Huskers Headed to NCAA Title Match
The Nebraska volleyball team will vie for its sixth NCAA title on Saturday after the 10th-seeded Huskers rallied to upend Pitt 3-1 (16-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-22) in the NCAA Semifinal at Nationwide Arena that began on Thursday night and stretched into Friday morning. (26-7) Nebraska will face Wisconsin (30-3) in an all-Big Ten National Championship match Saturday night.
The Huskers will make their 10th championship final appearance in program history and their first since 2018. Television coverage Saturday begins with a 6:15 pregame show on ESPN2.
Madi Kubik was solid in all phases of the game to lead Nebraska in the semifinal. Kubik finished with a match-high 13 kills and added a career-high-tying three services aces to go along with seven digs and two blocks. Kubik posted her 24th match this season with at least 10 kills.
Kayla Caffey joined Kubik in double-digit kills with 10, and Caffey added four blocks. Lindsay Krause had nine kills on 19 swings and Lauren Stivrins had nine kills on 17 swings with a match-high six blocks. Ally Batenhorst added seven kills. Nicklin Hames registered her 23rd double-double of the year with 45 assists and 13 digs, while Lexi Rodriguez (13) and Keonilei Akana (11) also had double-digit digs.
Nebraska Huskers hit .239 in the match, rebounding from a .167 attacking percentage in the first set. The Huskers held Pittsburgh to a .233 attack percentage, the Panthers’ lowest mark of the NCAA Tournament. Pitt hit .483 in winning the first set, but NU limited the Panthers to a .163 attack percentage over the final three sets. Nebraska also won the serve-and-pass battle with six aces against only six errors, while Pittsburgh had five aces and 12 errors. The Huskers also out-blocked the Panthers 10-7, but Pitt finished with more digs (56-50).
Leketo Member-Meneh had 13 kills to pace Pitt, which finished its best season in school history with a 30-4 record.
Pitt built a 5-1 lead out of the gate, broken up by a Kubik kill. Kubik later sparked a 4-0 run with a kill and two aces, and NU tied it at 7-7 on a Hames/Stivrins stuff. The Panthers responded with a 6-1 spurt to go up 13-8 before an NU timeout.
The deficit increased to 16-9 before NU rallied again, using three straight kills between Kubik and Caffey and a Caffey/Krause stop to cut it to 16-13. But Pitt outscored NU 9-3 the rest of the way, closing the set on an ace at 25-16.
Pitt had five players with multiple kills in the set, hitting .483 to Nebraska’s .167 in the set. Kubik paced NU with four kills to go with her two aces.
The Huskers flipped the script to open set two, jumping ahead 3-1 with a Kubik kill and another Caffey/Krause block on Member-Meneh. Kubik had had three kills in the first eight rallies, and she added an ace to stretch the lead to 7-5.
NU muscled out to a 14-9 advantage by Pitt’s first timeout behind kills from Kubik and Krause and a Stivrins solo stop. Stivrins added a kill on her signature slide out of the timeout, and she and Kubik teamed up to block Chinaza Ndee to make it 16-9. After another block by the duo, Pitt called for another timeout trailing NU 18-11.
The Huskers held steady and assumed their largest lead by 23-15 after a pair of Pitt attack errors, but the Panthers took the next two points on kills to prompt an NU timeout. A Krause kill brought it to set point, and an errant Pitt swing finished it off, 25-17, as Nebraska evened the match at one apiece.
Kubik had a team-leading eight kills with three aces through the first two sets, and Stivrins had three kills and four blocks. NU had a 4-2 blocking advantage in the second set and hit .440 while holding Pitt to .161.
Nebraska had 11 kills on its first 17 swings of the set with just one error.
Down 4-3, Nebraska turned it around to a 7-5 lead. Pitt regained the advantage at 8-7 before a Kubik kill from the back row, coupled with a Caffey/Hames block put it back in NU’s favor. The score locked five times up to 14-14 before a kill from Stivrins prior to the media timeout. The 13th tie of the set at 17-17 after two errors brought on a Husker timeout.
NU stormed ahead with a late 6-0 run with Stivrins at the service line, using a Batenhorst kill and a Stivrins ace go to up 19-18 as Pitt called for a timeout. A kill and a block by Caffey, plus a backrow kill by Stivrins and a Pitt attack error pushed it to 23-18. After a Batenhorst swing for set point, Krause finished it off two rallies later with a kill to seal the 25-20 win.
Kills by Caffey and Kubik plus a Kenzie Knuckles ace spotted NU a quick 3-0 lead. The Huskers pushed it to 9-5 with another three-point run and continued to hold Pitt at bay by at least three. With NU up 18-14, Pitt took a timeout and got the next three back. Nebraska clung to a 19-18 lead and relinquished it for the first time when Pitt tied it at 20-all on back-to-back kills from Serena Gray and Member-Meneh.
A Krause/Stivrins block followed by a Pitt attack error put NU out front again, 22-20. A service error gave a point back to the Panthers before Stivrins put down back-to-back kills to give Nebraska its first match point. After a Pitt point, Stivrins and Hames teammed up for a stuff to send NU to the National Championship match.
Nebraska and Wisconsin will meet in the NCAA Championship Final on Saturday, Dec. 18, with first serve set for 6:15 p.m. CT from Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The match will be televised on ESPN2 and carried on Huskers Radio Network with John Baylor and Lauren Cook West on the call.
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