Sept. 10, 2009

Courtesy of Nebraska Athletics

LINCOLN, Neb. – Tara Mueller had a match-high 14 kills on .583 hitting, leading No. 5 Nebraska to a 3-0 sweep of Virginia Thursday night at the Ameritas Players Challenge.

The junior All-American enjoyed her best match of the year, as her .583 hitting percentage was the third-best night of her career and the first time that she had at least 10 kills without an error. Mueller also went over 500 kills in her three-year career on Thursday and has 506 career kills at Nebraska.

Behind Mueller and a balanced attack, the Huskers (6-1) hit .308 on the night, as Lindsey Licht and Hannah Werth added nine kills apiece to help Nebraska to its sixth consecutive win. All-American Sydney Anderson guided the Huskers to its second straight match above .300 hitting, dishing out 34 assists and adding 12 digs and matching a season best with four blocks.

Nebraska, which has held its last six foes to a combined .077 hitting percentage, totaled 10 blocks on the night, including a season-high six from Jordan Wilberger and four from Anderson, while Kayla Banwarth’s 14 digs paced the Big Red floor defense.

Nebraska shook off some early jitters and pulled away down the stretch in a 25-20 victory. NU hit .275 in the first set, as Werth, Licht, Mueller and Gina Mancuso combined for 14 of the Huskers 17 kills. NU committed four service errors in the set and struggled to get consistency early on, as Virginia took an early 11-8 advantage after a Simone Asque kill. The Huskers quickly regrouped, as a Mancuso kill began a 3-0 run to even the score at 11 and regained the lead at 14-13 on a Mueller kill as Nebraska ended a 6-2 spurt. The Cavaliers stayed close and were tied at 17 before kills from Werth and Mueller sandwiched between a UVA hitting error gave NU a 20-17 lead and forced a timeout. Virginia made one last spurt and was within 21-19 before kills from Mueller and Licht provided the Huskers with the breathing room they needed.

In the second set, Nebraska turned up the pressure, jumping out to a 9-2 lead and never looking back in a 25-11 victory. NU hit .385 as a set behind Mueller, who pounded home five kills in as many swings. NU also totaled five blocks, including three from Wilberger, in holding the Cavaliers to just three kills and -.179 hitting. Anderson ran off the first four points at the service line, as NU won nine of the first 11 rallies with both of Virginia’s points coming on NU service errors. The Huskers got the lead to double figures at 15-4 after two straight Mueller kills and led by as many as 14 in taking a 2-0 lead into the locker room.

Nebraska’s veterans continued to carry the Huskers in the finale, as NU rolled to a 25-16 win to complete its NCAA record 89th consecutive home win. Mueller had five kills on 10 swings, while Licht added four kills and a block, as NU out-hit the Cavaliers, .289-.105. Nebraska raced out to a 7-2 lead on strong serving by Anderson and Mueller, as the Huskers had three aces in the set’s first nine points, including back-to-back aces from Mueller. The Huskers pushed the lead to 13-6 after an Anderson kill, only to see Virginia run off four straight to get within 13-10 on a Kendahl Voelker kill. Leading 14-11, the Husker pulled away with a 7-3 spurt, punctuated by a Mueller kill to stretch to lead to seven points and end the Cavaliers’ hopes for a comeback.

Asque led Virginia with seven kills on .120 hitting, as the Cavaliers (4-3) saw their four-match win streak snapped.

The Huskers will continue tournament action in the Ameritas Players Challenge Friday evening against BYU at 7 p.m.  The match will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and on the Internet at  BYU dropped a 3-1 decision to No. 8 UCLA in Thursday’s first tournament match.