Huskers Defeat Florida to Win Fifth National Title
Kansas City, Mo. - The Nebraska volleyball team won its fifth national title on Saturday night, defeating the No. 2 seed Florida Gators, 3-1, in front of an NCAA-record 18,516 fans at the Sprint Center, most of whom were wearing red.
The Huskers won their fifth national title and second in three years, becoming just the third team in NCAA history to win five volleyball national championships. Nebraska won the opening set 25-22 and cruised to a 25-17 win in set two. Florida bounced back to win the third set, 25-18, before Nebraska came out on fire in set four, racing to a 9-1 lead en route to a 25-16 victory.
Mikaela Foecke paced the Huskers with a match-high 20 kills, as Nebraska totaled 14 more kills than the Gators. Kelly Hunter dished out 37 assists and tied her season high with six kills while finishing her NCAA Tournament career with a 16-1 record. Foecke and Hunter were named the co-Most Outstanding Players of the NCAA Championship and were joined on the team by libero Kenzie Maloney, who had a match-high 15 digs and produced a career-high two kills. Lauren Stivrins added nine kills and Briana Holman and Annika Albrecht each chipped in six kills. The Huskers hit .234 in the match - nearly .100 higher than Florida, and out-dug the Gators, 65-49.
Fans can welcome home the national champions on Sunday, as the Nebraska Athletic Department will host a free championship celebration tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Doors open at 11 a.m. and free parking will be available in lot 58.
Set 1: Holman put the Huskers up 5-3 after a block and a kill on back-to-back rallies. Foecke added a solo block and an ace on consecutive rallies for a 7-4 Husker lead. Florida responded to take an 11-9 lead with a 5-1 run. The Gators extended the lead to 15-11 with three straight kills, but Foecke gained sideout for the Huskers to spark a 7-0 run that would put NU up 18-15. Hunter's service run included an ace, and Foecke hammered two more kills during the spurt. After Florida ended NU's run, the Gators would rally to tie the set at 22-22 before committing a service error. Florida hit the antenna on its next attack to give Nebraska set point at 24-22. After a Florida timeout, Foecke went crosscourt for the set clincher. Nebraska prevailed despite hitting .081, as it held Florida to .025 hitting and won the serving battle by two aces. Both teams had just 10 kills in the set, with Foecke posting five for the Big Red.
Set 2: Nebraska scored the first three points of the set with Holman stuffing a shot and putting down a kill. The teams began siding out an efficient clip, but Sweet, Foecke and Stivrins tallied consecutive kills on Townsend's serve to put NU up 9-5. Stivrins and Foecke terminated again, and Hunter smashed an out-of-system kill from the right side for a 12-7 lead. Holman and Albrecht teamed up for a block, and Florida hit long to increase the lead to seven at 16-9. After Florida pulled within 17-12, Albrecht tooled the Florida block and the Gators mishandled a Townsend serve to keep NU up by seven, 19-12. A Florida timeout couldn't slow the Husker attack, as Albrecht added another kill after the break and Florida hit long to make it 21-12 after the 4-0 run. Florida pulled within 23-17 but misfired on its next attack. The Huskers took the 2-0 lead with a 25-17 win on Foecke's 10th kill of the match. NU was much sharper in set two, hitting .417.
Set 3: Florida gained an early 12-7 advantage thanks to a 4-0 run when the score was tied 6-6. The Gators built the lead to 16-10 before Foecke and Albrecht terminated to draw the Huskers within 16-12. But Nebraska could get no closer than four, as Florida scored the next three points to go up 19-12. Stivrins struck for three kills to help NU cut what was an eight-point deficit to five at 22-17, but Snyder terminated for sideout for Florida, and the Gators won 25-18 to take the set.
Set 4: Hunter and Foecke got Nebraska off to a positive start with kills, and Foecke and Holman stuffed a Gator attack as NU claimed a quick 4-0 lead. A slew of Gator errors, followed by an ace by Hunter and another block by Holman and Foecke made it 9-1 Huskers. After Florida chipped away to within 12-6, a service error and a Foecke kill restored an eight-point lead at 14-6. But the Gators scored four in a row to slice the lead to four at 14-10, and the Huskers called timeout. Foecke terminated after the break and Maloney dug a Joseph shot back to the Florida side for her second kill of the match. She then served an ace to make it 17-10 Huskers. Albrecht, Holman and Sweet swatted kills to keep the lead at seven, 20-13. Stivrins found the floor on back-to-back rallies to give the Huskers a 23-15 lead, and Hunter dumped a kill for match point at 24-15.
Nebraska Post-Match Notes
- With the win, Nebraska (32-4) won its fifth national title and second in three seasons. The Huskers became only the third team in NCAA history to win five national championships in volleyball (Penn State and Stanford have each won seven NCAA titles). Mikaela Foecke had the kill on set point in each of Nebraska's three set victories.
- John Cook won his fourth national title in 18 seasons as Nebraska’s head coach. Cook became the fourth coach in NCAA history to win four national titles and the third to win four national championships at one school, joining Penn State’s Russ Rose (7) and former Stanford head coach Don Shaw (4). Another former Cardinal head coach, John Dunning, won five NCAA titles – three at Stanford and two with Pacific.
- Cook also joined Russ Rose as the only coaches to win four national titles since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1998.
- Cook improved to 66-14 in the NCAA Tournament as Nebraska’s head coach, including a 4-1 record in the NCAA Final.
- As a program, Nebraska improved to 108-31 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including a 5-3 record in the NCAA Final. The Huskers have won their last three NCAA Finals (2006, 2015 & 2017).
- Annika Albrecht, Mikaela Foecke, Briana Holman, Kelly Hunter, Kenzie Maloney and Sydney Townsend each won their second national championship as all six were members of Nebraska’s 2015 NCAA title team. The six became the first players in Nebraska history to win multiple national championships.
- Nebraska won its 19th straight match, its longest winning streak to end a season since the Huskers went 34-0 en route to the 2000 NCAA title in John Cook’s first season.
- NU finished the season with 32 wins, tying for its most wins since finishing 33-1 in 2006, when the Huskers won their third national title.
- The Huskers ended the season with a 12-3 record against ranked opponents, including a 7-0 record vs. top-10 foes and a 4-0 mark against top-five opponents.
- Nebraska improved to 9-3 all-time against the Florida Gators, including a 3-0 record in the NCAA Tournament.
- The Huskers held Florida to a .141 attack percentage, their lowest mark of the season. The Gators’ previous low was .165 against Texas in the 2017 season opener.
- Mikaela Foecke, Kelly Hunter and Kenzie Maloney all made the NCAA Championship All-Tournament team, while Foecke and Hunter were named co-Most Outstanding Player. Foecke and Hunter both made the all-tournament team for the second time in their careers (also in 2015) to join Sarah Pavan as the only Huskers to be a two-time NCAA Championship All-Tournament team selection.
- Foecke was named the Most Outstanding Player for the second time in her career (2015 & 2017). She is just the fourth player in NCAA history to twice be named the NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player and the first to earn the honor in non-consecutive years. The other two-time Most Outstanding Players are Megan Hodge (Penn State, 2007 & 2008), Keao Burdine (USC, 2002 & 2003) and Lauren Cacciamani (Penn State, 1998 & 1999).
- Hunter became just the fourth setter to be named the NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player, joining Misty May (Long Beach State, 1998), Greichaly Cepero (Nebraska, 2000) and Micha Hancock (Penn State, 2013).
- Mikaela Foecke had a match-high 20 kills, the most in her NCAA Tournament career, and marking the first time a player had 20 kills in the NCAA Final since Ariel Scott (21) for Penn State in 2013.
- Foecke finished with 39 kills at the 2017 NCAA Championship, the fifth-highest total in NCAA Championship history in the 25-point scoring era (since 2008).
- In five career matches at the NCAA Championships (Semifinals & Final), Mikaela Foecke has totaled 83 kills. She has averaged 16.6 kills per match and 4.4 kills per set in her five career NCAA Semifinal and Final matches.
- Foecke totaled 20 kills and 14 digs to post her second straight double-double after recording her first career double-double in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday against No. 1 Penn State.
- Kelly Hunter ended her career with 4,125 assists, the second-most in Husker history. She also totaled 564 career postseason assists, the third-highest total in school history.
- Hunter ended her career with a 16-1 record in the NCAA Tournament as Nebraska’s starting setter, posting the most wins and highest postseason winning percentage by a starting setter in Husker history. She set the Huskers to three NCAA Semifinals and two NCAA Finals, winning both championship matches.
- Hunter had a season-high six kills on a season-best .600 hitting. The six kills were the second-most of her NCAA Tournament career, trailing only the seven kills she totaled against Washington in the 2015 NCAA Regional Final.
- Annika Albrecht appeared in her 21st NCAA Tournament match at Nebraska, tying the school record. The only other Huskers to appear in 21 NCAA Tournament matches are Jordan Larson and Rachel Schwartz (2005-08).
- Albrecht ended her Husker career with 139 service aces, the sixth-highest total in program history.
- Libero Kenzie Maloney had a career-high two kills in the match. Entering the night, Maloney had totaled just one kill in her first 104 career matches combined.
- Maloney added one service ace, her 13th of the NCAA Tournament and fifth at the 2017 NCAA Championship (semifinal and final). The 13 aces are a Nebraska record for a single NCAA Tournament and the five aces in the NCAA Championship rank second in NCAA history in the 25-point scoring era (since 2008), trailing only Penn State’s Micha Hancock (6 aces at the 2013 NCAA Championship).