Omaha - The fifth-seeded Oregon Ducks advanced to the first NCAA Semifinals in school history, rallying from a slow start to post a 3-1 victory over the fourth-seeded Nebraska volleyball team in front of 9,382 fans at the CenturyLink Center. The Huskers dominated the first set of the regional final in a 25-15 victory, but the Ducks won the next three sets, 25-22, 25-18 and 25-17.
With the win, Oregon (29-4) advanced to face No. 1 Penn State on Thursday at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. The match will start at either 6 or 8 p.m. (Central) and will be televised live on ESPN2. Nebraska fell just short of its 12th NCAA Semifinal appearance, finishing its season with a 26-7 record.
Oregon, which leads the nation in kills, hit above .300 in three of the four sets, finishing with a .289 mark. Pac-12 Player of the Year and NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player Alaina Bergsma led the way with an impressive performance. Bergsma produced a match-high 23 kills and hit .429, committing only two errors in 49 swings. Ariana Williams (13) and Katherine Fischer (12) also finished with double-figure kills for the Ducks. Defensively, Oregon totaled 71 digs, led by 21 from libero Haley Jacob, and 7.5 blocks.
Nebraska also had three players finish with double-figure kills, including 16 each from Morgan Broekhuis and Gina Mancuso. Broekhuis hit .406, while Mancuso added 15 digs to finish with a double-double in her final match. Fellow senior Hannah Werth ended her career with a double-double of her own, finishing with 10 kills and 13 digs. Lauren Cook dished out 46 assists in her final match, helping the Huskers hit .265, including a blistering .621 in the first set.
In set one, Nebraska scored three consecutive points to open up an 8-4 lead and force an early Oregon timeout. The timeout did not slow the Huskers, who won four of the next six rallies to stretch the lead to 12-6 and force a second Duck timeout. Two more straight points capped a 5-0 run and put the Huskers in front by eight. The first hitting error for either team - a Meghan Haggerty and Cook block of Liz Brenner - gave Nebraska a 20-11 advantage and the Huskers led by at least eight the rest of the way, closing out a 10-point victory on a ball-handling error. Nebraska, which connected on 17 of its first 24 swings without an error, hit a blazing .621 in the first set, putting down 19 kills on just 29 swings with only one error. Broekhuis and Haggerty had five kills apiece in the set. Bergsma also had five kills for Oregon, which hit .345.
Oregon jumped out to a 6-2 lead in set two on the strength of a 5-0 run, forcing an early Husker timeout. Nebraska chipped away at the lead and pulled within one twice, before tying the set at 11 on a Mancuso kill. Hayley Thramer then capped a 5-1 run with a solo stuff to put the Huskers on top 12-11. Oregon quickly regained the lead with three straight points following a timeout and never trailed again. Nebraska had chances to tie the match on three different occasions, but hit out each time. A Thramer shot that sailed long pushed the Ducks' lead to 20-17 and forced another Husker timeout. The teams then traded sideouts the rest of the set, with Oregon claiming a 25-22 win on a Williams kill. The Ducks hit above .300 for the second straight set (.310), while Nebraska dropped to a .217 mark in set two, thanks to six hitting errors.
Set three was tied early until three straight Oregon points gave the Ducks a 9-6 lead. Nebraska scored the next two points following a timeout to pull within one, but Oregon quickly separated again, using a 5-1 run to take a 17-10 lead. The Ducks cruised from there, leading by at least five the rest of the set and by as many as eight. Fischer closed out the 25-18 win with her second kill of the set and ninth of the match. Bergsma added five more kills of her own in the set, as Oregon hit .318 compared to a .205 mark for Nebraska. Through three sets, Bergsma had 17 kills on 31 error-free swings.
Oregon enjoyed a narrow advantage for the early points of set three before Nebraska brought the crowd to its feet with a 4-0 run that put the Huskers on top 11-9. After tying the set on three occasions, Oregon found itself down 16-15 before putting together a performance worthy of advancing. With the crowd urging the Huskers on, Oregon ended the match on a 10-1 run. The Ducks regained the lead with four straight points and then won the final six rallies of the match, advancing to Louisville on ace from Kellie Kawasaki.
NCAA Omaha Regional All-Tournament Team
Alaina Bergsma, Oregon (MOP)
Ariana Williams, Oregon
Lauren Plum, Oregon
Gina Mancuso, Nebraska
Lauren Cook, Nebraska
Morgan Broekhuis, Nebraska
Jen Hamson, BYU