Huskers Advance to Seventh Straight Regional Final
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - The sixth-ranked Nebraska volleyball team stifled one of the nation's top offenses to earn a seventh straight trip to the NCAA Regional Finals with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-23) sweep of No. 10 Kentucky on Friday at Minnesota's Maturi Pavilion.
The Huskers won their 11th straight match to improve to 27-6 on the season and will face the winner of No. 2 Minnesota and No. 14 Oregon on Saturday at 5 p.m. The match will be broadcast on ESPNU, WatchESPN.com and Husker Sports Network radio affiliates.
Nebraska out-hit Kentucky .239 to .165, holding the Wildcats to a season-low hitting percentage. It marked the 13th time this season Nebraska has held an opponent to a season-low hitting percentage. Kentucky entered the match hitting .304 this season, the fourth-best mark in the nation, but Nebraska blocked the Wildcats eight times.
Mikaela Foecke had 14 kills and 10 digs while hitting .303, and Lexi Sun had 13 kills and seven digs. Lauren Stivrins added eight kills. Four different Huskers had at least three blocks, led by Callie Schwarzenbach's five and Jazz Sweet's four. Both players also had four kills. Foecke and Stivrins both tallied three blocks.
Nicklin Hames had 38 assists and 11 digs for her 22nd double-double of the season, which ties Jordan Larson for NU's most in a single season in the rally-scoring era.
Nebraska had two more aces (4-2) and four fewer service errors (5-9) than the Wildcats (26-5), who had their 23-match win streak snapped. The Huskers had a 55-49 edge in digs, with Kenzie Maloney, Megan Miller and Hames all posting 11 digs.
Three different Wildcats had seven kills.
Set 1: Sun had two early kills and an ace, as the Huskers rallied from down 3-1 to take an 11-7 lead, while Kentucky committed three service errors and three attacking errors. Two kills by Alli Stumler brought Kentucky within two, but Stivrins and Foecke terminated back-to-back kills to restore a four-point lead, 13-9. A back-row kill by Foecke and a Kentucky miscue made it 15-10 Huskers. After the Wildcats cut it to three, they committed another service error and Stivrins and Foecke stuffed an attack for an 18-13 lead, forcing Kentucky's second timeout. Maloney came out of the timeout with an ace to make it 19-13. Stivrins and Sun tacked on three more kills and combined for a block, and the Huskers increased the lead to 24-15 after an 8-2 spurt. Nebraska won 25-17, holding Kentucky to .100 hitting. Sun had four kills and no errors to lead the Big Red.
Set 2: The Huskers picked up where they left off in set one, taking a 6-1 lead courtesy of two blocks by Sweet, one with Schwarzenbach and one with Stivrins. Foecke blasted three more kills and put the Huskers up 8-2. The Huskers used a timeout after Kentucky pulled within 9-5 via back-to-back blocks. Stivrins immediately earned sideout for the Huskers, and a tough serve by Hayley Densberger forced a Kentucky hitting error to make it 11-5 Huskers. Nebraska led 14-7 after kills by Sun and Sweet, but Kentucky responded with a 3-0 run out of a timeout to get within four, 14-10. The teams traded six sideouts before Avery Skinner and Caitlyn Cooper terminated for Kentucky to get the Wildcats within 17-15. Stivrins ended the Wildcats' 3-0 run with back-to-back slide kills to make it 19-15. Kentucky got back within two at 21-19 but then committed a service error. Sweet found the floor for a kill, and Foecke and Schwarzenbach blocked Wildcat attacks for the final two Husker points to give them a 25-20 win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
Set 3: Nebraska fell behind 4-1 but rallied to tie the set at 6-6 with back-to-back kills by Stivrins and Sun. The Wildcats then went on a 5-0 run to take an 11-6 lead, however. A pair of kills by Sun brought NU within three, 12-9, but Kentucky had an answer once again, scoring the next three points for a 15-9 lead. The lead went to seven before Foecke killed consecutive rallies and Miller served an ace to cut it to four, 18-14. After Kentucky got sideout, Stivrins struck for two more kills and Kentucky hit long to get the Huskers within 19-17. Kentucky went back ahead by four, 22-18, but Sun's 13th kill and a block by Sweet and Schwarzenbach cut the deficit back to two, 22-20. Nebraska trailed 23-20 when Sweet connected for kills from both the left and right sides to cut it to one, 23-22, and Foecke terminated to tie the set at 23-23, the first tie since 6-6. Nebraska earned match point at 24-23 after winning a challenge that Kentucky committed a net violation, and Foecke finished the match off with her match-high 14th kill.
- Nebraska improved to 27-6 overall and won its 11th straight match.
- The Huskers advanced to an NCAA Regional Final for the seventh straight season and for the 28th time in the Huskers’ 37 all-time NCAA Tournament appearances.
- Nebraska has made 16 NCAA Regional Final appearances in John Cook's 19 years at Nebraska, more than any other school in that span.
- NU will play the winner of No. 2 Minnesota and No. 14 Oregon on Saturday at 5 p.m. (CT) for a chance to reach a fourth straight final four. The Huskers have never been to four consecutive NCAA Semifinals.
- John Cook is 70-14 in the NCAA Tournament at Nebraska. Including his seven seasons at Wisconsin, Cook is 78-18 in the postseason.
- Nebraska won its ninth consecutive NCAA Tournament match to improve to 111-31 (.782) all-time in the postseason, the second-best win percentage behind only Stanford (.796).
- Nebraska’s two seniors who have been with the program all four years - Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney – are 19-1 in their NCAA Tournament careers. The duo is a combined 50-2 all-time in the months of November and December.
- Foecke had the third double-double of her NCAA Tournament career with 14 kills and 10 digs. The others were in the 2017 NCAA Semifinal (Penn State) and Championship (Florida).
- NU held Kentucky to a season-low .165 hitting percentage, the 13th time this season Nebraska has held a team to its lowest hitting percentage of the season. Kentucky came into the match hitting .305, which ranked fourth nationally.
- The Huskers have now held 26 of their 33 opponents under .200 hitting this year, and 13 have hit below .100.
- Freshman setter Nicklin Hames had her 22nd double-double of the season with 38 assists and 11 digs. That ties Jordan Larson for the single-season school record for double-doubles in the rally-scoring era.