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The Daily Nebraskan

December 17, 2015
Huskers Advance to NCAA Final
               1   2   3   4
Kansas   (9)  20  21  25  16 
NEBRASKA (4)  25  25  20  25 

Omaha, Neb. — The fourth-seeded Nebraska volleyball team used a strong finish to push their way past No. 9 Kansas on Thursday, punching their ticket to Saturday's NCAA Championship match. Nebraska won the final seven rallies of the match to defeat the Jayhawks in front of 17,551 fans at the CenturyLink Center, the largest volleyball crowd in NCAA history.

The Huskers led for all but six rallies in the first two sets, taking a 2-0 lead into the locker room following a 25-20 victory in set one and a 25-21 win in set two. The Jayhawks used six blocks to take the third set, 25-20. In the decisive fourth set, Kansas pulled within 18-16 on the strength of a 4-0 run, only to see Nebraska win the final seven rallies to advance to their seventh NCAA final.

The Huskers (31-4) will face No. 3 Texas Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. The Longhorns defeated second-seeded Minnesota, 3-1, in Thursday's first semifinal. Kansas ended the best season in school history with a 30-3 record. All three of the Jayhawks' losses came to the two NCAA finalists.

Kadie Rolfzen led Nebraska with 14 kills on .343 hitting, and she added five digs and four blocks. Mikaela Foecke tallied 12 kills and Cecilia Hall had 10 kills and a match-high seven blocks. Justine Wong-Orantes totaled 17 digs, while Kelly Hunter dished out 47 assists for a Husker offense that had fewer kills than KU, but out-hit the Jayhawks, .207 to .159. Kansas' Kelsie Payne led all attackers with 22 kills, and she hit a blistering .576.

Fans can watch the Huskers go for their fourth national title, as Saturday's 6:30 p.m. final will be televised on ESPN2. The match will also air on the IMG College Husker Sports Network, with a free stream available on Huskers.com.

Photo Courtesy Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications
Nebraska advanced to its seventh NCAA Final and will face No. 3 Texas on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

Set one: Strong serving - including a trio of aces, two from Kelly Hunter - helped Nebraska take a 15-12 lead at the media timeout. Kansas won the next two points and the teams traded sideouts for the next nine rallies before three consecutive points gave the Huskers a 22-18 lead and forced a KU timeout. Nebraska earned its first set point at 24-20 and took the set on Kansas' fifth attack error. Nebraska hit .308 in the opening set with three aces. The Jayhawks hit .286 and committed four service errors. Kelsie Payne and Tayler Soucie each had five kills for KU, while Cecilia Hall had four kills on four swings for NU.

Set two: Set two featured two lead changes and four ties in the first 15 rallies before consecutive hitting errors helped Nebraska score three straight points and take an 11-7 lead. More strong serving helped the Huskers stretch the lead to 18-12, when Kansas called its second timeout. Nebraska spent its first timeout after the Jayhawks closed to within five at 23-18. A Kadie Rolfzen quickly gave the Huskers their first set point, but Kansas won the next three rallies to force a second Husker timeout at 24-21. Kadie Rolfzen again registered a kill following the timeout to give Nebraska a 2-0 lead. Rolfzen had five kills on eight error-free swings in the second set. The Huskers hit .294 in the second set and held Kansas to a .191 attack percentage, as the Jayhawks committed eight hitting errors in the set, including a pair of Nebraska blocks.

Set three: Kansas jumped out to a quick lead in set three before Nebraska won four straight rallies to take a 7-5 lead. The Jayhawks came back with three straight points to take a 13-11 advantage and Kansas led 15-13 at the media timeout. KU stretched its lead to three to force a Nebraska timeout at 19-16. An Anna Church ace forced a second Husker timeout after Kansas took its first four-point lead of the match, 22-18. Ainise Havili scored on a setter dump out of the break and Kansas earned its first set point at 24-20. KU closed out the set with a block on the next rally. The Jayhawks held Nebraska to .078 hitting in the third set while Payne and Janae Hall each had four kills in the set. Kadie Rolfzen had four kills for Nebraska, but the Huskers committed eight attack errors in the third set after totaling eight errors in the first two sets combined.

Set four: Nebraska scored three straight points to break an 8-all tie and take an 11-8 lead in set four. The teams then traded sideouts before a Jayhawk serving error and a Kelsey Fien kill put Nebraska on top 16-12, forcing Kansas to burn its second timeout. The Huskers stuffed the Jayhawks out of the break and Fien added another kill to stretch the lead to 18-12. Following Nebraska's 5-1 run, KU won four straight rallies to pull within 18-16, but the Huskers won the final seven rallies of the match to punch their ticket to the NCAA final. The Huskers had five blocks in the third set to hold Kansas to a .000 attack percentage. Cecilia Hall had four stuffs and two kills in the set.

Nebraska Notes

Tonight's matchup between the Huskers and Jayhawks was the first-ever NCAA Tournament meeting between the two programs.
Nebraska made 12th NCAA Semifinals appearance, a total which ties Penn State and UCLA for second all-time. Nebraska improves to 10-8 all-time in the NCAA Semifinals.
Nebraska improves to 97-30 all-time in the NCAA Tournament following tonight's win.
Kadie Rolfzen led NU with 14 kills and now has had at least 10 kills in each of NU's five NCAA Tournament matches. She is hitting .358 and averaging a team-high 4.00 kills per set in the NCAA Tournament.
Mikaela Foecke finished with 12 kills, the 20th time this season she reached double figures in kills. She has been in double figures in four of NU's five NCAA matches.
Justine Wong-Orantes totaled 17 digs against Kansas and now has 538 digs on the season to rank third on NU's single-season list.
Nebraska improves to 27-2 when winning the first set this season and is 409-18 under Cook when winning the first set.
Nebraska has had at least five service aces in three of its last four matches.
Nebraska improves to 87-0-1 all-time against Kansas and has won 77 straight matches against Kansas dating back to 1977.
John Cook improves to 23-0 all-time against Kansas with all 23 wins coming at Nebraska.
Nebraska improves to 3-1 in front of volleyball crowds of over 17,000, and has played in front of the four largest crowds in NCAA volleyball history. Tonight's NCAA Semifinal attendance of 17,551 is the largest in NCAA history.
With the win, Nebraska improves to 31-4 on the season. It is the most wins by a Nebraska squad since the 2008 team also won 31 matches. Nebraska has won 30-or-more matches in a season 21 times in program history, including nine times in John Cook's 16 seasons.
Nebraska extends its win streak to 15 matches, the Huskers' longest streak since a 16-match win streak in 2011.
Nebraska and Texas will meet on Saturday for the second time this season. Texas won the initial meeting, 3-2, in Austin on Sept. 4.
A Nebraska-Texas matchup is rematch of the 1995 NCAA title match, a match Nebraska won 3-1 for its first NCAA title. The programs have met three times in NCAA play, with Texas winning regional finals in both 2009 and 2013.
Nebraska advances to its seventh national championship match in program history and first since 2006, when the Huskers won their third NCAA title. NU's other NCAA Finals appearances were in 1986, 1989, 1995, 2000 and 2005.
Nebraska leads the all-time series, 30-22, but Texas has won the past four matches.

Kansas Notes

Kansas ends its season with a 30-3 record, with all three losses coming against the teams to play in Saturday's final. The 30 wins are the most since the 1978 team finished 31-24-2. The .909 winning percentage is a school record, surpassing the .788 mark set by the 26-7 team in 2012.
Kansas associate head coach Laura Kuhn was named the American Volleyball Coaches Association National Assistant Coach of the Year at a banquet earlier on Thursday.
Janae Hall won the Elite 90 award for having the top GPA of any student-athlete to qualify for Omaha.
The Kansas starting line-up of Ainise Havili, Tiana Dockery, Madison Rigdon, Kelsie Payne, Tayler Soucie, Janae Hall and libero Cassie Wait started together for the 28th time in the last 29 matches. The only time it didn't was in a Nov. 28 Senior Day sweep over Texas Tech.
Kelsie Payne had her 29th match this fall with 10 or more kills, and seventh straight. Payne owns double-figure kills in all six career NCAA Tournament matches.
Tiana Dockery surpassed the 900 kill milestone in her career with a putaway to make it 6-4 in the first set.
After being aced only 61 times in 32 matches, the Jayhawks were aced three times in the first set.
Kansas did not have an ace until a service winner from Anna Church gave the Jayhawks a 22-18 lead late in the third set. It was KU's only ace of the evening.
KU's All-American setter Ainise Havili had a career-high eight kills. Her season and career-high entering the day had been seven at Kansas State on Nov. 25, 2015.
Kansas had six blocks in the third set after just one stuff in the opening two sets combined.
Kansas falls to 16-1 in non-conference matches this fall.
Kansas fell to 27-2 this year when owning more kills than its opponent. KU led that category 56-50 against the Cornhuskers on Thursday.
Kelsie Payne ends her sophomore season with a school-record 496 kills. Her 22 kills tonight were her eighth contest this fall with 20 or more putaways.
Kansas libero Cassie Wait finished with 23 digs, her 16th straight match in double-figures and 31st overall this fall.
Kansas finished the season 10-2 in the fourth set of matches this season. The Jayhawks won their first 10 such contests before dropping the fourth set last Saturday vs. USC and tonight's fourth set vs. Nebraska.

NCAA Notes

Tonight's attendance was 17,551, which set an NCAA volleyball record.
Nebraska improves to 97-30 all-time in NCAA Tournament matches and advances to its seventh national championship match in program history. The Huskers won the national title in 1995, 2000 and 2006, while taking runner-up honors in 1986, 1989 and 2005.
The national championship between Nebraska and Texas will be a rematch of the 1995 NCAA Final, a 3-1 win by Nebraska.
Nebraska and Texas will be meeting for the second time this season. On Sept. 4, Texas won, 3-2, in Austin, Texas.
Saturday night will be the 53rd meeting in series history between Nebraska and Texas. Nebraska leads the all-time series against Texas, 30-22. Texas has won each of the last four meetings.
Kansas falls to 9-7 all-time in NCAA Tournament matches.

Source: University of Nebraska Athletic Dept.