MINNEAPOLIS — Now, Nebraska is a team that wins close sets, and because they do they’re headed back to the NCAA Final Four.
Sixth-ranked Nebraska defeated No. 14 Oregon 25-22, 25-23, 25-17 in the NCAA Elite Eight match. Nebraska will now take a 12-match winning streak into the final week of the college volleyball season.
After a regular season in which Nebraska came up short a few times in the big matches because it couldn’t win the close sets, Nebraska won two very, very close sets to start the match to advance.
Senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke led the Huskers with 16 kills, with 14 coming over the final two sets. She hit .400 for the match. Lauren Stivrins had 11 kills on .526 hitting, and Lexi Sun had 10.
Nebraska hit .345 and held Oregon to .250 hitting.
Now the defending national champs really have a chance to defend when they return to the Twin Cities in a few days for the Final Four. Two more wins and they’ll be champions again.
This will be the fourth time in four years Nebraska plays in the Final Four. Nebraska had never made it to the Final Four three consecutive times when it did so last year, and now, it’s made it four in a row.
Nebraska has now won 10 consecutive matches in the NCAA Tournament over two seasons, including five against top-15-ranked teams.
The first set was close the whole way. Oregon took a 13-10 lead, but Nebraska was able to make a move twice when Foecke was serving. The difference came when Kenzie Maloney served a 3-0 run to break a tie at 20. That included when the Huskers forced Ronika Stone into a hitting error, after she’d had kills on each of her first five attempts of the match.
Nebraska let its first set-point chance slip away on a serving error. But Nebraska didn’t give a second set point away. Nebraska got a free ball. Foecke got the set. But instead of firing away, she floated over a tip that dropped to win the set 25-22. That matched the Huskers’ largest lead of the set.
In the second set, Oregon had the better start with a 12-7 lead. Nebraska battled back and took its first lead of the set at 20-19. Oregon regained its lead, but Foecke tied the set again on a block. It was the Huskers’ first block of the match.
Oregon tied the match again at 23, but Nebraska won the final two points of the set to win 25-23. First, Foecke dropped in a roll shot. Next, Stivrins dropped in a tip on set point. Setter Nicklin Hames jumped into Stivrins arms. Nebraska had battled back, and was one set away from the Final Four.