Lincoln, Neb. – The Nebraska volleyball team cut down its errors and turned up its defensive intensity in the final two sets of a 3-1 win over Liberty in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the NU Coliseum on Friday evening.
After dominating the first set 25-11, Nebraska committed 10 hitting errors as Liberty took set two, 25-21. Big 12 Player of the Year Jordan Larson then put down seven kills on 10 swings as Nebraska hit .448 to take the third set, 25-15. The Huskers closed out the match by recording four blocks and pounding out 14 kills in a 25-19 victory in set three.
The win was Nebraska’s 86th consecutive home win, a total that ranks second in NCAA history and is just one shy of tying Penn State’s record of 87 straight home wins. The 28-2 Huskers will try to tie the record on Saturday, when they face UAB at 5 p.m. in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
Nebraska hit .250 in the match and held Liberty to a .134 attack percentage. The Huskers also added 10 blocks and six aces, but 21 hitting errors and seven service errors helped keep the match close. Larson led NU with a double-double, her eighth in Nebraska’s last nine matches. The two-time All-American finished with a match-high 16 kills, while adding 11 digs and three blocks. Amanda Gates chipped in 11 kills and four blocks, while Tara Mueller totaled 15 kills. Jordan Wilberger also had a nice match, finishing with seven kills on 10 error-free swings in her NCAA Tournament debut.
Liberty was led by Karyl Bacon, who had 13 kills. Nicki Scripko nearly added a double-double with 12 kills and nine digs, as the Lady Flames finished their season with a 25-9 record.
In the first set, Nebraska cruised to a 25-11 win. The Huskers hit .344 in the opening set and recorded four blocks while holding Liberty to a .000 attack percentage. The set was close early before Nebraska took control. NU led 9-6 and used a 9-1 run to pull in front 18-7. The Huskers then used a four-point run to build a 24-10 lead before Larson ended the set with a kill.
Set two was a different story, as Liberty led the entire way. The Lady Flames raced to a 6-1 lead behind the serve of Kelly Haseman and never looked back. Nebraska chipped away at the lead and pulled within 10-9 to force a Liberty timeout. The Lady Flames responded to the timeout, building a 16-11 lead and forcing a Nebraska timeout. NU pulled to within three on four occasions late, but could get no closer. The Huskers were error-prone in the set, committing 10 hitting errors, one service error, one blocking error and one ball handling error. Liberty matched NU with 13 kills, but out-hit Nebraska .258-.073.
Nebraska never trailed in taking the third set. The Huskers jumped out to a 4-0 lead to force a quick Liberty timeout. The Lady Flames answered with four straight points of their own before NU went on to forge an 11-6 advantage with a 5-0 run. Nebraska continued to gradually pull away from there, as Liberty spent its final timeout trailing 20-13. The Huskers went up by 10 before Larson put away a kill on NU’s third set point. Larson had seven kills in the set on only 10 swings to put the Huskers in control of the match.
After seeing only five ties and two lead changes through the first three sets, the teams traded leads twice and tied eight times early in set four. Nebraska trailed 10-9 before Larson pounded a kill and combined with Gates for a block. Kayla Banwarth followed with an ace and Liberty called a timeout trailing 12-10. The Huskers added three more points after the timeout to take a five-point lead and cap a 6-0 run. Liberty would get no closer than three the rest of the way, as a Gates solo block closed out the match.