Nebraska 3, Alabama A&M 0 Dec. 2,
Nebraska 3, Alabama A&M 0Dec. 2, 2005
Lincoln -- Behind a school postseason record 14 service aces, No. 1 Nebraska improved to 29-1 on the season with a 30-15, 30-7, 30-15 victory over Alabama A&M in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday evening.
The Huskers, who improved to 19-1 all-time in first-round action, advance to face Duke, a 3-0 winner over American University in Fridays other first-round action in Lincoln. That match is set for Saturday night at 7 p.m. and will be carried on the Pinnacle Sports Network, including B107.3 FM in Lincoln and KFAB 1110 AM in Omaha. In addition, the match will be shown statewide on Nebraska Educational Television and also video-streamed for free on Huskers.com.
A limited number of tickets have become available for Saturdays second-round match against Duke. Those tickets will go on sale at 5:30 p.m. at the Coliseum Ticket Office. Tickets are $15 for reserved and $12 for general admission.
Christina Houghtelling, Sarah Pavan and Jordan Larson had three aces apiece, as NUs 14 aces broke the schools postseason record of 13 set in a four-game match against Pittsburgh in 1986. Houghtelling led a balanced offensive attack with a match-high 11 kills on .556 hitting, as Nebraska hit .405 in the match.
All-Americans Sarah Pavan and Jennifer Saleaumua had eight and seven kills, respectively, while All-American Melissa Elmer had six kills and two blocks, becoming NUs all-time leader in that category. Elmer passed Amber Holmquist, who totaled 728 blocks between 1999 and 2002.
A total 12 players saw action for Nebraska, as the Huskers held Alabama A&M to -.072 hitting, the second-lowest hitting percentage by a Husker opponent this season.
The Huskers blitzed Alabama A&M with nine service aces in posting a 30-15 victory in the opener. NU used a 6-0 run, highlighted by a trio of aces by Houghtelling, to take a 15-9 lead after the juniors second straight ace. Alabama A&M pulled to within 16-11, but could not get closer, as NU ran off nine unanswered points, including eight straight points off the serve of Larson, to take a 24-11 lead. Larson had all three of her aces in that spurt, as NUs nine aces in game one equaled the Huskers best in any match this season.
In game two, Nebraskas offense keyed the Huskers 30-7 victory. The seven points equaled a Husker low in the rally scoring era, as NU hit a blistering .565 and forced the visitors into 10 errors. Tracy Stalls led the attack with four kills and a block, while seven players had at least one kill. NU raced out to an 8-2 lead and used spurts of 7-0 and 9-1 to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room.
In the finale, Pavan and Houghtelling had five kills apiece, as NU posted a 15-point win. The Huskers emptied the bench, as Meghan Smith and Amanda Gates saw extensive time and combined for six kills and four blocks. Leading 8-6, the Huskers used a 6-1 run to build a 14-6 lead off a Bulldog attack error. Leading 16-10, NU put the match away with a 7-2 run that gave the hosts a 11-point lead and cruised to its 22nd sweep of the season.
All-SWAC performer Alexandria Brazelton led Alabama A&M with five kills, as the Bulldogs saw their 12-match win streak snapped on Friday, as they dipped to 0-6 in NCAA play.
Head Coach John Cook
"Its good to get our first win of the NCAA Tournament. I thought (Alabama) A&M came out and really hit some tough serves right away to start play tonight, and then the Huskers served tough back at them, and it became pretty much a serving contest tonight. The crowd was great. I think the highlight of the night for me was that big long rally in game three. I dont remember if we won it or they won it but the crowd was almost in a standing ovation for these student-athletes. That was just a super job by our crowd tonight to applaud these athletes."
On his team's total of 14 service aces
"Weve been working on serving. Youve got to serve tough this time of year, and weve been working on it. Part of it is that Im sure Alabama A&M isnt used to our level of serving. Thats such a huge thing for us. If we can get teams out of system then it plays into our favor with our blocking defense.
On everyone on the team getting a chance to play
I think these kids have worked really hard, its the NCAA Tournament, and if we have a chance to get everybody in, and we did tonight, we dont know when were going to need it, and I really wanted to do it. It really helps our team morale, and its exciting to be in the NCAA Tournament and its a different feel. For everyone to get in was great.
On how Duke played and how the team will fare against them tomorrow
Well they hit well tonight and pretty much took care of American. I think their setter is really good. She was doing a really nice job running their offense. Ive got to study them on tape tonight and tomorrow, but they didnt make a lot of errors. Thats what youve got to do this time of year. I thought their sets going to the outside were going pretty fast. I dont know if its something they normally do. Ironically well match up much better against Duke than we did (against Alabama A&M) tonight.
Senior middle blocker Melissa Elmer
On how the team played tonight
We did some good things but I think theres some things that we need to work on. Serving and passing continues to be one of them.
On how far she has to come to play at the level needed to reach the Final Four
Pretty far, but its hard to judge it based on the teams you play, too. But we definitely have to play better and our serving and passing has to be better. Just ball handling and execution.
On getting the career school record for blocks at Nebraska on her first block of the night
Yeah, (I knew). Mostly because everyone has been asking me about it. I think for the program here its definitely continuing a legacy here of great middle blockers. I just try my best to continue that legacy and follow in the footsteps of some great blockers.
Alabama A&M Quotes
Coach Betty Austin
It was pretty much what I expected. Nebraska is the No. 1 team in the country and they have been all year. It is very hard to prepare for that. You just have to try the very best that you can to enjoy the experience of playing the No. 1 team in the nation. Weve enjoyed being here despite the fact that we got beat. The hospitality has been nice and we wish Nebraska well as they move on to the next round.
On the experience of playing Nebraska
It was everything that I thought and more. They are a very good team.
On Nebraskas size
Were not a big team. Nebraska is extremely big. But I knew that. Its not my first time coming to the NCAA tournament. When you get to this level youre going to play bigger teams. The average height is six feet. We have two players that are six feet. Theyre good players, they just arent tall.
On Nebraskas size
This is my fourth time coming to the NCAA Tournament, so the height wasnt unusual from what Ive seen in the past. I never really looked at it. Were playing the No. 1 team in the nation and I knew the competition was going to be tougher than usual, so thats just how I looked at it.
On Nebraskas serves
I dont think the serves were any tougher, it was just a matter of making adjustments and today we were slow on the adjustments. Early in the season we made the adjustments quicker.
-- Courtesy Nebraska