Omaha Regional Sidebar: Nebraska Seeking Revenge
Dec. 11, 2009
By John Fey
Special to NCAA.com
OMAHA, Neb. - The Nebraska volleyball team is looking to help the Husker football players gain a little revenge when it meets Texas in Saturday night's NCAA quarterfinal championship game at the Qwest Center Omaha.
NU coach John Cook apologized for arriving late at the postgame press conference Friday night after his team brushed aside Iowa State in three games to set up another NU-Texas showdown.
"Sorry I'm late," Cook joked. "I was talking to Tom Osborne."
That was a reference to the NU athletic director possibly telling Cook to do to Texas what the Longhorns did to Nebraska by winning the Big 12 football championship 13-12 last weekend.
Seventh-ranked Nebraska meets the No. 2 Longhorns at 9 p.m. (EST) in a match to be televised on ESPNU. The Longhorns own two regular-season wins over the Huskers.
"I'm excited," Husker hitter Sydney Anderson said. "(Texas) is a great team, one of the best. We need to play our game."
Teammate Lindsey Licht said NU will be loose in front of a pro-Husker crowd.
"Everybody's excited," she said. "We're going to have fun."
Texas might have something to say about how much fun the Huskers have. Like NU, the Longhorns had no trouble getting past Texas A&M in the all-Big 12 regional.
Cook said he's glad to be playing the Longhorns in Omaha rather than Tampa, Fla., site of the Final Four.
"I think the siding out will be huge," Cook said. "We've got to outplay them on the block and defense."
The NU defense will be tested by a Texas attack that features standout hitter Destinee Hooker, who leads the Big 12 with a .357 hitting percentage. Hooker blasted Texas A&M with 23 kills in Friday's 25-18, 25-18, 25-21 sweep.
Texas coach Jerritt Elliott sees something special in Hooker.
"She's our energy player," Elliott said after Friday's win. "She was kind of bouncing off the wall tonight."
Elliott was in awe of Hooker's blocking as well as her hitting.
"Her blocking has improved this year," he said. "It's nice when she's touching the ball."
Hooker is fine with that part of the game.
"You don't want to kill the ball every time," she said.
Hooker became the first UT player in five years to be named Big 12 player of the year. She's also a three-time NCAA high jump champion.
Nebraska's coach knows plenty about Hooker after facing her all these years.
"We've got to get our diggers in the right spot," Cook said about defending against Hooker. "That's going to be really important."
So how does Cook rank the Texas standout hitter against other players he's seen this year?
"Ask me after tomorrow night," he said.
After losing to the Longhorns Friday, Texas A&M coach Laurie Corbelli praised Hooker's ability to control a match.
"It's really challenging," Corbelli said. "There are not a lot of athletes in the nation like her. I don't know if there will ever be a player who can do what she can do."
Nebraska struggled a bit the first half of the season but hasn't lost a set in its last seven matches. The Huskers are making their 16th straight appearance in the third round of the tournament. No other school can make that claim since the tournament went to a 64-team bracket in 1998.
"It's going to be a super heavy-weight prize fight tomorrow night," Cook said. "I'm happy for our kids that they get a shot at this."
The Texas coach said he understands that Nebraska is tough to beat when the Huskers are on top of their game.
"Their biggest Achilles heel is their errors," Elliott said.