Dec. 2, 2010

Courtesy of Nebraska Athletics

LINCOLN, Neb. - The No. 3 Nebraska volleyball team (28-2) opened the 2010 NCAA Volleyball Tournament on Thursday night with a 3-0 (25-12, 25-22, 25-11) win over the Sacred Heart Pioneers (29-7) in front of 4,174 fans at the NU Coliseum. The Huskers have now opened the NCAA Tournament with a win in 27 straight seasons and have won a total of 81 tournament matches.

"Sacred Heart certainly got our respect with the way they played," Head Coach John Cook said. "They competed really hard. They had a system. They committed to it the whole night, and their goal is to attack and they kept bringing it.

Nebraska's pair of 6-5 lefties in senior Lindsey Licht and Morgan Broekhuis used their height advantage to dominate the smaller Pioneer team. Licht led the Huskers with nine kills on 17 swings (.471) while Broekhuis had arguably her best match as a Husker in her NCAA debut with a career-best .615 hitting percentage (8-0-13). Three other Huskers notched at least five kills, including seven from Tara Mueller as well as five each from Hannah Werth and Gina Mancuso.

Lauren Cook and Sydney Anderson combined for 38 assists to help the Huskers hit .429 as a team, as four NU attackers hit .400 or better, including a .800 night from Jordan Wilberger (4-0-5).

"I thought the first and third games we were really sharp and we were doing some really nice things," Cook said. "I think we lost our focus a little bit in the second game, but I really liked how they came back in the third game. Offensively in transition, we were really humming tonight, ball-handling, setting the ball really well, and taking some really nice swings."

Defensively the Huskers put up 12 blocks and held Sacred Heart to .125 hitting on the night. Wilberger, Broekhuis and Brooke Delano each totaled four block assists, while Kayla Banwarth dug a match-high 14 attacks and chipped in two aces.

The Pioneers kept the Huskers within reach early in the first set before the Huskers blew it wide open. With Nebraska up three, 8-5, the Huskers ran off a 12-2 run to take a 20-7 lead as Mueller put up three blocks and a kill, Werth added two kills and a solo stuff and Broekhuis hammered home three kills. The two teams then played the final 10 rallies even and the Huskers coasted to a 25-12 victory.

Nebraska could do no wrong in the set as they hit .444 as a team, led by Broekhuis' perfect 3-3 performance, while Mueller, Werth and Licht also added three kills each. The Huskers' defense was just as good as Banwarth's eight digs helped hold the Pioneers to -.027 hitting.

The Huskers stayed hot into the second set as they opened a 4-0 lead before a NU service error allowed Sacred Heart to get the board. Nebraska then built a five-point cushion, 7-2, before Sacred Heart responded with a 5-1 run to cut the NU lead to one at 8-7.

Sacred Heart fed off the momentum and kept chipping away over the next 29 rallies to eventually tie the set at 22-22, forcing a Nebraska timeout. The Pioneers failed to keep the run going as they committed a service error out of the break and Licht followed with a solo block to put the Huskers at set point, 24-22. Following a timeout from Pioneer Head Coach Rob Machan, Licht hammered home her sixth kill of the night to put Nebraska up 2-0 in the match.

The Huskers' offense cooled in the second set with a .286 hitting percentage while Sacred Heart heated up and clocked in at .238. Elise Sage was on fire for Sacred Heart with six kills on seven swings to hit .857 in the set.

Mueller got the ball rolling for Nebraska in the third set as she served five straight points, including an ace, while NU got two kills from Broekhuis along with one each from Mancuso and Wilberger. After Johanna Ovsenek ended the run with a kill, Mancuso answered with back-to-back kills and Sacred Heart committed an error to put the Huskers up 8-1, forcing Machan to take his final timeout.

Nebraska got two points out of the timeout with an ace from Banwarth and a kill from Delano to take a 10-1 lead, but Sacred Heart responded by taking five of the next seven rallies to cut the NU lead to 12-6. A timeout from Cook halted the Pioneers' momentum as Sage committed a serving error out of the break and Delano followed by serving eight straight points, including two aces, to put the Huskers up 19-6. The Huskers never let the Pioneers get back in the match as Broekhuis sealed the sweep with a kill from Anderson.

Nebraska will now play the Auburn Tigers tomorrow night at 7 p.m. The winner of the match will advance onto the Seattle, Wash. Regional, which opens next Friday, Dec. 10. NET will provide live coverage of tomorrow's match and a live stream will also be available on