Huskers Open Big 12 Slate at No. 18 Kansas State

By NU Athletic Communications

This Week in Husker Volleyball

No. 2 Nebraska (8-0) at  No. 18 Kansas State (10-1)
Wednesday, Sept. 17 Manhattan, Kan. (Ahean Fieldhouse) 7 p.m.
Radio: Husker Sports Network, including B107.3 FM in Lincoln and Twister 93.3 FM in Omaha, and on Huskers.com
Live Stats: Huskers.com
Live Video: HuskersNside (subscription required)
TV: None

No. 2 Nebraska vs. No. 3 Texas (6-1)
Saturday, Sept. 20 NU Coliseum 7 p.m.
Radio: Husker Sports Network, including B107.3 FM in Lincoln and Twister 93.3 FM in Omaha, and on Huskers.com
Live Stats: Huskers.com
Live Video: Huskers.com (free video)
TV: NET Television (Ch. 12 and Ch. 112 in HD)

The Nebraska volleyball team opens the Big 12 portion of its schedule Wednesday night, as the second-ranked Huskers venture to Manhattan, Kan., for a showdown with the No. 18 Kansas State Wildcats. First serve from Ahearn Fieldhouse is set for 7 p.m. and fans can listen to all of the action with John Baylor and Lindsay Peterson on the 25-station Husker Sports Network, including B107.3 FM in Lincoln and Twister 93.3 FM in Omaha, and on the Internet at Huskers.com. In addition, live video streaming of Wednesday’s match will also be available to HuskerNside subscribers.

Wednesday’s contest features a pair of ranked team who are a combined 18-1 this season and have dropped eight sets between them. The Huskers and Wildcats were picked to finish second and third, respectively, in the league’s preseason poll and have combined to win or share the last nine Big 12 titles.

The Huskers come off a strong effort last weekend, sweeping LSU and New Mexico to win the Ameritas Players Challenge. Nebraska, which has recorded six straight sweeps, hit .352 in the two matches last weekend. Middle blocker Kori Cooper led the charge with 2.50 kills per set on .636 hitting along with 1.50 blocks per set to join outside hitter Jordan Larson and setter Sydney Anderson on the all-tournament team. Larson was chosen as MVP after averaging 3.83 kills, 0.67 blocks and 0.50 service aces per set, including 14 kills in the sweep of LSU.

The sweeps wrapped up a rigorous preconference schedule for the Huskers that included a national-best three wins over ranked teams (No. 2 Stanford, No. 4 USC and No. 14 Cal Poly), as well as victories over an LSU club that was picked to finish second in the SEC and a New Mexico squad that had not dropped a set before falling to the Huskers in Saturday’s championship match.

Kansas State is riding an eight-match win streak following a 3-0 showing last weekend. The Wildcats, whose only loss came at then-No. 25 Purdue in the opening week of the season, feature one of the best offensive attacks in the league, led by seniors Rita Liliom (4.51 kills/set) and Natalya Korobkova (3.08 kills per set). KSU is second in the Big 12 with a .291 team hitting percentage.

Worth Noting
-Friday’s crowd against LSU smashed the NCAA regular-season single-match attendance record for the third time in the last two years. It is also the fourth time under Coach John Cook that NU has broken the NCAA single-match attendance record, and the eight-largest crowds all involve the Huskers.
-Jordan Larson needs one more ace to match Val Novak’s school record of 161 career service aces. What marks Larson’s attempt at history more impressive is that she has played significantly less matches than Novak. Larson will play her 109th match at Nebraska on Wednesday, while Novak played in 136 career matches.
-Nebraska’s defense continues to be stout, as the Huskers held LSU and New Mexico under .150 hitting. The Huskers have not allowed an opponent to hit over .200 this season, and have held their last five opponents to a combined .098 hitting percentage.
-Wednesday’s matchup features two of the Big 12’s top offensive clubs, as Kansas State (.291, second) and Nebraska (.276, third) rank among the conference leaders in hitting percentage.
-The Huskers are 8-0 in Big 12 openers under John Cook and 2008 marks the second straight year that NU has opened the league against a ranked foe. Last fall, Nebraska swept. No. 7 Texas in its Big 12 opener.
-Nebraska is 76-4 (.950) on the road in Big 12 action in eight seasons under Coach John Cook.
-Nebraska is now 89-13 (.873) against ranked opponents under John Cook, including 17 wins over top-five ranked team.
-Entering this week, NU’s three wins over ranked teams were the most by any school in the country.
-Two-time All-American Jordan Larson picked up her 39th career double-double against Cal Poly on Sept. 6 after totaling 11 kills and 11 digs. The Huskers are 38-1 when Larson records a double-double.
-The Huskers have won their last 75 home matches dating back to the 2004 season. It is now the second-longest home win streak in NCAA volleyball history, trailing Penn State’s record of 87 set between 1995 and 2000.
-Nebraska has won its last eight meetings with Kansas State, including five contests where both teams have been ranked.

Scouting Kansas State
Under Head Coach Suzie Fritz (157-72 in 8 years), Kansas State has been annually among the Big 12’s best programs. This fall, KSU comes into Wednesday’s match with a 10-1 record and an eight-match win streak. The Wildcats are led by senior outside hitter Rita Liliom, who leads the Big 12 in kills (4.51/set) and points (5.09/set) and was named the Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday. Liliom is one of four Wildcats averaging better than two kills per set. All-Big 12 performer Natalya Korobkova averages 3.08 kills and 1.00 blocks per set, while middle blockers Megan Farr (2.05 kills per set on .433 hitting and 1.34 blocks per set) and Kelsey Chipman (2.37 kills per set on .388 hitting) provide a solid duo on the inside.

Series History: Nebraska leads the all-time series, 76-3 dating back to 1975, and has won the last eight meetings. The Huskers are 34-1 all-time in Manhattan against the Wildcats. The Huskers are 14-2 against the Wildcats under John Cook.

Last Meeting:  Behind a season-high 31 kills from Sarah Pavan, No. 2 Nebraska overcame a 2-0 deficit to rally for a 3-2 victory against No. 12 Kansas State, 24-30, 27-30, 30-25, 30-19, 15-8 at Ahearn Field House. Pavan blistered the Wildcats for a Big 12-high 31 kills on .375 hitting. Pavan’s effort led the comeback, as the Huskers hit over .300 in each of the final three contests, including .579 in the finale, as NU played error-free ball. Tracy Stalls totaled 15 kills on .480 hitting and a season-high nine blocks, while Jordan Larson chipped in 12 kills and four blocks.

Husker Probable Starters
MB - #17 Amanda Gates: 6-2, Sr., Columbus, Neb. - Gates brings extensive experience in her fourth season in the program and first as a full-time starter. She averages 1.21 kills and a team-best 1.17 blocks per set, ranking seventh in the Big 12 in that category. Gates has led NU in blocks three times in 2008, including five in a win at No. 14 Cal Poly on Sept. 6.  She turned in her best match against No. 4 USC on Aug. 31 with seven kills on .357 hitting and six blocks. Gates averaged 1.29 kills and 0.81 blocks per set over 16 matches in 2007. She had her best match of the year against Texas A&M on Sept. 22, recording a career-high eight kills on .429 hitting and two blocks. As a sophomore, Gates appeared in 23 matches and had a career-high 10 blocks against San Diego in her first career start. Gates will also contend for academic honors, carrying a 3.96 GPA in communication studies.

MB - #15 Kori Cooper: 6-2, Jr., Amarillo, Texas - Cooper begins her third season as one of the Huskers’ middle blockers. A preseason All-Big 12 selection, Cooper is averaging 2.08 kills on .424 hitting and 1.08 blocks per set, ranking third in the Big 12 in hitting percentage. She comes off her best weekend of the year, averaging 2.50 kills on .636 hitting and 1.50 blocks per set at the Players Challenge to earn all-tournament honors. Cooper had eight kills and four stuffs against LSU before totaling seven kills on eight swings and five blocks in a sweep of New Mexico. She had a season-best nine kills and six stuffs against No. 4 USC on Aug. 21 and has hit .500 or better four times this season. Last year, Cooper averaged 2.31 kills and 1.01 blocks per set, ranking seventh in the Big 12 in hitting percentage (.356). She reached double figures in kills in seven matches, highlighted by a career-high 14 kills in a five-set win against Missouri. She finished 2007 on a strong note, hitting over .400 in both of the Huskers’ NCAA Regional matches. Cooper was one of NU’s starting middle blockers as a freshman, averaging 1.67 kills and 0.95 blocks per set in 30 contests. Cooper also carries a 3.81 GPA in speech language pathology.

S - #1 Sydney Anderson: 6-0, So., Alta, Utah - Anderson is in her first season at Nebraska after spending the 2007 season with the U.S. National Team in Colorado Springs. Anderson, who was chosen as the Big 12’s Preseason Newcomer of the Year, is averaging 11.16 assists, 2.12 digs, and 0.44 aces per set. She is second in the league in assists and fourth in service aces. Anderson has been named to the all-tournament team in all three of NU’s tournaments in 2008. Last weekend, Anderson averaged 10.67 assists, 1.33 kills (on .667 hitting) and 2.67 digs a set in a pair of sweeps. Two weeks ago at the Cal Poly Tournament, she averaged 11.67 assists per set, including 39 assists and 10 digs in a win over No. 14 Cal Poly. She earned Big 12 Newcomer-of-the-Week accolades for the first time on Sept. 2 after guiding the Huskers to a perfect 3-0 week. Anderson had a career-high five aces in the win over No. 4 USC. She was a member of the U.S. A-2 National Team at the USA Open in both 2007 and 2008. Anderson began her collegiate career at Utah, earning first-team All-Mountain West Conference honors in 2006. That year, she averaged 12.45 assists, 2.77 digs and 0.76 blocks per set en route to being named both the Mountain West Conference Setter and Freshman of the Year. Anderson totaled nine double-doubles on the year, including a 64-assist, 19-dig performance against Wyoming.

L - #2 Kayla Banwarth: 5-10, So., Dubuque, Iowa - Banwarth is in her first full season as NU’s libero, averaging 4.00 digs and 0.68 assists per set, ranking fourth in the Big 12 in digs. She has reached double figures in digs seven times in eight matches and in 14 of her 16 career starts at NU. She earned a spot on the AVCA Showcase All-Tournament team after averaging 4.85 digs per set in wins over No. 2 Stanford and No. 4 USC, including 20 against the Women of Troy. Banwarth closed the 2007 season as Nebraska’s libero, earning the start in NU’s last nine matches and averaging 4.24 digs and 0.69 assists per set in that span. She averaged 2.75 digs, 0.45 assists and 0.17 service aces per set. Banwarth totaled a career-high 21 digs in a five-set win over Michigan State in the NCAA Regional semifinal. She was a three-time all-state selection at Wahlert Catholic High School in Iowa and was a Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 selection in 2007.
DS - #5 Rachel Schwartz: 5-9, Sr., Lincoln, Neb. -  Schwartz is NU’s defensive specialist, averaging 1.68 assists and 0.32 aces per set while appearing in all eight matches. She had seven digs in each match last weekend, and showed off her serving at Cal Poly two weeks ago with three consecutive aces against Tulane on Sept. 6. Schwartz ranked 11th in the Big 12 in digs in 2007, averaging a career-high 3.66 digs and 0.16 service aces per set. She totaled double figures in digs in 17 matches, including a career-best 21 digs against  MU.

-or- OPP - #4 Lindsey Licht: 6-5, So., Aurora, Colo. - Licht moves into the right side hitter spot replacing four-year All-American Sarah Pavan. She has averaged 2.56 kills and 0.95 blocks per set this season and has hit .450 or better in a pair of matches. Licht tied her career high with 10 kills and added four blocks against LSU on Sept. 12.  She had a career-best 10 kills on .450 hitting against No. 2 Stanford and had a career-high eight blocks against No. 4 USC. As a freshman, Licht appeared in 13 matches, averaging 0.59 kills per set in 25 contests. Licht was a two-time Mizuno/Volleyball Magazine All-American and was a Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 selection in 2007.

OH - #10 Jordan Larson: 6-2, Sr., Hooper, Neb. - Larson  is a two-time All-American and one of the nation’s best outside hitters. She was chosen as the preseason Big 12 Co-Player of the Year with Texas’ Juliann Faucette. This fall, Larson is averaging 3.52 kills, 2.76 digs and 0.52 service aces per set, ranking third in the league in aces, fifth in points and sixth in kills. She has been named to the all-tournament teams in each of NU’s first three events and was chosen as MVP of the Players Challenge after averaging 3.83 kills, 0.60 aces and 0.67 blocks per set. She had 11 kills and 11 digs in a win at No. 14 Cal Poly on Sept. 5 and earned AVCA Showcase All-Tournament honors after totaling 27 kills, six service aces and 19 digs in wins over No. 2 Stanford and No. 4 USC. Larson was a third-team AVCA All-American in 2007 after averaging 3.45 kills, 3.18 digs, 0.51 aces and 0.63 blocks per set. She turned in one of the best efforts of her career in the NCAA Madison Regional semifinal against No. 24 Michigan State with a  season-high 20 kills and 17 digs in a five-set comeback. She averaged 4.13 kills and 3.50 digs per set in 2006 and was the only player in the Big 12 to rank in the top 10 in both categories.

OH - #19 Tara Mueller: 6-0, So., Scottsdale, Ariz. - Mueller moves into the starting outside hitter role and  averages 3.20 kills and 1.76 digs per set. She has been in double figures in kills four times, including 12 kills and three aces against New Mexico on Sept. 13. Mueller was selected to the  Cal Poly all-tournament team after averaging 3.67 kills, 1.67 digs and 0.78 blocks per set. She matches her personal best with 15 kills against Tulane on Sept. 6 and had 13 kills on .440 hitting and seven digs against No. 14 Cal Poly on Sept. 5. Mueller opened the year with a career-best 15 kills in a sweep of No. 2 Stanford on Aug. 29.  Mueller averaged 1.27 kills on .211 hitting, 0.95 digs and 0.36 blocks per set in 13 matches in 2007. A Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 selection, Mueller was the 2005 Gatorade Player of the Year in Arizona and started for the U.S. Junior National Team in 2007.

Weekend Recap
 vs. New Mexico: No. 2 Nebraska wrapped up its final test before the start of conference play, sweeping unbeaten New Mexico, 3-0 to win the Ameritas Players Challenge. The Huskers jumped on the Lobos quickly, using a fast start and an amped up NU Coliseum crowd to take control and cruise to their 75th consecutive home win. The Huskers hit .320 in the match and held the Lobos to .125 hitting in handing New Mexico its first loss in nine matches. Tara Mueller keyed the Husker effort with a team-best 12 kills and a career-high three aces.  All-American Jordan Larson nearly posted a double-double of her own with nine kills, 10 digs and a pair of service aces. Larson was selected as the tournament MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by setter Sydney Anderson (31 assists, seven digs and five kills on .833 hitting) and middle blocker Kori Cooper (seven kills on .875 hitting and five blocks).

vs. LSU: No. 2 Nebraska thrilled an NCAA record crowd with a 25-19, 25-15, 25-20 sweep of LSU in  front of an NCAA regular-season record crowd of 13,412 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. The Huskers were proficient offensively, hitting .387 on the match after committing just three hitting miscues through the first two sets. All-American Jordan Larson paced an efficient night for the Husker offense, pounding 14 kills while attacking at a .375 clip. Lindsey Licht added 10 kills on 22 swings, while Sydney Anderson dished out 33 assists and added nine digs to help the Huskers improve to 7-0 on the year.  NU also got solid efforts out of middle blockers Kori Cooper and Amanda Gates, who combined for 12 kills on .435 hitting and six blocks.

Sophomores Step Up in 2008
 After replacing four All-Americans, Nebraska needed its sophomore class to step to the forefront this fall. The Huskers are starting four sophomores - setter Sydney Anderson, libero Kayla Banwarth, right side hitter Linsdey Licht and outside hitter Tara Mueller - and all four have helped the Huskers to a quick start. The group had combined for only 11 starts at Nebraska last season - including 10 starts at libero by Banwarth and Mueller. The group has combined for nearly half of Nebraska’s total of kills and aces, as well as most of the Huskers’ assist and dig totals.

Larson Aims for Ace Mark
Jordan Larson enters the week about to claim one of Nebraska volleyball’s oldest records. The two-time All-American heads into Wednesday’s Big 12 opener at Kansas State with 160 career aces, one shy of Val Novak’s school mark. Novak’s school mark of aces is the third-oldest record currently on NU’s school list and has been on the books since 1990. Larson will have her work cut out for her against Kansas State, which has allowed only two aces to Larson over the last three years.
 
Anderson Sets Her Sights on Big 12
Sydney Anderson has been an impact transfer in her first season as a Husker. The Salt Lake City, Utah, native is second the Big 12 in assists (11.16) and fourth in service aces (0.44) while averaging nearly a kill per game. She is bidding to become the first Husker to lead the Big 12 in assists, and has lived up to the billing as the league’s top newcomer. 

Anderson has claimed the league’s newcomer-of-the-week accolade twice this season, helping the Huskers to an 8-0 record. She has been tabbed for all-tournament teams in all three of Nebraska’s tournament efforts.  Last weekend, Anderson averaged 10.67 assists, 1.33 kills (on .667 hitting) and 2.67 digs a set, helping the Huskers hit .352 as a team in a pair of sweeps of LSU and New Mexico. 

Two weeks ago, Anderson averaged 11.67 assists, 2.11 digs and 0.78 kills per set on .462 hitting at the Paso Robles Marriott Invitational, highlighted by a 39-assist, 10-dig effort against No. 14 Cal Poly.   In her first week as a Husker, Anderson led NU to wins over No. 2 Stanford and No. 4 USC, averaging 11.00 assists, 0.90 kills, 0.70 service aces and 1.80 digs per set. Anderson enjoyed season bests in assists (41) and service aces (five) in a win over the Women of Troy.

Crowd Pleasers
Nebraska has traditionally shown the ability to draw big crowds, and 2008 has been no different. Not only did the Huskers break the NCAA regular-season single-match reord for attendance against LSU on Sept. 12, but they have been involved in the three largest crowds of 2008. NU leads the nation in average attendance (7,220) and that does not include the Runza/AVCA Showcase matches in Omaha.

Larson Joins 1,000-1,000 Club
Outside hitter Jordan Larson joined an exclusive club in Husker history in 2007, becoming just the third Nebraska player to ever record both 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs.  She joined two-time All-American Jennifer Saleaumua and Eileen Shannon in that illustrious list and was the first player to reach that milestone before her senior campaign.

Larson has continued to climb on Husker career charts, sitting in fourth place on Nebraska’s digs list and needs eight digs to tie Lindsay Peterson for third.  She enters the Kansas State match needing 22 kills to tie Jennifer Saleaumua for 10th place on the Huskers’ all-time kills list.

KGB Spies on Opposing Hitters
For Kayla Grace Banwarth, shutting down the opposition has been her speciality. Since moving into the starting lineup at libero at the end of last season, the sophomore has been a force in the Husker lineup.

She has reached double figures in 15 of her 17 career starts, including 21 digs in last year’s NCAA Regional against No. 24 Michigan State and a season-high 20 digs in a win over No. 4 USC. She is currently fourth in the Big 12 in digs with 4.00 digs per set and is on pace to be only the third Husker to average at least four digs per set. Banwarth’s defensive efforts have been instrumental, as Nebraska limited six of its eight opponents to under .150 hitting.

Cooper in the Middle
 Junior middle blocker Kori Cooper has been one of the Huskers’ most efficent hitters during her time at Nebraska. She has a career .360 hitting percentage in 68 matches and has ranked among Big 12 hitting leaders in all three years. She has 23 career matches where she has hit .400 or better (with a minimum of 10 swings) and is hitting a personal-best .424 in 2008 to rank third in the conference and 15th nationally in hitting percentage. Cooper also is averaging a career-best 1.08 blocks per set to rank second on the squad. 

Huskers Relish Role as Underdogs
Nebraska’s two wins at the Runza/AVCA Showcase in August marked a first in the John Cook era. The Huskers had defeated only one higher ranked foe in Cook’s eight season at Nebraska and none since 2000. At the Runza/AVCA Showcase, the Huskers accomplished the feat twice, sweeping No. 2 Stanford before downing No. 4 USC two days later. Nebraska is now 3-3 against higher ranked foes under Cook.

What a Showcase
Nebraska has enjoyed tremendous success in the AVCA Showcase under John Cook. The Huskers are a perfect 8-0 in the event in its last four appearances (2001, 2005, 2007, 2008), collecting six wins over top-five teams in that stretch.

Huskers on Television
 The Nebraska volleyball team will get plenty of television exposure during the 2008 season, as 12 matches have been selected for television broadcast.  Because of the television announcements, two starting match times have been changed from the originally published schedule. NU’s match at Missouri on Sunday, Oct. 12, will now start at Noon, while the Huskers’ contest at Texas on Wednesday, Nov. 19, has a first serve of 8 p.m.

No Place Like Home
From Lincoln to Omaha to North Platte, Nebraska has enjoyed overwhelming support across the state. The Huskers have won their last 80 matches inside the state’s borders, including matches in Omaha and North Platte, dating back to a loss to Florida A&M in 2004. 
With the two wins last weekend, the Huskers extended their home-court win streak to 75 matches - the second-longest streak in NCAA history. It is the longest home winning streak since Penn State’s NCAA record of 87 matches between 1995 and 2000. NU is the only program to have a pair of home win streaks of at least 60 matches.

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