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NCAA Volleyball Tournament Second Round: #5 Nebraska Mauls Washington State

Gallery: Volleyball Opens Home Schedule with a Bang

For the second round of the 2017 NCAA Volleyball Tournament, the Bob Devaney Sports Center was the venue as the #5 Nebraska Cornhuskers took on the Washington State Cougars. The Huskers had beaten Stony Brook the previous night 3-0, and Washington State had knocked off Florida State 3-1, to advance out of the first round. The Huskers advanced to the regionals with the 3-0 (25-13, 25-13, 25-18) win over the Cougars.

Nebraska took the first four points of the match to force an early Cougar timeout. Washington State outside hitter Taylor Mims, who had 28 kills the night before, accounted for two of those Husker points hitting balls into the net.

The point after the timeout also fell Nebraska’s way to give the Huskers a 5-0 lead before Washington State could get on the board. That point sparked a 3-0 run for the Cougars that put them right back in the fight for the first set.

Nebraska scored to make the count 6-3 Huskers, but the Cougars kept fighting and closed the score to 7-6 with the Huskers clinging to the lead.

Senior middle blocker Briana Holman put a ball down between the block and the net to give the Huskers the serve back, and freshman defensive specialist Hayley Densberger followed that up with an ace. That series ignited a 5-0 Husker run that put Nebraska up 12-6 and resulted in the second and final Cougar timeout of the set.

The Cougars made good on the timeout, scoring the next point and halting the Husker run. Washington State scored again to close to within four, 12-8 Huskers.

A Nebraska sideout put senior defensive specialist Sydney Townsend on the line and was the beginning of a 4-0 Husker run highlighted by one of Townsend’s serves dribbling over the net and dropping before the Cougar serve-receive could react.

The Cougars couldn’t slow the Huskers as they extended the lead and after the score was 7-6, Nebraska went on a 17-7 run to end the set with a score of 25-13.

The leading attacker for the Huskers was Holman who recorded six kills on eight swings to hit .625. Freshman outside hitter Jazz Sweet added three kills and hit .750.

Each team had one block in the set and though it was scored a combo block by Foecke and Holman, it really was Foecke getting the block for Nebraska. The Huskers had 23 digs in the first set.

Washington State took their first lead of the night on the first point of the second set. Three errant plays by Washington State, punctuated by senior setter Kelly Hunter burying an overpass, gave the Huskers life early in the set and were part of a 6-0 Husker run that forced the first Cougar timeout of the set with the score 6-1 Nebraska.

The timeout did little to slow the Husker momentum, as the Cougars used their final timeout of the set trailing 12-3.

The Huskers scored two more out of the timeout to make the score 14-3 Nebraska before Annika Albrecht missed with an outside attack to end the Husker run.

Late in the set, the Huskers used a 6-0 run to take a 22-8 lead on tough serving and nearly impenetrable blocking. A series of Husker errors late in the set made the score closer than the stats or momentum of the set looked, but ultimately the Huskers took the set 25-13 after a 4-0 Cougar run forced a Husker timeout.

After two sets, Holman was still leading the Husker attack which was hitting .269. Holman was hitting .429 with nine kills. Albrecht had six kills and was hitting .071.

Nebraska had six blocks in the second set. The onslaught was led by Mikaela Foecke with three solo blocks. Holman added two more block assists in the set as did Hunter. The Huskers had 39 digs through two sets against 19 for the Cougars.

The third set started with a Foecke kill from the outside to get the scoring started. Holman followed that up with a kill on a slide attack to give the Huskers an early 2-0 lead.

The Cougars answered with two straight of their own to knot the score at two, but a service error put Kelly Hunter on the line for the Huskers. She recorded an ace, her first of the night, to extend the lead to 4-2 Huskers. Nebraska had a 5-2 lead before a Cougar sideout.

Nebraska took a 7-3 lead, but Washington State closed to within two in short order at 9-7 Huskers. The Huskers ran off two more to extend the lead to four again, 11-7, but Washington State wouldn’t go easily, closing to within two again at 11-9.

After an Albrecht ace, the Huskers again had a four-point advantage, but Albrecht’s next serve missed just long, a call the Devaney crowd disagreed with loudly. The next point also went to Washington State when the Husker attack was called just wide, drawing the ire of the crowd once again.

Ultimately, the first stoppage of play in the set came at the media timeout with the Huskers leading 15-12.

Washington State scored first out of the break to again to within two at 15-13, but Holman scored again to push the Husker lead to 16-13.

Nebraska scored the next two to take an 18-13 lead and force the first Cougar timeout of the set.

Washington State halted the Nebraska run with a kill out of the timeout, but didn’t hold serve, as the Huskers immediately notched a sideout.

After a brief exchange of sideouts, a couple of Husker errors allowed Washington State to again close to within two and force a Husker timeout with the score 20-18 Huskers.

Middle blocker Lauren Stivrins pushed an attack through the Cougar block to score for the Huskers out of the timeout, and then a poor serve-receive by the Cougars gave the Huskers a 22-18 advantage, resulting in the final Cougar timeout of the set.

More of the same out of the timeout and another Stivrins kill on the slide all but iced the match. The Cougars sailed their next attack long to give Nebraska its first set point. The Huskers made good, winning the set 25-18 on a Kelly Hunter/Lauren Stivrins block.

The Huskers hit an even .300 for the match, led by 12 kills from Briana Holman who hit .421. Albrecht hit .158 with nine kills and Stivrins had eight kills to hit .538.

The Nebraska block was huge on the night. The night after she had 28 kills against Florida State, Washington State’s Taylor Mims could only manage nine kills on 46 swings against the Huskers. Foecke, Hunter, and libero Kenzie Maloney each had nine digs for a Husker defense that nearly doubled the Cougars’ dig number. Nebraska had 49, Washington State had 25.

Briana Holman was credited with one solo block and four block assists on a night when the Huskers had ten total blocks. Mikaela Foecke had three solo blocks and one block assist.

Next weekend, the Huskers will travel to Lexington, Kentucky for the regional rounds. Kentucky was down 2-0 to Western Kentucky before taking the last three sets to seal their match. Had the Hilltoppers closed out, the Huskers would be hosting the regional rounds.

Joining the Huskers in Lexington with be the University of Colorado Buffaloes and the Brigham Young Cougars. Colorado has wins this season over Colorado State, Washington and the University of Southern California. BYU is 27-2 with only one loss in conference. Nebraska will play Colorado while BYU will play the host team.

If the Huskers play the rest of the way as they did this weekend, this team can absolutely make a deep run. The blocking was a huge factor in both Husker wins this weekend, something that has been inconsistent at points this year. On top off that, all of the hitters were finding ways to terminate, and the serve was tough with low errors.

The team has spoken repeatedly about their off-court chemistry in addition to what we see on the court. They’ve used the hashtag #WithEachOtherForEachOther throughout the season. Coach Cook said that it was introduced in a skit at a preseason get together. What we’ve heard time and time again in press conferences is that each of these players feels like the others have their back completely. If one is struggling, someone else can, and will, step up. That was evident in the way that Sweet, Holman, and Stivrins showed up big tonight when Foecke and Albrecht were down slightly.

If Nebraska can win the region, and Penn State does the same, then they will face each other in the national semi-finals. Nebraska is Penn State’s only loss on the year and it’s a deep-seated rivalry that would likely make an incredible semi-final.

As match times and television coverage is released, look to @coach_ty6 and @cornnation on Twitter to let you know. Husker matches will definitely be available on Husker Sports Network radio affiliates.