In the first of four Regional Final matches on Saturday night, the #5-ranked Nebraska Huskers Women’s Volleyball Team knocked off host Kentucky to advance to the National Semifinals of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament in Kansas City. The Huskers knocked off the Wildcats 3-1 (25-19, 25-22, 25-27, 25-22).
This was the first set that Nebraska dropped in the tournament thus far. The Huskers absolutely dominated the University of Colorado on Friday night, but Kentucky made it tougher for the Big Red.
Though it looked like Nebraska would cruise through the night again for most of the first two sets, the Wildcats closed set two strong and carried that momentum through the intermission and got of to a strong start in set three. Though Nebraska closed and took the lead late, ultimately the Wildcats closed out the third. Though it was far from a cake walk, the Huskers controlled much of the fourth set to close out the match.
Four Husker attackers registered double-digit kills on the night the team hit .271. The team was led by junior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke’s 18. Foecke hit .375 for the night. Her opposite, senior outside hitter Annika Albrecht added 14 kills and hit .225. Both Freshman outside hitter Jazz Sweet and senior middle blocker Briana Holman had 11 kills.
Blocking was dead even on the night with both teams putting twelve blocks in the books. Holman and Sweet were the leading blockers for the Huskers with Holman having part of six combination blocks and Sweet recording one solo block and three block assists. Freshman middle blocker Lauren Stivrins also had five block assists.
Kentucky actually recorded four more digs than Nebraska with 58 to the Huskers’ 54. Junior libero Kenzie Maloney led the Huskers with 14 digs. Albrecht had a double-double adding 11 digs to her 14 kills. Senior setter Kelly Hunter also had 11 digs.
When the score is as tight as this match was, any single statistical difference can be crucial. Nebraska hit .271 and Kentucky hit .252. Digs were close and blocks were equal for the two teams. The big difference tonight was serving. Throughout the year the Huskers have had a high-risk/high-reward mentality, meaning they’ll serve aggressive hoping to keep teams out of system so their offense is harder to run, and that paid dividends on the night. The Huskers had eight errors, but also had five aces. Kentucky had only one ace and twelve errors.
The Huskers will play next weekend at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. This marks the third straight season the Huskers have made the Final Four, a first for Nebraska. They will start their weekend against Penn State on Thursday, December 14th at 6:00 PM Central on ESPN. Penn State has lost only one match this season, to Nebraska at the open of conference play. That match was at Penn State and a Husker sweep, the first time that had happened at Rec Hall in 13 years.
The other side of the bracket is Stanford-Florida. Stanford is the defending National Champion with a good chance to repeat. Florida hasn’t made the Final Four since 2003. The Stanford-Florida match will air after the Husker match. It’s scheduled for 8:00 PM Central, also on ESPN, but if Nebraska-Penn State goes long, the Stanford-Florida match will start about half an hour after the first match.
Look for a Final Four preview Thursday right here.