Huskers Capture Share of Big 12 Title
Lincoln - Tracy Stalls tied an NCAA record by putting down 13 kills on 13 swings for a perfect 1.000 attack percentage, as the Husker volleyball team sent Stalls and NU's three other seniors out in style Saturday night with a 30-18, 30-10, 30-11 sweep of Texas Tech.
Stalls' perfect evening marked the second time in school history that a Husker had enjoyed a perfect attack percentage, as Megan Korver was a perfect 10-for-10 against Iowa State on Sept. 25, 1998. Only two players in NCAA history – Katie Silliman of Arkansas State (10/11/98) and Angie Jeffries of UMKC (10/8/99) – had had more kills while hitting 1.000 in a match.
The Huskers’ senior class of Stalls, Maggie Griffin, Christina Houghtelling and Sarah Pavan all starred as Nebraska clinched a share of the Big 12 title and the automatic bid into next week’s NCAA Tournament. The Huskers (27-1, 19-1 Big 12) shared the conference crown with Texas, as the Longhorns completed a 19-1 conference mark with a sweep of No. 12 Kansas State.
Nebraska Coach John Cook said it was an emotional night for the seniors, who became just the second class at Nebraska to win four straight Big 12 titles. It was NU’s 10th Big 12 title in the last 12 years and the 29th conference crown in 32 seasons of league competition.
A sellout crowd of 4,149 turned Saturday’s match into one long celebration, with thunderous standing ovations that brought the seniors to tears even before the match. The win was the Huskers’ 70th straight at the NU Coliseum, as the Huskers completed a perfect home slate.
“It’s been building up for a long time as seniors,” Cook said. “You can see, based on the rest of the team, how they respond and how close they are and how much they really care for each other. They were a mess; they were bawling before introductions before the match, but played great tonight.”
With Griffin earning the starting nod for the first time this season, the Huskers were precise, hitting .472 on the match for their second-best hitting percentage of the year. Griffin totaled season highs in assists (40) and digs (nine) while recording her first three blocks and first kill of the year.
Cook said the Griffin got Stalls going in a groove early on and the momentum built from there
“Maggie did a great job of setting Tracy tonight and gave her great swings,” Cook said. “Tracy was seeing everything and hitting wherever she wanted off the block. It’s got to be a fun way for her to end her senior night.”
Besides Stalls' record-breaking performance, fellow senior Sarah Pavan had a match-high 18 kills on only 25 swings, while tying a career high with five aces. Fellow senior Christina Houghtelling collected her 10th double-double of the year with 10 kills on 20 swings and 10 digs while also matching her season high with three aces.
It was too much Pavan in the opener, as the Huskers rolled to a 30-18 victory. The senior right-side hitter nearly single-handedly matched Texas Tech’s kill total with 10 kills on just 13 swings, as Griffin guided the Huskers to a .455 team hitting percentage. The Huskers took control midway through the game, as Pavan had four kills in a 7-2 spurt that turned a two-point lead into a 15-8 cushion. Leading 16-9, Nebraska salted the game by winning six of the next eight rallies, including two straight aces from Houghtelling that made it 22-10.
The Huskers’ strong serving continued into game two, as the Huskers racked up five aces in a 30-10 win. Houghtelling and Stalls combined for 11 kills on 12 swings as the Huskers hit .552 on 29 swings. Pavan once again shined in game two, as she was on serve for a dominating 15-0 run that turned a 7-5 game into a 22-5 Husker advantage, totaling four service aces during the run.
Game three concluded in similar fashion, as strong serving runs from Pavan and Stalls helped the Huskers cruise to a 30-11 win. NU hit .407 in the final game, while the Red Raiders had seven kills and seven errors in 34 swings. Houghtelling and Pavan totaled four kills apiece, while the Huskers totaled 4.5 blocks and held the Red Raiders to .000 hitting.
Texas Tech hit just .079, the fourth-lowest opponent total of the season and the third opponent in the last four matches to hit under .100. Amy Gandy finished with a team-high 11 kills in a losing effort for the Red Raiders (7-22, 1-19 Big 12).
Nebraska finished the regular-season with a 27-1 record and the second-ranked Huskers will learn their NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday night, when the field of 64 is announced live on ESPNU at 7 p.m.