskers attacked and served, it kept the Shockers out of system and unable to run their offense the way they'd like to. The Huskers will need to do that going forward to continue to have success.

Friday night, December 11, the Huskers will take on the team that knocked the team out of last year's tournament, the BYU Cougars. The other side in Lexington will be Ohio State, who knocked off the Huskers in five sets back in October, and Washington, the #5 seed in the tournament, but the #1 team in the AVCA Coaches' Poll.

As it should be, these matches will be huge tests for the Huskers, who now ride a 12-match winning streak. The Huskers are playing their best volleyball of the season right now, so if they play they way they're capable of playing, there's no reason to believe the Huskers won't make it to Omaha for the Final Four.