Dec. 5, 2009

Courtesy of Nebraska Sports Information

Lincoln, Neb. - The Nebraska volleyball team clinched a spot in the regional semifinals in Omaha next weekend after dismantling 20th-ranked Northern Iowa 25-14, 25-17, 25-21 Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 4,066 at the NU Coliseum.

Hannah Werth ignited the Huskers (25-6) in the win with a match-high 13 kills. She also added 14 digs, her 13th double-double of the season and second in the NCAA Tournament. Tara Mueller added 12 kills and Sydney Anderson recorded 44 assists, as the Huskers ended the Panthers' (31-2) season.

Nebraska fell behind early in the first set, 3-0, but rallied to take its first lead, 7-6, on a double block by Werth and Brooke Delano. After kills by Werth and Gina Mancuso, Delano scored an ace to put NU up 10-7. Mueller and Werth then recorded consecutive kills and Werth scored a solo block to give the Big Red a 13-8 lead.

Kayla Banwarth sparked three straight NU points later in the set with a one-handed dig that Delano later blocked in the rally to extend the Huskers' lead to 18-11. A solo block by Anderson made the score 22-12, and the Huskers closed out the set with two more kills by Werth and one by Mancuso to take the set, 25-14.

The Huskers scored a .48 hitting percentage in the first set, while limiting the Panthers to .061. Leading the way were Werth, who scored on five of seven swings, and Mueller, with a perfect four kills on four swings. Anderson paced the Big Red with 15 assists. UNI committed seven errors in the opening frame and was outblocked 4-1.

NU wasted no time picking up in the second set where it left off in the first, taking a 3-0 lead. UNI battled back though and tied the score at 5-5 on a kill by Bre Payton. The Huskers responded with a 9-0 run to take a 14-5 lead though to take firm control of the set, thanks in part to two kills by Delano.

Werth contributed nine digs in the second set to go with three kills. Mueller and Kori Cooper each had four kills in the second set, while Andersen again had 15 assists.

UNI came out swinging in the third set, taking an early 4-1 lead. An Amy Braun kill pushed the Panthers' lead to 14-11. UNI led 18-16, but a kill by Werth and a double block by Werth and Cooper tied the set at 18-18. A UNI attack then went wide, giving NU its first lead of the set at 19-18. After UNI's Shannon Aschoff tied the match with one of her team-high nine kills, Werth sent a kill down to give NU a 20-19 lead and spark a three-point Husker run to put the Big Red up 22-19.

UNI would not go away quietly though, responding with a kill by Aschoff and an ace by Payton to pull within 22-21. Following a Nebraska timeout, a Mueller kill forced a sideout, and UNI then hit wide to set up Delano's match-point kill.

For the match, NU hit at a .268 clip, while the Panthers were held to just a .051 hitting percentage. Werth hit .476 on 21 attacks to lead the Huskers, while Aschoff hit .292 on 24 swings for the Panthers.

The Huskers, who are 49-3 in NCAA Tournament matches in the Coliseum, move on to the regional semifinals to be played Fri., Dec. 11 at the Qwest Center in Omaha. The Huskers will meet the winner of Saturday night's Wichita St.-Iowa St. match. The time for Friday's match is to be determined.

National No. 2 seed Texas has also clinched a spot in Omaha and awaits the winner of the LSU-Texas A&M contest.