Make it four straight Final Fours for Nebraska volleyball.
The seventh-seeded Huskers punched their ticket to next week’s NCAA Tournament national semifinal with a sweep of 15-seed Oregon in Minneapolis. Scores in Nebraska’s favor were 25-22, 25-23 and 25-17 as the Huskers outhit the Ducks .345-.250.
Oregon (23-11), which upset two-seed Minnesota on its home court Friday night, came out swinging in the first set.
So did the Huskers.
The teams traded points early with Oregon building a 13-10 lead midway through the first game. Nebraska (28-6) took its first lead of more than a point on an ace from setter Nicklin Hames to make it 19-17 and force Oregon coach Matt Ulmer to call his first timeout. The Ducks would tie the set at 20, but never regained the lead as senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke finished set one with one of her 16 kills, a match-high.
The Ducks jumped out to a 7-4 lead in the second and would hold a four-point lead as late as 18-14 before the Huskers battled back. A kill by Foecke followed by an Oregon attack error, kill by Lexi Sun and another Foecke kill tied the set. It was Foecke again who broke a 23-all tie with a kill and middle blocker Lauren Stivrins finished it off. Stivrins would lead all hitters in the match with a .526 hitting percentage.
The third set, by comparison, was relatively quick work for the Huskers as they raced out to a 5-2 lead. Oregon fought back with five of the next six points to make it 7-6, Ducks. It would be their last lead of the night. Following an Oregon service error, Nebraska subbed in Megan Miller to serve. The Huskers went on a 3-0 run, the last on an ace by Miller, to provide some breathing room.
FINAL FOUR BOUND. #GBR pic.twitter.com/L5AXfjPTXo
— Hail Varsity (@HailVarsity) December 9, 2018
Another 3-0 run, kickstarted by a Foecke kill, made it 18-13 and the Huskers were able to keep the Ducks down the rest of the way. Sun recorded her 10thkill of the match to win it, giving Nebraska three hitters (Foecke, Stivrins) with double-digit kills on the night. Hames posted a double-double with 41 assists and 15 digs.
Foecke moved into third on Nebraska’s all-time kills list during the match and will, along with senior libero Kenzie Maloney, have played in a national semifinal all four years as a Husker. Nebraska is the sixth program to make four straight Final Four appearances joining Pacific, Penn State, Stanford, Texas and UCLA.
The Huskers will face a familiar foe as three-seed Illinois, coached by former Nebraska assistant Chris Tamas, punched its ticket with a 3-1 win over Wisconsin. The Huskers and Illini split a pair of matches during the regular season with each team winning 3-1 on the other’s home court.
Nebraska and Illinois will play Dec. 13 in Minneapolis with game time yet to be announced. The match will be telecast on ESPN.