The Nebraska volleyball team earned a program-record fourth straight trip to the NCAA Semifinals after a 3-0 sweep over the No. 14 Oregon Ducks on Saturday night at Minnesota’s Maturi Pavilion.
The defending national champion Huskers – with eight new players on the roster this season – became the sixth program in NCAA history to reach four consecutive final fours, joining Pacific, Penn State, Stanford, Texas and UCLA.
Nebraska (28-6) won its 12th straight match, stopping a high-flying Oregon squad that had upset No. 2 Minnesota on the Golden Gophers’ home court on Friday in the regional semifinal. The Huskers held the Ducks to a .250 hitting percentage, and offensively Nebraska hit .345 in the 25-22, 25-23, 25-17 win.
Mikaela Foecke, the regional’s most outstanding player, had 16 kills and 13 digs, hitting .400. Lauren Stivrins had 11 kills and hit .526, and Nicklin Hames tallied 41 assists and 15 digs. All three were named to the all-regional team.
Lexi Sun tacked on 10 kills, while Jazz Sweet had five. Kenzie Maloney added 12 digs. Nebraska out-blocked Oregon, 5-2, and had a 53-47 edge in digs.
The win was Nebraska’s 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament win dating back to an NCAA Semifinal loss to Texas in 2016. The 10-match postseason win streak is tied for the longest NCAA Tournament winning streak in program history (NU also won 10 straight matches from 2000-01 and 2015-16).
The Huskers will play No. 3 Illinois, led by former Husker assistant coach Chris Tamas, in an NCAA Semifinal match next Thursday. The 2018 NCAA Championships will be played at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Tickets can be purchased at NCAA.com/tickets. The semifinals will be played on Thursday, Dec. 13 at 6 and 8 p.m. (Central). The final is set for Saturday, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. Both NCAA Semifinals and the NCAA Final will air on ESPN2.
Set 1: Back-to-back kills by Stivrins and an Oregon tip wide gave the Huskers their first lead of the set at 6-5, but Oregon regained a 10-8 lead after a 4-1 spurt. The Ducks increased their lead to 13-10 after three straight kills. Foecke posted a sideout kill for the Huskers, and Stivrins and Sweet blocked an Oregon attack to cut the deficit to one. Sun and Stivrins tipped home kills on consecutive rallies to put the Huskers up 16-15. After four sideouts, Hames served an ace to give the Huskers a two-point lead for the first time in the set, 19-17, and Oregon called timeout. The Huskers committed a pair of service errors, and an Oregon kill knotted the score at 20-20. But Oregon committed three unforced hitting errors on the next three rallies to put Nebraska back in front, 23-20. The Huskers earned set point at 24-21 via an Oregon service error, and Foecke tipped home the winner at 25-22. NU hit .400 in the set, while Oregon hit .294.
Set 2: Oregon held the early advantage again, taking a 6-3 lead after six kills from five different players. The Ducks went ahead 10-6 with their eighth kill on their 17th swing, and Nebraska took a timeout. The Huskers trailed 12-7 when Sun, Schwarzenbach and Sweet put down kills to trim the deficit to two. The Ducks continued their efficient attack, however, and regained a four-point lead at 16-12. Nebraska was down 18-14 when Foecke and Sun connected on kills as part of a spurt that cut it to 18-17. Nebraska then won a challenge that Oregon had four hits before a kill that would have made it 19-17 Ducks. Instead, it became 18-18. The score remained tied at 19-19 before Oregon mishandled a serve by Sun, and Nebraska took a 20-19 lead, its first of the set. The Ducks responded with a kill by Lauren Page and one by Taylor Borup for a 21-20 lead. Foecke put the Huskers back on top, 22-21, with a kill and a block with Stivrins. With the score tied 23-23, Foecke terminated for the 10th time for set point for the Big Red. Stivrins found the floor with a tip on the slide to win the set for the Huskers, 25-23.
Set 3: The Huskers scored four in a row to take a 5-2 lead, capped by a block by Schwarzenbach and Sweet. The Ducks charged back to take a 7-6 lead after a 5-1 run. Nebraska answered with a 4-0 run, keyed by a block by Foecke and Stivrins and an ace by Megan Miller. Hames and Sweet notched back-to-back kills to make it 14-10. Foecke added another kill and an Oregon hitting error and a kill by Sweet put the Huskers up by five, 18-13. Nebraska scored seven of the final 10 points down the stretch to clinch their fourth straight final four bid with a 25-17 win.