LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska is headed back to the Sweet 16 after a sweep over TCU on Saturday night. The Huskers never trailed as they knocked off the Horned Frogs 25-22, 25-12, 25-6 in front of a crowd of 8,024 at the Devaney Center.
With the win, the Huskers join Stanford as the only programs in the country to win 100 or more NCAA Tournament games.
The entire match saw just four ties – all in the third set – as Nebraska jumped on TCU early in each set. Nebraska held TCU to .056 hitting and a 43 percent success rate on sideouts.
“I thought our team got off to a great start in every game and really put a lot of pressure on TCU,” Coach John Cook said. “I thought they played some real good defense, they served really tough, but I thought our block and defense put a lot of stress on them and they couldn’t ever really get in a sideout routine or rhythm.”
Nebraska built up a nine-point lead twice in the first set and earned set point at 24-20. TCU scored the next two points to make it a game and then something bizarre happened. Kadie Rolfzen attacked right into a TCU block and had the ball bounce right back in her face – literally. The ball bounced off the bridge of her nose, flew over the net and fell to the ground for game point. Rolfzen said it was the second time this season that happened as she had a ball bounce off the top of her head and fall on the other side of the net against Florida.
“I knew what happened,” Rolfzen said. “I knew it hit me and I knew it went over the net, but I don’t know what they were doing. I just watched the ball hit the floor … It was a different way to end a set, I guess.”
“We’ll take kills anyway we can get them,” Cook chipped in.
The second set was total domination. With the score showing 12-8 Nebraska, the Huskers ripped off an 11-0 run with junior libero Justine Wong-Orantes at the service line.
“It honestly just felt like we were having fun, and that’s what happens when we have fun is we just play loose and we just enjoy everything,” Rolfzen said about the run. “I just thought we did a lot of things well during that stretch and as you can see, we won 11 points in a row.”
TCU scored a few points late but a TCU service error ended the set. TCU actually out-killed Nebraska 10-9 in the set, but the Horned Frogs also committed 11 attack errors to just two for the Huskers.
The Horned Frogs battled early in the third and tied the match four times, but Nebraska gradually pulled away to close out the sweep.
Kadie Rolfzen finished with a game-high 14 kills on .400 hitting with seven blocks, four digs and two assists.
“We went into the match knowing that we had a good match-up with Kadie on their left sides,” Cook said. “She was mainly on No. 2 the first two games and that was a good match-up for us, and they were fronting our middles going away so Kadie had a lot of one-on-ones tonight and made them pay.”
Sophomore outside hitter Mikaela Foecke added 10 kills while junior setter Kelly Hunter recorded a double-double with 28 assists and 10 digs while junior defensive specialist Annika Albrecht finished with 10 digs of her own.
Wong-Orantes was the defensive star of the night, however, tying Nebraska’s postseason record for a three-set match with 24 digs, 14 of which came in the first set alone. She is now the Huskers’ all-time leader in career postseason digs.
“We just all know that she can dig anything, so it just makes us play a lot looser,” Rolfzen said. “We just know that when she just digs balls the way that she does that we can just do our role and don’t have to over-step, going to try to dig balls that aren’t ours. I just think Justine does a really good job of reading the game and knowing where the hitter’s going to hit and just being in the right position. She did that the whole night.”
Penn State will be heading to Lincoln on Friday to meet the Huskers in the Sweet 16. Nebraska swept the Nittany Lions in the regular season.
“I just think we know them really well and they know us really well,” Rolfzen said. “We just have to make sure that we go out and play point-by-point and play Nebraska volleyball. The crowd’s going to be excited just because one, it’s a Sweet 16 and two, it’s against Penn State. I just think it’s going to be fun, a fun environment and a fun atmosphere.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.