Waco, Texas – Jordan Larson’s match-high 20 kills and 18 digs led fourth-ranked Nebraska to its fifth consecutive Big 12 title, as the Huskers gutted out a 25-22, 26-28, 25-10, 25-20 win over Baylor Saturday night.
Larson’s 13th double-double led an inspired effort from the Huskers (27-2, 18-2 Big 12), as Nebraska won the Big 12 title for the fifth consecutive year and the 11th time in the Big 12’s 13 years of existence. Texas shared the title with the Huskers with an 18-2 mark, as the Longhorns swept Colorado earlier Saturday night.
Sophomores Tara Mueller and Lindsey Licht totaled 12 kills apiece for the Huskers, as Licht added six of the Huskers’ season-best 16 blocks on Saturday. Redshirt freshman Jordan Wilberger added a career-high eight stuffs, as Nebraska held the Bears to .116 hitting to improve to 27-0 all-time against Baylor (18-13, 9-11 Big 12).
The Huskers showed resiliency all night, overcoming a six-point deficit in the first set and trailed 19-14 before closing the match with a 11-1 run. Trailing 20-19, Nebraska ran off the match’s final six points, as Sydney Anderson ran off the final five points at the service line. Licht capped the Huskers’ eighth championship in nine years with an overpass on the final point, giving Nebraska the Big 12’s automatic berth into next week’s NCAA Tournament.
Nebraska used a strong performance from Wilberger and the power of outside hitter Jordan Larson to rally to a 25-22 victory in the opener. Nebraska closed the set on a 13-4 run, erasing Baylor’s six-point advantage. Nebraska out-hit the Bears, .250-.205 and recorded five blocks, including four by Wilberger. Larson led NU with seven kills on 12 swings. Nebraska jumped to an early lead, taking a two-point lead at 7-5, but the Bears came back running off a 9-3 spurt to take a 14-10 on a kill by Briana Tolbert kill and force a Husker timeout. The Huskers pulled within 15-12, but the Bears ran off three straight points to take a six-point lead, at 18-12 on a Anna Breyfogle kill. Nebraska came out of the timeout, winning four of the next five rallies to get within 19-16 on a Larson kill. Nebraska continued to chip away and trailed 21-19 before Wilberger and Mueller combined on two straight blocks to pull the Huskers even at 21. After a Baylor hitting error, Larson made it 23-21 with a kill to give NU a two-point lead. The Bears got within 23-22, but Larson closed out the comeback with a pair of kills.
The second set was a back-and-forth battle, as both teams fought off set points before the Bears prevailed with a 28-26 victory. The Huskers were held to .077 hitting and allowed the Bears to get four service aces, including a trio after the Huskers took a 21-19 lead. Licht paced the Big Red with five kills and three blocks in the set. The teams traded points for the first part of the set before Licht keyed a 4-1 spurt to break an 11-all tie to put NU ahead 15-12. The sophomore had two kills and a block in the run to help the Huskers build its biggest lead of the set to date. Nebraska continued to push, extending the margin to four points, the last being at 19-15 on an Amanda Gates kill, but the Bears would fight back. Baylor ran off four straight points to tie the score at 19 on a Barnes kill. Nebraska fought back, as a Mueller kill and a Licht block gave the Huskers a 21-19 lead, but the lead would not last long. After a Tolbert kill, Taylor Barnes came back with a pair of service aces to give the Bears their first lead since a 10-9 advantage at 22-21. Nebraska came back, as a Licht kill and a Tara Mueller ace put the Huskers ahead 23-22 and forced a Baylor timeout. The Bears fought back and won the next two points to take a 24-23 lead. The Huskers fought off one set point before Gates and Licht combined on a block to give the Huskers a chance to take the set. Unfortunately, a Husker serving error erased one chance, but Licht’s fifth kill of the set put NU back ahead 26-25. Ashlie Christenson tied the set with a kill before Barnes and Anna Breyfogle combined on a block to give Baylor the lead. Breyfogle then closed out the set with a kill, sending the teams to the locker room tied at one apiece.
The Huskers were nearly flawless offensively in the third set, hitting .739 as a team in posting a 25-10 victory. Larson put down seven kills in nine swings, while Licht had four kills in as many swings and a block for the Big Red, including three kills and a block in a 9-3 spurt to open the set. Leading 3-2, Licht had a kill and combined with Amanda Gates on a block to ignite a 6-1 spurt as Baylor used their first timeout. The Huskers continued to extend their advantage, taking a 13-4 lead on a Gates kill and pushing it double figures at 16-6 on a Wilberger kill. Baylor pulled to within 18-9, but a Licht kill and two swings from Larson pushed the lead to 21-9, and NU cruised from there.
In the fourth set, Nebraska trailed 5-4, but the Bears won seven of the next 10 rallies, taking a 12-7 lead to force a Husker timeout. The Huskers trailed 13-8 before a Mueller kill sparked a run of three straight points, pulling Nebraska within 13-11 after a block from Wilberger and Larson. Baylor regrouped, winning five of the next seven rallies to take its largest lead of the set at 18-13. The Huskers roared back, as a pair of BU miscues and a Larson ace made it a two-point game and forced the Bears to take their second timeout. Larson continued the service run and her kill made it a 18-17 game and NU eventually tied it at 19 on a big solo block from Anderson. Trailing 20-19, NU tied it up on a Baylor hitting error before Anderson, who finished with 45 assists, four blocks and six digs, stepped to the service line. Mueller’s kill put NU ahead to stay before a Bear miscue made it 22-20. Wilberger and Licht then came through, combining on a block to give NU a three-point lead, before Mueller’s 12th kill of the night made it match points.
Katie Sanders led Baylor with 13 kills, while Breyfogle finished with 10 kills and seven blocks in a losing effort.
The Huskers will await their postseason fate, as the pairing for the 2008 NCAA Tournament are announced Sunday night at 9 p.m. (central) on (Ch. 614; DISH Network Ch. 148; Time Warner Cable Ch. 235; Cox Cable Ch. 220).