Dec. 11, 2009

Omaha Regional Sidebar: Nebraska Seeking Revenge

By John Fey
Special to

OMAHA, Neb. - Nebraska took the wind out of the Iowa State Cyclones' hopes for a dreamy volleyball season Friday night to earn a shot at next week's NCAA Final Four.

Nebraska needed less than 90 minutes to dispatch Iowa State 25-11, 25-19, 25-22 and will meet Texas in Saturday night's championship game, which starts at 9 p.m. (EST) at Qwest Center Omaha.

"I told the team they prepared really well," NU coach John Cook said after his seventh-ranked Huskers improved to 26-6. "We executed really well tonight."

Fifth-ranked Iowa State ends 27-5 but not without wondering what could have been.

"We're certainly very disappointed in how we played," ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said, "but the message to our players that we talked about is that while you might be disappointed in how you or the team played you got us here.

"You've had an incredible season, finished second in the Big 12, the toughest conference in the country, getting us a top-10 ranking, getting us a No. 7 seed in the tournament, getting us a host first and second round."

The numbers back up why Johnson-Lynch, a former Husker, was feeling blue.

Nebraska dominated the Cyclones in hitting percentage -- .324 to .096. Lindsey Licht led the Huskers with 10 of her team's 45 kills. Iowa State's Victoria Henson had a match-high 13 kills.

"That's not the way I wanted to end it," ISU hitter Kaylee Manns said. "We didn't exactly do it this year."

The announced crowd of 8,935 was clearly dressed in Husker red.

"I think the crowd was outstanding," Manns said. "Nebraska just played awesome."

Cook sensed that the crowd would affect his team as well as the Cyclones.

"I know both teams were nervous," he said. "Maybe Iowa State took awhile to get into it."

The Huskers never trailed in the opening game and scooted from a 3-2 lead to go up 7-3 - thanks in part to a pair of Iowa State miscues. The Huskers added to that lead with a six-point run before the Cyclones called time out.

The short break did little to slow NU's momentum as Sydney Anderson added another point to the Husker lead before Rachel Hockaday stopped the bleeding to make it 14-4. Hockaday finished with eight kills.

Still, the Huskers were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Nebraska piled up 17 kills in the first game, led by Licht's six. The Huskers posted a stunning .441 attack percentage in that game compared to ISU's .056.

Iowa State opened the second game with the first point, but NU countered with three straight and appeared to be in good shape for an easy win. But the Cyclones stayed close enough to grab some momentum.

The Cyclones rallied from 11-7 down by scoring five in a row to go up 12-11. A Kori Cooper kill and two ISU errors helped the Huskers retake the lead at 14-12, but the Cyclones didn't fold. They reeled off four straight points to erase a 16-13 deficit and go up 17-16.

The Huskers would have none of that. Aided by two more ISU errors, they went on a 7-0 tear and coasted again to the 25-19 win.

"They were awesome," Manns said about the Huskers. "Nebraska did a great job. They're well-coached."

Nebraska bolted to a 4-0 lead in game three and again appeared poised to complete the sweep. But once again, ISU stuck within two to three points midway through the game.

Down 21-15, the Cyclones rallied within 21-18 on a pair of kills and an NU attack error. After an NU timeout, Iowa State committed a critical service error, which set the tone for the rest of the match as the Cyclones got no closer than 24-22.