Photo by Laura Leffler

Huskers Achieve Fourth Straight Final Four

By NU Athletic Communications

MINNEAPOLIS – The Nebraska volleyball team earned a program-record fourth straight trip to the NCAA Semifinals after a 3-0 sweep over the No. 14 Oregon Ducks on Saturday night at Minnesota’s Maturi Pavilion.

The defending national champion Huskers – with eight new players on the roster this season – became the sixth program in NCAA history to reach four consecutive final fours, joining Pacific, Penn State, Stanford, Texas and UCLA.

Nebraska (28-6) won its 12th straight match, stopping a high-flying Oregon squad that had upset No. 2 Minnesota on the Golden Gophers' home court on Friday in the regional semifinal. The Huskers held the Ducks to a .250 hitting percentage, and offensively Nebraska hit .345 in the 25-22, 25-23, 25-17 win. 

Mikaela Foecke, the regional's most outstanding player, had 16 kills and 13 digs, hitting .400. Lauren Stivrins had 11 kills and hit .526, and Nicklin Hames tallied 41 assists and 15 digs. All three were named to the all-regional team. 

Lexi Sun tacked on 10 kills, while Jazz Sweet had five. Kenzie Maloney added 12 digs. Nebraska out-blocked Oregon, 5-2, and had a 53-47 edge in digs. 

The win was Nebraska’s 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament win dating back to an NCAA Semifinal loss to Texas in 2016. The 10-match postseason win streak is tied for the longest NCAA Tournament winning streak in program history (NU also won 10 straight matches from 2000-01 and 2015-16).

The Huskers will play No. 3 Illinois, led by former Husker assistant coach Chris Tamas, in an NCAA Semifinal match next Thursday. The 2018 NCAA Championships will be played at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Tickets can be purchased at NCAA.com/tickets. The semifinals will be played on Thursday, Dec. 13 at 6 and 8 p.m. (Central). The final is set for Saturday, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. Both NCAA Semifinals and the NCAA Final will air on ESPN2.

Set 1: Back-to-back kills by Stivrins and an Oregon tip wide gave the Huskers their first lead of the set at 6-5, but Oregon regained a 10-8 lead after a 4-1 spurt. The Ducks increased their lead to 13-10 after three straight kills. Foecke posted a sideout kill for the Huskers, and Stivrins and Sweet blocked an Oregon attack to cut the deficit to one. Sun and Stivrins tipped home kills on consecutive rallies to put the Huskers up 16-15. After four sideouts, Hames served an ace to give the Huskers a two-point lead for the first time in the set, 19-17, and Oregon called timeout. The Huskers committed a pair of service errors, and an Oregon kill knotted the score at 20-20. But Oregon committed three unforced hitting errors on the next three rallies to put Nebraska back in front, 23-20. The Huskers earned set point at 24-21 via an Oregon service error, and Foecke tipped home the winner at 25-22. NU hit .400 in the set, while Oregon hit .294.          

Set 2: Oregon held the early advantage again, taking a 6-3 lead after six kills from five different players. The Ducks went ahead 10-6 with their eighth kill on their 17th swing, and Nebraska took a timeout. The Huskers trailed 12-7 when Sun, Schwarzenbach and Sweet put down kills to trim the deficit to two. The Ducks continued their efficient attack, however, and regained a four-point lead at 16-12. Nebraska was down 18-14 when Foecke and Sun connected on kills as part of a spurt that cut it to 18-17. Nebraska then won a challenge that Oregon had four hits before a kill that would have made it 19-17 Ducks. Instead, it became 18-18. The score remained tied at 19-19 before Oregon mishandled a serve by Sun, and Nebraska took a 20-19 lead, its first of the set. The Ducks responded with a kill by Lauren Page and one by Taylor Borup for a 21-20 lead. Foecke put the Huskers back on top, 22-21, with a kill and a block with Stivrins. With the score tied 23-23, Foecke terminated for the 10th time for set point for the Big Red. Stivrins found the floor with a tip on the slide to win the set for the Huskers, 25-23. 

Set 3: The Huskers scored four in a row to take a 5-2 lead, capped by a block by Schwarzenbach and Sweet. The Ducks charged back to take a 7-6 lead after a 5-1 run. Nebraska answered with a 4-0 run, keyed by a block by Foecke and Stivrins and an ace by Megan Miller. Hames and Sweet notched back-to-back kills to make it 14-10. Foecke added another kill and an Oregon hitting error and a kill by Sweet put the Huskers up by five, 18-13. Nebraska scored seven of the final 10 points down the stretch to clinch their fourth straight final four bid with a 25-17 win.

Match Notes

  • Nebraska improved to 28-6 overall and won its 12th straight match. The win was Nebraska’s 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament win dating back to an NCAA Semifinal loss to Texas in 2016. The 10-match postseason win streak is tied for the longest NCAA Tournament winning streak in program history (NU also won 10 straight matches from 2000-01 and 2015-16).
  • Nebraska advanced to the NCAA Semifinals for the fourth straight year, a first in program history. Nebraska became the sixth program in NCAA history to reach at least four straight final fours, joining Stanford (1982-87, 1994-97), Pacific (1983-86), UCLA (1988-92), Penn State (2007-10) and Texas (2012-16). Only Penn State, Texas and Nebraska have accomplished the feat since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1998.
  • The Huskers will make their 15th NCAA Semifinals appearance all-time, second-most behind only Stanford (who has 21 entering Saturday’s regional final match against Penn State).
  • Nebraska’s all-time NCAA Tournament record is now 112-31. Its .783 winning percentage in the NCAA Tournament is second only to Stanford (.797 entering Saturday).
  • Nebraska improved to 15-13 all-time in NCAA Regional Finals.
  • John Cook is taking Nebraska to the NCAA Semifinals for the ninth time in his 19 seasons as head coach. Cook’s nine NCAA Semifinal appearances are tied for the sixth-most by any coach in NCAA history.
  • Cook is just the fifth coach in NCAA history to make nine NCAA Semifinal appearances at one school, joining Andy Banachowski (UCLA, retired), Russ Rose (Penn State), Don Shaw (Stanford, retired) and Dave Shoji (Hawaii, retired).
  • Cook improved to 71-14 in the NCAA Tournament at Nebraska and 79-18 overall in his NCAA Tournament career, including his time at Wisconsin.
  • Nebraska’s two seniors who have been with the program all four years – Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney – are 20-1 in their NCAA Tournament careers, and the duo is a combined 51-2 all-time in the months of November and December. Their 20 postseason victories are the most in a four-year span in Nebraska history.
  • Foecke and Maloney each played in their 21st NCAA Tournament match at Nebraska, tying for the most postseason matches played by any player in program history. The duo have also each played in 72 career NCAA Tournament sets, trailing only Annika Albrecht (75 sets) and Jordan Larson (73 sets) for most career postseason sets played in Nebraska history.
  • Freshman setter Nicklin Hames had her 23rd double-double of the season with 41 assists and 15 digs. That broke Jordan Larson’s school record for single-season double-doubles in the rally-scoring era. 
  • Foecke had 16 kills, passing Lisa Reitsma (1,633) for third place on Nebraska’s all-time kills list with 1,638.
  • Foecke has 263 career kills in the NCAA Tournament, which moved her past Nancy Metcalf (Meendering) to No. 2 on Nebraska’s career postseason kills list.
  • Maloney has 1,369 career digs, which moved into the top five on Nebraska’s all-time digs list.
  • Nebraska's sweep of Oregon marked just the second time the Huskers have made it to the NCAA Semifinal without losing a set (also happened in 1990).

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