Dec. 13, 2008

Seattle, Wash. - Fourth-ranked Nebraska put on a serving and blocking clinic, sweeping No. 19 Michigan, 25-13, 25-16. 25-18 in the NCAA Seattle Regional semifinals Friday night.

The Huskers (30-2) will meet fifth-ranked Washington, a 3-0 winner over No. 18 Utah tomorrow night at 10:30 p.m. central for the right to advance to the national semifinals in Omaha. The match will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

Nebraska out-blocked Michigan, 11-2, as Lindsey Licht and Amanda Gates combined for 11 blocks and 15 kills. Licht led the Huskers with six blocks, while Gates had five blocks, including a personal-best three solo stuffs, and added eight kills on .615 hitting.

NU hit an efficient .347 as a team with five starters recording at least seven kills, while no player reached double figures. Sydney Anderson guided the attack with 29 assists and a team-best 11 digs, as the Huskers hit .323 in the opener and a blistering .438 in the finale.

Nebraska, which has won its last 17 matches against Big Ten teams dating back to 1999, also dominated at the service line, racking up eight aces, including three from Anderson and two from Tara Mueller, who also had eight kills and 10 digs. NU held Michigan (26-9) to just one service ace and .100 hitting.

The Huskers put together a solid opening set, hitting .323 as a team and recording five stuffs in posting a 25-13 victory. Gates led the attack with four kills on six swings and a solo block. Lindsey Lich also was dominant at the net, drilling three kills and adding three blocks, including a couple of solo stuffs. Nebraska trailed 3-2 before using strong serving from Kayla Banwarth and Jordan Larson in an 8-3 spurt, pushing the lead to 10-6 after a Gates kill. Banwarth ran off three straight points, including an ace, while Larson helped NU run three unanswered points to build an early lead. Michigan pulled within 12-9, but a Mueller kill sparked a 5-2 Husker spurt, highlighted by solo blocks by Jordan Wilberger and Licht to make it 17-10 after Mueller's ace. Michigan eventually got to within 19-13, but Gates had two kills and a block in a four-point span to start a game-ending 6-0 spurt off Rachel Schwartz's serve.

In the second set, the Huskers used a trio of big serving runs in posting a 25-15 victory to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room. NU out-hit the Wolverines, .286-.091 and recorded a quartet of stuffs. The Huskers trailed 6-3 before Larson keyed a 6-0 run for the Big Red at the service line, as the Huskers took a 9-6 lead after a Gates solo block. Michigan got within 11-9, but a kill from Mueller and two straight service aces from Anderson pushed the lead to 14-9. UM chipped away at the deficit, pulling within 14-12, but could get no closer, as Nebraska ran off three straight points, capped by a Licht kill to make it 17-12. Michigan made one last run and was within 18-14, but a block by Gates and Licht and strong serving from Rachel Schwartz keyed a 7-1 run, as the senior ran off four straight points from the service line.

Nebraska's offense took over in the finale, hitting .438 as a team in completing the sweep. Leading 6-5, the Huskers took control, winning seven of the next eight rallies to take a 13-6 lead after a Gates kill. Gates and Larson combined for four of the seven points, while Gates also had a block in the spurt. The Wolverines fought back, pulling to within 17-13 on an Alex Hunt kill, but a Jordan Wilberger kill, a Michigan attack error and a Larson kill pushed the lead back to seven and forced UM to take its final timeout. The Huskers eventually pushed the lead to as many as eight points, at 24-16 on an Anderson kill and closed out the match moments later on Gates' final swing.

Hunt led Michigan with nine kills, while NU limited Juliana Paz and Beth Karpiak to a combined 10 kills on .022 hitting

Notes:

  • Nebraska advanced to its fifth consecutive regional final and eighth in nine years under John Cook. NU's streak of five consecutive regional finals is the longest in the country.
  • Nebraska picked up its 30th win of the season for the fifth consecutive year and 10th time in the last 13 years.
  • Sydney Anderson collected her seventh double-double with 29 kills and a team-high 11 assists. It marked the first match that Anderson led NU in digs
  • Friday's match marked only the second time this season that NU did not have a player finish with 10 kills. It also happened in a sweep of Oral Roberts on Sept. 1
  • Tonight's win gave the Husker senior class of Amanda Gates, Jordan Larson and Rachel Schwartz 126 wins, matching the most by a Husker senior class in the NCAA era. The trio is 17-2 in NCAA Tournament matches, and have advanced to four straight regional finals.
  • Amanda Gates' three solo blocks was a career high
  • Nebraska has held its last five opponents under .150 hitting