Nebraska 3, UCLA 0 Dec. 9,
Nebraska 3, UCLA 0Dec. 9, 2005
Omaha -- The top-ranked Nebraska volleyball team advanced to the NCAA regional final with a 30-28, 30-24, 30-16 sweep of No. 14 UCLA in front of an NCAA postseason record crowd of 14,489 at the Qwest Center Omaha Friday night.
With the win, the Huskers (31-1) advanced to face Florida in Saturday's 5 p.m. regional final, as the Gators (33-2) swept Louisville in Friday's first regional semifinal.
Nebraska recorded its third consecutive sweep in the postseason and improved to 31-1 with the victory. UCLA ended its season with a 20-11 record, as the Bruins were swept for just the second time in their last 16 matches.
All-American Jennifer Saleaumua led a potent Husker attack, totaling a match-high 13 kills on .571 hitting. The senior All-American also led NU with 12 digs, as she totaled her 40th career double-double. All-American Sarah Pavan also reached double figures in kills, as she finished with 12 kills on .409 hitting, as the Huskers hit .349 in the match, including .464 in the finale.
NU out-dug the Bruins, 40-30 and enjoyed a 10-6 blocking advantage at the net, as middle blockers Melissa Elmer and Tracy Stalls tied for match-high honors with five blocks.
The opener was a see-saw battle, as the game saw 14 ties before the Huskers pulled away with a 30-28 victory. NU was out-hit .286-.252 and trailed 24-21 before mustering a comeback. Down by three points, Saleaumua led the Husker comeback, recording a kill and a block to pull NU within 24-23 before Dani Busboom's ace tied the game. The match would be tied four more times before a Bruin attack error gave NU a one-point lead. Christina Houghtelling, who had four kills and .444 hitting, ended the longest rally of the match with a kill to give the Huskers' the opener.
The Huskers continued to build on the momentum of the opener, hitting ..361 in a 30-23 victory in game two. Pavan and Saleaumua did most of the damage for the Huskers, totaling 10 kills on 15 swings, including six kills by Pavan on just eight swings. Nebraska blitzed the Bruins with a 7-1 run to open the game, taking a five-point lead at 7-2. UCLA pulled to within 15-12 after a Nancy Barba kill, but a service error, a Houghtelling ace and an Elmer kill quickly pushed the lead back to six points. UCLA could never slice into the deficit and NU went to the locker room up 2-0.
The Huskers rolled to a 30-16 win in the third game, fueled by a match-high .464 hitting percentage. The NU defense was just as stout, holding the Bruins to just .100 hitting on 30 swings. Freshman Jordan Larson keyed the charge, serving five straight points, as NU jumped to a 9-2 advantage. UCLA got to with 10-4, but NU responded with a 7-2 run, capped by a block by Elmer and Houghtelling that give the Huskers an 11-point lead. NU, bolstered by the crowd, continued to add to the margin and cruised to the sweep, its third sweep over a ranked team at the Qwest Center this season.
Barba led UCLA with 11 kills, as no other Bruin finished in double figures, as NU avenged a regional loss to UCLA two years earlier in Lincoln.
Nebraska now faces Florida on Saturday at 5 p.m. with a trip to the national semifinals in San Antonio at stake. Tickets are still available for the match, which can be seen live on ESPNU. Tickets are $18.50 and $15.50 and will go on sale at the Qwest Center Omaha Box Office at 9 p.m. and at Ticketmaster locations around the state and at Ticketmaster.com at 10 a.m.
Head Coach John Cook
"We're just happy that we won tonight and we get to continue our season tomorrow. The crowd was awesome. It was pretty much indescribable for us, just sitting there looking at the crowd tonight. We just give a big thanks to Omaha and the Husker Nation. They made a big, big statement tonight."
On being able to come back strong after a close first game
"It was nice to come back. UCLA was playing really well and we were a little bit shaky. I'm sure they realized we weren't playing very sharp and were making a lot of unforced errors, and I think that made a big statement that we were able to come back."
On being able to execute after a close first game
"I think it was probably jitters, nerves and excitement. You're waiting around all week for this and then you've got to wait around. UCLA had nothing to lose and they were loose, but once we settled down a little bit we played well. Once we got to 20 points and won game one, I think we really came back and did a nice job."
On whether he anticipated the turnaround after game one
"I could tell we were starting to relax a little bit, so I was feeling better after we burned off a little fuel. We had a lot of fuel stored up for tonight."
On the match against Florida
"Florida is really athletic and they played really well tonight. I think it's going to be a great match, and we're going to have to play up a notch to be ready for tomorrow. They did some nice things tonight, and that's what a regional final should be, two great teams going at it."
On the play of senior Jennifer Saleaumua
"She did very well tonight. UCLA set it up so that their setter would be blocking her, and Jen (Saleaumua) did great. That's a key matchup, and our setters did a great job of getting her the ball, and she had some really nice blocks."
Senior Jennifer Saleaumua
On responding after the first match
"The first match (of the regional) and the first game, we just had a little cold feet and jitters. But once we got warmed up and got into it, we just relied on our trust and our chemistry on the court, and I think that's what got us through the match."
Junior Christina Houghtelling
On the game point in game one of the match
"It's really great going in those long rallies, and we work a lot in practice on how to get the final kill in those. It's always fun to get that last swing, and we've just got to trust each other."
Sophomore right-side hitter Sarah Pavan
On the NCAA record-setting crowd at the Qwest Center
"It was unbelievable. Playing in the Coliseum is pretty amazing, but the crowd was just great tonight. We're used to sell-out crowds, but we all just really appreciate the state's support, and hopefully we can make them happy."
Head Coach Andy Banachowski
On the game
"First, I want to extend my congratulations to Nebraska. They played exceptionally, and I wish them well as they continue in this tournament. We played well in the first game but came up short. Nebraska caught fire and built confidence while we lost some confidence and the game got away from us."
On UCLA's gameplan against Nebraska's middle hitters
"I'm pleased with our middle (hitter's) performance against their middle hitter's performance. We weren't able to go to the middle. They chose to work on the pins more and other players came up big for them."
On the performance NU's Jennifer Saleaumua
"She was on tonight. She had a tremendous hitting percentage tonight and didn't make any errors. She's a ballplayer. She does what is needed for Nebraska. Tonight, Nebraska went to her a lot and she came through. She a great competitior."
On UCLA's mindset after game one
"There was a little bit of a letdown after not being able to win game one. We didn't come out the same way in game two as we did in game one and Nebraska didn't come out the same in game two, either. Nebraska had a sigh of relief about winning game one and they started to roll."
On Nebraska's serve
"They served extremely well tonight. Even when they didn't score directly off the serve, they were able to take us out of our offense. We didn't take it to our middle (hitters) enough. hey played well for us, but they didn't get enough chances."
On NU's Sarah Pavan
"Because she's so big and rangy, she's able to cover a lot of the court without even moving, and she moves well, so that makes the court even smaller."'
"Nebraska is one of the most physical teams we faced this season. They're very balanced. I don't think most teams that I'd compare with Nebraska are as balanced as Nebraska is."
Setter Nellie Spicer
On the record crowd
"I think in game one, I thought it was a dream come true for any volleyball player to play in front of 14,000 fans, all wearing red. But after game one, we were all so disappointed. We kept saying the same stuff, but it just wasn't going our way."
Middle Blocker Nancy Barba
On the crowd
"It wasn't necessarily as tough as I thought it would be (playing in front of a large crowd) because it was one solid sound. On game point, it would get a little tougher because you realize that you're playing in front of 14,000."
-- Courtesy Nebraska