By Brian Rosenthal / Huskers.com
If you were looking for more drama Saturday at the Devaney Sports Center, boy, were you in the wrong place.
Check out the Young and the Restless, maybe. Set the DVR to Days of our Lives. Or read up on what Brooke and Ridge are doing.
Nebraska’s volleyball team had its fill of drama on Friday, thank you.
After an epic comeback from two sets down to defeat Penn State in five, the Huskers simply pounded Washington 25-16, 25-10, 25-21 in the NCAA Regional Finals before another standing room-only crowd.
The 3 p.m. match lasted all of 90 minutes. Remarked one fan from the crowd of 8,355 as she left the building, “I thought it would be dark when this was done.”
Nope, the Huskers left plenty of daylight to get a head start on celebrating a second consecutive trip to the Final Four.
Next stop: Columbus, Ohio, where the Huskers seek to do what no other Nebraska volleyball team has done – win consecutive national championships.
“(We won) in 2000, and we came back and went to the final four in 2001, and (we won) in 2006, we didn’t make it (in 2007), so this is our next shot to get out,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “It’s a hard thing to do, and we’re trying now, we’ve got one goal left to make history here.”
Husker players took a victory lap around the Devaney Center court and slapped hands with fans in what was the final appearance here for the Nebraska seniors.
“It was a great four years playing before the best fans in college volleyball,” senior Kadie Rolfzen said.
This is the third straight year Nebraska has eliminated Washington from the NCAA Tournament, and the Huskers (31-2) did so in dominating fashion against the Pac-12 champions.
“Really, really pleased with how we came out tonight,” Cook said. “Yesterday was a very, very tough match, and to get through that, sometimes you’re going to get almost like a second wind in confidence after what we went through yesterday, and I thought we played at a really high level tonight and never let Washington really get comfortable in the Devaney or in the match.
“Just a really, really impressive effort by this group and what a way for our seniors to play their last match in Devaney.”
Cook didn’t hesitate to answer when asked if his group played with more confidence Saturday than it did Friday.
“No question,” he said, referencing the difficulty of defeating conference rival Penn State a third time this season. “To get through that, it’s a huge mental barrier, it’s weight off of us, and we played so much freer today than we did yesterday.”
Nebraska trailed by a couple of points early in the third set but otherwise wasn’t threatened. It bolted to a 9-0 lead in game two.
“I knew we had that fight in us from yesterday,” Rolfzen said. “Just going out there and continuing that was something I felt throughout the whole day. This result didn’t surprise me just because we were really excited and we were just playing loose.”
Senior Andie Malloy had 15 kills on .500 hitting as Nebraska hit .437.
Meanwhile, the Huskers held Washington to .088 hitting, and limited the Huskies to four blocks after they had 15 Friday against Arizona.
“To do that in a regional final is very impressive,” Cook said of the hitting differential.
Now, the Huskers face former Big 12 Conference foe Texas in the national semifinals on Thurday at 8:30 p.m. CST. The match will be televised on ESPN.
“We were just happy to get there. We didn’t know we were going to win,” setter Kelly Hunter said of last year’s Final Four trip in Omaha. “Obviously, that’s everyone’s goal, but our main goal was to get there.
“And then, our main goal this season is to win it all.”
Reach Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.