Huskers Sweep Panthers to Earn Spot in Omaha
Lincoln, Neb. - The No. 7 Nebraska volleyball team clinched a spot in the regional semifinals in Omaha next weekend after sweeping No. 20 Northern Iowa 25-14, 25-17, 25-21 Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 4,066 at the NU Coliseum.
Hannah Werth ignited the No. 2 Huskers (25-6) in the win with a match-high 13 kills on a season-best .476 hitting, 14 digs and a career-high four blocks. It marked her second straight double-double in the NCAAs, as the Huskers won their ninth straight match, all by sweeps.
With the win, the Huskers will play in their 16th consecutive NCAA Regional, a streak that more than doubles any other program in the nation. Nebraska will take on Iowa State, a 3-0 winner over Wichta State, next Friday at 7 p.m. at Qwest Center Omaha. Tickets for that match are now on sale at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. Texas will take on Texas A&M, a 3-2 winner at LSU late Saturday, in the other semifinal, slated for 4:30 p.m.
Tara Mueller joined Werth in double figures with 12 kills as Nebraska became the first team to hit over .300 against Northern Iowa (31-3) this season. Sydney Anderson dished out 44 assists and guided a Husker attack that had four players with at least eight kills.
Kayla Banwarth totaled a match-high 19 digs, as the Panthers were held to a season-low .113 hitting in seeing their 29-match win streak snapped. In all, Nebraska had held its last six opponents to a combined .096 hitting percentage.
The Huskers played one of their most complete sets of the season, rolling to a 25-14 victory in the opener. Nebraska hit .481 as a team, as Werth and Mueller combined for nine of the Huskers’ 16 kills on just 11 swings. Nebraska fell behind 3-0 but regrouped quickly, as Werth had three of her five kills in the set to send Nebraska on a 10-4 spurt and took a three-point lead on a Brooke Delano ace. UNI got within 12-10 before kills from Werth and Mueller and a solo block from Werth gave the Huskers a five-point lead and forced a Panther timeout. Leading 16-11, a Mueller kill and a Delano solo block ignited a 4-0 spurt, as the Huskers eventually pushed the advantage to 20-11 and cruised to an 11-point win.
In the second set, NU used strong serving and a balanced attack to take a 25-17 victory and take a 2-0 lead into the locker room. Nebraska hit .324 in the set, as four attackers had at least three kills, including four apiece from both Kori Cooper and Tara Mueller. The Huskers took control with the serving of Gina Mancuso, as the freshman keyed a 9-0 Husker spurt to help NU build a 14-5 cushion. The Panthers chipped away at Nebraska’s lead and were within 18-11 before three straight Cooper kills pushed the lead to double figures, at 21-11, and Nebraska was never threatened again.
Northern Iowa played its best set of the match and led for most of the set before the Huskers rallied for a 25-21 victory to complete the sweep. UNI scored four of the first five points of the set and eventually took a 15-12 lead at the media timeout. Trailing 17-14, Nebraska began to rally, winning five of the next six points, as a block from Werth and Cooper tied the set at 18 before a UNI error gave Nebraska its first lead of the set at 19-18. With the score tied at 19, the Huskers finally seized control, as a kill from Werth and two errors by UNI, the last being a block by Mueller and Cooper put Nebraska up 22-19. UNI eventually got to within 22-21 on a Bre Payton ace to force a timeout, but kills from Mueller and Delano sandwiched around a Panther error completed the Husker sweep.
Shannon Aschoff led Northern Iowa with nine kills, while Payton, the Missouri Valley Player of the Year, totaled six kills and 22 assists, as UNI dropped to 0-5-1 all-time against Nebraska.