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Huskers Face Florida in National Title Match

Huskers Face Florida in National Title Match
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

The fifth-seeded Nebraska volleyball team will face No. 2 seed Florida in the NCAA Championship at 8 p.m. (CT) on Saturday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Nebraska earned its eighth all-time trip to the NCAA Championship match after a thrilling 3-2 win against top-ranked Penn State on Thursday night. The Huskers rallied from down in sets, 2-1, and were up against match point in set four before staving off elimination and rallying for a five-set win. The Huskers, in the midst of their third straight trip to the final four, will play for the school’s fifth national title against a Florida Gators squad that is making its second NCAA Championship appearance and is seeking its first national title.

John Cook has won three national championships at Nebraska, and he is coaching a Husker team in the NCAA Final for the fifth time in his 18 seasons. NU’s most recent national title came in 2015, and Cook is 3-1 in his four previous trips to the final at Nebraska, also winning titles in 2000 and 2006.

The match will be on Husker Sports Network radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and AM 590 in Omaha. A live audio stream will be provided at Huskers.com and on the official Huskers app and TuneIn app. John Baylor is in his 24th season doing play-by-play for the Husker volleyball program. Lauren Cook, a former All-America setter for the Huskers, will provide color commentary.

About the Huskers
• The No. 5 Huskers own a 31-4 record, winning 30-plus matches for the 23rd time in school history and for the 11th time under John Cook. Nebraska is one of nine teams nationally with 30 wins in 2017.
• The Huskers are making their eighth trip to the NCAA Finals. Nebraska is 4-3 in its seven previous trips, including a 3-1 record in championship matches under John Cook. Nebraska ranks second in NCAA Division I history in NCAA Tournament wins (107) and winning percentage (.775), and the Huskers are third in NCAA Tournament appearances (36), NCAA Finals appearances (8) and national titles (4).
• Nebraska has reached three consecutive NCAA Semifinals for the first time in program history.
• The Huskers have won a season-high 18 straight matches, the longest streak in the nation after NU ended Penn State’s 23-match win streak on Thursday. PSU finished the year 33-2 with both losses coming to Nebraska.
• Nebraska’s 18-match win streak matches its longest win streak in a single season since the 2008 team won 20 matches in a row to begin the season (NU also won 18 straight matches in 2010).
• The last time Nebraska faced an opponent in the NCAA Tournament it lost to during the regular season was in 2015, when Nebraska lost in five sets at Texas in the fourth match of the season but then swept the Longhorns in the NCAA Final. This year, Nebraska lost in five sets at Florida in the second match of the year.
• The Huskers were co-Big Ten Champions with Penn State, as both teams finished 19-1. Since joining the conference in 2011, the Huskers have now claimed three Big Ten titles (2011, 2016 and 2017).
• NU is 11-3 against ranked opponents in 2017, including 6-0 against top-10 teams and 3-0 vs. top-five foes.
• John Cook is 65-14 in his NCAA Tournament career at Nebraska with three national titles. On Saturday, he is looking to become just the fourth coach to win four NCAA volleyball national titles. He would be only the third coach to win four championships at one school and just the second to win four titles in the 64-team era.
• Nebraska dropped just 11 sets in Big Ten play this season, its fewest since joining the conference in 2011.
• NU, which led the nation in attendance, finished with a perfect 17-0 home record in 2017, its first perfect record at home since 2010. The Huskers have won a nation-leading 30 straight matches at home.
• Nebraska ranks 11th in the nation in opponent hitting percentage (.154). The Huskers are also 14th in hitting percentage (.283) and 22nd nationally in kills per set (14.22).
• In NCAA Tournament play, Nebraska leads all teams in aces per set (2.22) and rank second in opponent hitting percentage (.165). The Huskers are sixth in blocks per set at 3.00.
• Kelly Hunter, the Big Ten Setter of the Year and a first-team AVCA All-American, is putting up 10.78 assists per set and 2.76 digs per set. The only NCAA Division I setter who has set her team to both a national and conference championship (twice), Hunter ranks second in school history with 4,088 career assists at NU.
• Kelly is 15-1 in her NCAA Tournament career as Nebraska’s starting setter, posting the most wins and best winning percentage (.938) by a Husker starting setter in the NCAA Tournament.
• Mikaela Foecke leads NU with 3.48 kills per set and adds 2.32 digs per set in her first season as a six-rotation player. Foecke was named a second-team All-American, a unanimous All-Big Ten selection and was the Lexington Regional Most Outstanding Player.
• Annika Albrecht, also an AVCA second-team All-American, provides 3.06 kills per set and 2.74 digs per set. Albrecht has 139 career service aces, which ranks sixth in NU career history. Albrecht was also named to the All-Big Ten team.
• Albrecht is set to play her 21st career NCAA Tournament match on Saturday, which would tie the NU record.
• Briana Holman averages 2.43 kills and 1.15 blocks per set with a team-best .357 hitting percentage.
• Jazz Sweet adds 2.25 kills per set as the right-side hitter, while Lauren Stivrins chips in 2.07 kills and 1.04 blocks per set at middle blocker. Both Sweet and Stivrins were named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
• Kenzie Maloney’s 12 aces in the NCAA Tournament lead the nation and have tied the NU postseason record.
• This year marks the ninth time in the past 11 seasons that a current Big Ten team has made it to the NCAA Final.
Coaches
• John Cook, Nebraska: 18th year at Nebraska (530-69); 25th year overall (691-142)
• Mary Wise, Florida: 27th year at Florida (824-100); 31st year overall (905-163)

Series History
• Nebraska is 8-3 all-time against Florida, including the Gators’ 3-2 home victory in the second match of this season for both teams. In that meeting, Nebraska was without Big Ten Setter of the Year and first-team All-American Kelly Hunter, and the Huskers led 2-1 before the Gators rallied for the win.
• Nebraska has won both NCAA Tournament matches between the programs, including a 3-2 win in the 2001 regional final in Lincoln and a 3-0 sweep in the 2005 regional final in Omaha.

Scouting Florida
• Florida is 30-1 this season with a lone loss to Kentucky, which the Gators avenged two weeks later.
• The Gators own the top winning percentage in the NCAA (.968).
• In the NCAA Tournament, Florida has defeated Alabama A&M (3-0), Miami (3-1), UCLA (3-1), USC (3-2) and Stanford (3-2). Against USC in the regional final, Florida rallied from a 2-1 deficit in sets.
• The Gators are aiming for their first NCAA title on Saturday in their second NCAA Finals appearance. A Florida win would also mark the first time an SEC team has won an NCAA volleyball title.
• Florida is 8-1 against ranked opponents this season, including 4-1 against top-10 teams and 3-0 vs. top-five foes.
• The Gators rank third nationally in opponent hitting percentage (.141) and ninth in blocks per set (2.96).
• Offensively, Florida ranks 13th nationally in hitting percentage (.283).
• In NCAA Tournament play, Florida leads the field in digs (307) and assists (253) and ranks second in kills (266).
• Individually, Florida boasts three All-Americans in first-team selection Rhamat Alhassan (MB), second-team honorees Shainah Joseph (RS) and Carli Snyder (OH) and third-team pick Rachael Kramer (MB). Caroline Knop (L)was an honorable-mention All-America selection.
• Alhassan, the 2017 SEC Player of the Year, is averaging 2.72 kills per set on .405 hitting while adding 1.70 blocks per set. She leads the nation in blocks per set and is 14th in hitting percentage.
• Josephs adds 2.54 kills per set and is hitting .364.
• Snyder paces Florida with 384 kills. She is averaging 3.43 kills per set and 3.24 digs per set. She has also added 56 service aces, the ninth-highest total in the country. Snyder had eight kills and a career-high 27 digs in the regular-season matchup with Nebraska.
• Kramer averaged 2.70 kills per set and 1.05 blocks per set and is attacking at a team-best .413 clip. In the regular-season matchup with Nebraska, Kramer totaled a career-high 20 kills on only 28 swings, hitting .679 with just one error.
• Knop has totaled 505 digs this season, averaging 4.51 digs per set.

 

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