No. 3 Nebraska (27-2, 19-1 Big 12) vs. Sacred Heart (29-6, 14-2 NEC)
Thursday, Dec. 2 • NU Coliseum • 7 p.m.
TV: NET Lincoln - (Time Warner: SD-12/HD-112 | DirecTV: 29 | DISH: 12) Omaha - (Cox: SD-12/HD-712 | DirecTV: 379 | DISH: 26)
Radio: Husker Sports Network, including B107.3 FM in Lincoln and KTWI 93.3 FM in Omaha, and on Huskers.com
Web Video: Huskers.com (Free)
Live Stats: Huskers.com
The No. 3 Nebraska volleyball team (27-2, 19-1 Big 12) will open the NCAA Tournament at home for the seventh straight season on Thursday night when it hosts the Sacred Heart Pioneers (29-6, 14-2 NEC) at the NU Coliseum. The match is set to start at 7 p.m., or 30 minutes after the first match of the day ends between Auburn and Missouri State.
Nebraska, who recently won its 12th Big 12 title, will be making its 29th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers enter the tournament on a eight-match winning streak, including sweeps in all eight matches.
Sacred Heart will be making its first appearance in the national tournament after winning its first Northeast Conference title in program history. The Pioneers are winners of four straight matches and are coming off a sweep of Robert Morris in the NEC Championship match.
Not only will Thursday night's match will be the first-ever meeting between Nebraska and Sacred Heart, but it will be the first time the Huskers have ever played a team from the Northeast Conference.
Along with TV coverage by NET, the match will be shown live on Huskers.com for free. Fans can also listen to all of the action with John Baylor and Dianne Mendenhall on the 25-station Husker Sports Network, including B107.3 FM in Lincoln and Twister 93.3 FM in Omaha. Fans outside the network will also be able to catch the live audio feed for free on Huskers.com.
Scouting the Sacred Heart Pioneers
- The Pioneers enter Thursday's nights match with a 29-6 overall record and a 14-2 record in the Northeast Conference.
- Senior captain Courtney Kidd-Kadlubek is the key to the Pioneer's offense as she ranks eighth in the NCAA with 11.89 assists per set. Already the school-record holder in assists, Kidd-Kadlubek was named both the Northeast Conference Player and Setter of the Year this season.
- Sacred Heart won its first NEC Tournament title this season, which earned them the program's first trip to the NCAA Tournament.
- Sophomore middle blocker Elise Sage has put away 402 kills on the season while hitting .383, which ranks her 22nd in the NCAA. Sage's 3.19 kills per set are second on the team to freshman Mercado Dianis' 3.42 per set, but Mercado is hitting just .174 (393-207-1,066).
- The Pioneers were also the regular-season NEC champions, the first in school history.
- Since Head Coach Rob Machan arrived for the 2007 season, Sacred Heart has compiled a 79-50 record. In 2006, the Pioneers were 2-23. Machan was an assistant coach on Southern Cal's 2002 and 2003 national championship teams.
- Sacred Heart was tough at home this season as they were a perfect 16-0 at the William H. Pitt Center. They recorded sweeps in 10 contests and were pushed to a fifth set just once.
- After dropping its first three matches of the season at the Long Beach State Baden Classic to St. Mary's (Calif.), Long Beach State and Rutgers, the Pioneers lost only three matches the rest of the season to Ohio State, Robert Morris and Saint Francis (Pa.).
- The Pioneers struggle at the net with only 1.44 blocks per set. Only Johanna Ovsenek (0.66) and Ashlyn Trimble (0.61) average more than 0.60 blocks per set.
Scouting the Nebraska Huskers
- The Huskers are ranked No. 3 in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll after being ranked fifth for the past four weeks. The Huskers received one first-place vote in the polls and were one of four teams to receive a first-place vote.
- The Huskers are 23-0 this season when holding opponents below .200 hitting after the Huskers held Texas A&M to .099 hitting. Nebraska is 4-2 when opposing teams hit above .200.
- After hitting .320 against Texas A&M, the Huskers are 184-0 under Head Coach John Cook when they hit .300 or better.
- The Huskers are 13-0 at home the season and have dropped just three sets all season at the NU Coliseum. During Big 12 play the Huskers ended the year a perfect 10-0.
- Nebraska is 11-1 in true road matches this season and was 9-1 in Big 12 play, with its lone loss coming at Texas.
- After posting double-digit blocks in nine of their first 14 matches of the season the Huskers have hit double figured just four times in their last 15 matches.
- Junior middle blocker Brooke Delano enters the week ranked seventh nationally in blocks with 1.45 per set and has eight-best hitting percentage in the NCAA at .418.
- The Huskers have never played the Sacred Heart Pioneers and are facing a team from the Northeast Conference for the first time.
- The Huskers enter the week ranked in the top-five nationally in three categories, including blocks (2.99-4th), assists (14.12-4th) and kills (15.15-5th).
- Nebraska is making its 29th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Only Penn State and Stanford have made more trips with each making their 30th appearance this year.
- Only five times this season has a team hit .200 or better against the Husker defense, including Florida (.270), Illinois (.216), Texas twice (.272 & .252), Colorado (.239) and Oklahoma (.216). In those five matches the Huskers are 3-2.
- Under Head Coach John Cook, the Huskers improved to 301-8 when winning the first set of the match after their 3-0 win over Texas A&M. The last time Nebraska won the first set and then lost the match was during the 2009 NCAA Regional Final, when Texas won 3-1 after NU took set one, 25-21.
- Four Huskers have combined for 18 double-doubles on the season, including nine from Hannah Werth, five from Tara Mueller, three from Lauren Cook and one from Sydney Anderson.
- Three Huskers have earned four All-America honors, including Sydney Anderson (2), Tara Mueller (1) and Brooke Delano (1).
A trip to the NCAA Tournament goes along with breathing at Nebraska and this year is no different as the Huskers will be making their 29th straight trip to the national tournament as the No. 2 overall seed.
2010 also marks the seventh straight season that the Huskers have opened the NCAA Tournament at home. In 28 previous appearances the Huskers have started the postseason on the road just twice, as they played in Kalamazoo, Mich. in 1983 and were sent to East Lansing, Mich. in 2003.
Nebraska, Hawaii and UCLA are all making their 29th trip this season, while only Stanford and Penn State have longer resumes with 30 appearances each.
The Huskers have been hard to beat in the NCAA Tournament and their 80-25 record proves it. Nebraska's .762 winning percentage and 80 wins are second to only Stanford in each category as the Cardinal have a winning percentage of .797 and an overall record of 94-24. Including Nebraska and Stanford, only seven teams have an all-time winning percentage in the tournament over .700. The other five teams include UCLA (.737, 73-26), Hawaii (.734, 69-25), Penn State (.725, 66-25), Florida (.718, 51-20) and USC (.707, 58-24).
After the completion of the Big 12 schedule the Huskers were all over the conference honors list. Sophomore Hannah Werth was tabbed as the Defensive Player of the Year, while Lauren Cook was picked as Newcomer of the Year and Head Coach John Cook was named Co-Head Coach of the Year along with Texas' Jerritt Elliott.
Werth was also one of three Huskers picked to the All-Big 12 first team, as she was joined by senior right side hitter Lindsey Licht and junior middle blocker Brooke Delano, who was a unanimous selection by the Big 12 coaches. Senior Kayla Banwarth was an honorable-mention selection for the second straight year, while freshman Morgan Broekhuis was a unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 Freshman team.
Fear the Coliseum
The Huskers have been making quick work of their opponents of late with 12 sweeps in their past 13 matches, including six straight entering Thursday night's match with Sacred Heart.
Nebraska has swept the last three NCAA Tournament matches its played at the NU Coliseum since Liberty took the Huskers in four sets in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
In 37 all-time first or second round matches in the Lincoln the Huskers have posted 28 sweeps. Nebraska has been taken to four sets six times and five sets just three times. The last time NU was forced to play five sets was 2000 against South Carolina. Prior to 2000, Weber State took NU to five in 1988 and Penn State did so as well in 1986.
During Big 12 play at the NU Coliseum the Huskers lost just two sets all season, with Kansas and Texas both winning a set in a pair of 3-1 Husker wins.
Haven't We Been Down this Road Before?
If the Huskers make it out of the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament they will be back on the same floor where they earned a trip to the 2008 Final Four.
The 2008 regional final against Washington was one of the most memorable matches in NU history as the Huskers battled back from a 0-2 deficit to win the match in five. Nebraska also needed a comeback in the fifth set as the Huskies jumped out to a 9-3 advantage before current senior Kayla Banwarth served eight straight points during a 9-0 NU run.
If the Huskers make it to Seattle their first round opponent would be Washington, Michigan, Portland State or the No. 15 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Hawaii. The other half of the regional includes No. 7 Cal, No. 10 Minnesota, Utah State, Mississippi, North Carolina, Iowa State, Creighton and North Dakota State.
Filling Both Hands
With the Huskers winning their 31st conference title and 12th in the Big 12 era, Head Coach John Cook now has 10 Big 12 Championship rings. Cook earned his first as an assistant coach in 1999 under Terry Pettit and has guided the Huskers to nine league titles during his tenure as head coach. Cook won three straight titles from 2000-02 and then another five in a row from 2004-08.
For the second straight season the Huskers put up a perfect 7-0 record in the month of November. Nebraska is now looking to change what happened last season when the Huskers fell one win shy of the Final Four with its loss to Texas in the regional final.
Since Head Coach John Cook took over in 2000, the Huskers have posted a perfect record in November seven times, including three straight seasons from 2000-02.
Turning the Corner
While most true freshman are breaking down at the end of the season, Nebraska's Morgan Broekhuis is getting better with every match.
The Huskers' 6-5 lefty is hitting .363 and averaging 2.58 kills per set over her past eight matches. She has hit .300 or better in seven of the eight matches, including four matches where she has hit over .400 and one match where she hit .538.
In her first 12 conference matches this season she was hitting .179 with 2.02 kills per set. During the run she had hit .300 or better just twice, with the top performance coming at home against Texas when she hit at a .333 clip.
Tara-ing it Up
Senior Tara Mueller is hitting a groove at just the right time of the season. An All-American in 2008, Mueller had struggled to find constancy at the net early in the year and was hitting just .194 entering the month of November with 2.16 kills per set.
Mueller has found new life since the start of the year's 11th month as she is hitting .368 and is averaging 2.58 kills per set along with 2.84 digs. She has also been the Huskers' most dangerous server with 0.47 aces per set. She has hit over .300 in all but one match in November as has topped .400 four times.
In her final regular-season home match at the NU Coliseum on Wednesday, Nov. 24 against Baylor, Mueller put up a match-high 12 kills on .409 hitting and added 11 digs to record her fifth double-double of the season.
In Need of an Assist?
Entering the season ranked ninth on Nebraska's career chart with 2,683 assists, senior Sydney Anderson's 593 assists this season have already moved her to fifth place on the career list with 3,276 dishes.
Against Texas Tech on Nov. 6 Anderson took over the No. 5 spot from Christy Johnson, who had totaled 3,183 assists from 1991-95.
On her way up the charts Anderson also passed Rachel Holloway (2,861), Dani Busboom (2,873) and Lori Endicott (3,117). All together the four setters she has passed this season combined for six All-America honors.
Next up for Anderson is Val Novak, who sits fourth on NU's all-time charts with 3,303 assists.
The Huskers were nearly flawless on the road this season during Big 12 play as they dropped just one match all season. Not including its 3-1 loss to Texas in Austin, the Nebraska volleyball team was 9-0.
The 2010 senior class has been the latest group to continue Nebraska's winning tradition. The team held Senior Night on Wednesday, Nov. 24 during the final regular-season match of the season when the Huskers hosted Baylor and the class improved its overall record to an impressive 112-14 (Now 113-14).
The group of Sydney Anderson, Kayla Banwarth, Lindsey Licht and Tara Mueller has won three Big 12 titles, made one Final Four appearance and led the Huskers to two trips to the NCAA Regional final.
No Place Like Home
The Huskers hold a home-court advantage at the Coliseum due to the Huskers' passionate fan base.
Nebraska currently holds a streak of 148 consecutive sellouts at the NU Coliseum, the longest sellout streak across all NCAA women's athletics. Including the Devaney Center match this season against Illinois, the Huskers have averaged 4,712 fans per home contest.
Nebraska and Hawaii are the only two programs in the country to average more than 4,000 fans per home contest, with Hawaii leading the nation with 6,136 fans per home match. Wisconsin sits third behind Nebraska with 3,737 fans per home match.
Hard to Stop
Junior middle blocker Brooke Delano has been the Huskers' most efficient attacker all season with a .418 hitting percentage. Even though Delano ranks No. 8 in the NCAA, she only ranks third in the Big 12 as she trails Texas' Rachael Adams (.436-1st) and Jennifer Doris (.427-3rd).
An All-American in 2009, Delano has hit .500 or better 11 times in 2010, including two matches where she hit over .700.
Delano is looking to become just the fourth Husker in school history to hit .400 or better in a season. Tracy Stalls was the last Husker to do so when she set the NU single-season record in 2007 when she hit .473. Stalls also hit .400 in 2006.
With her second dig of the match against Texas Tech on Saturday, Nov. 6, senior libero Kayla Banwarth took over the top spot on the NU career digs chart with the 1,569th dig of her career. Banwarth broke Jennifer Saleaumua's record of 1,568 digs.
Not only is Banwarth the top digger in NU history, but she is also one of the top diggers in Big 12 history. Entering Thursday's match the senior ranks sixth all-time on the Big 12 charts with 1,665 digs. Banwarth is one of four active liberos on the Big 12 top-10 list, including Iowa State's Ashley Mass, who hold the top mark at 2,259 digs.
Last season, Banwarth compiled 570 digs, which nearly broke Dani Busboom's 2006 single-season record of 580.
Coming off a freshman season that saw her earn Big 12 Freshman of the Year, honorable-mention All-America and honorable-mention All-Big 12 honors, Hannah Werth has continued to put up solid numbers in 2010.
Through 28 matches, the 2010 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year leads the team with nine double-doubles, including six in Big 12 play.
One on the Court
It is all about the team at Nebraska and it shows this season as the Huskers enter the NCAA Tournament ranked in the top-20 nationally in four categories, including three top-five rankings.
What makes the feat even more impressive is the fact that Nebraska only has one player that ranks in the top 50 of any individual national category as Brooke Delano enters the week ranked seventh in blocks per set (1.45) and eighth in hitting percentage (.418).
As a team the Huskers are fourth in blocks (2.99) and assists (14.12), fifth in kills (15.15) and also rank 16th in hitting percentage (.284).
Head of the CLASS
Nebraska senior setter Sydney Anderson was named one of 10 finalists for the 2010 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award on Monday, Oct. 11 for women's volleyball.
A two-time AVCA All-American, Anderson was named to the preseason All-Big 12 list and is a two-time captain for the Huskers.
The fan vote, which accounts for 1/3 of the final vote, ended on Nov. 23 and Anderson secured nearly 25% of the ballots. The win over the 2010 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award will be announced at the Final Four in Kansas City.
Nebraska's middle blockers have been a force both offensively and defensively this season. Brooke Delano, Jordan Wilberger and Allison McNeal all average nearly one block per set and each is hitting .300 or better.
Huskers Add Three for 2011
Nebraska Head Volleyball Coach John Cook announced the addition of three high school players to the Huskers' 2011 roster on Thursday, Nov. 11, including two Prepvolleyball.com's top-100 Senior Aces.
The class includes outside hitter/right side hitter Taylor Simpson (Colorado Springs, Colo.), libero/outside hitter Lara Dykstra (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and libero/defensive specialist Shelby Winkelmann (Rhineland, Mo.).
Simpson is rated as the No. 9 player in the country by Prepvolleyball.com, while Dykstra ranks 52nd. Winkelmann led her prep squad to two state titles and holds the school record in kills (1,453).
The Great Wall
The Husker defense has shutdown opposing hitters all season and for it the Huskers enter the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 4 in the country in blocks with 2.99 per set. Nebraska has posted double-digit stuffs in 13 matches this season, including 15 or more three times. It is an impressive feat as the Huskers have played more than three sets only nine times this year and to a fifth set just twice.
Along with Brooke Delano's conference-best 1.45 blocks per set, which ranked seventh nationally, Jordan Wilberger and Lindsey Licht join Delano on the Big 12 top-10 list with 1.09 (7th) and 1.08 (8th) blocks per set, respectively.
Since Head Coach John Cook took over at Nebraska in 2000, the Huskers have earned the NCAA blocking title five times, including 2000, '01, '02, '04 and '05.
Kills Keep Coming
The 2010 Huskers ranked first in the Big 12 Conference and fifth nationally with 15.15 kills per set, but Nebraska doesn't have one player on the individual Big 12 top-10 list or national top-50 list.
Nebraska spreads the wealth as five Huskers average at least two kills per set, including Lindsey Licht, (2.94), Brooke Delano (2.90), Hannah Werth (2.80), Tara Mueller (2.26) and Morgan Broekhuis (2.16).
During Big 12 play, Licht led the Huskers with 3.03 kills per set.