Nebraska rallies past Penn State in NCAA volleyball semis

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Mikaela Foecke had 19 kills, Annika Albrecht and Briana Holman had 13 apiece and Nebraska fought off match point in the fourth set to beat Penn State in a five-set thriller in the NCAA volleyball semifinals on Thursday night.

The fifth-seeded Huskers will play the winner of Stanford-Florida for the title Saturday night.

The Huskers took advantage of a series of service mistakes by the top-seeded Nittany Lions to beat their Big Ten rivals for the seventh straight time. They also advanced to their eighth title match, where they will try to secure their fifth national championship.

Nebraska won the opening set 25-18 before dropping the next two, and then rallied to win the fourth 28-26 and force a deciding set. The Huskers took it 15-11 to advance to the finals.

Nebraska Post-Match Notes
With the win, Nebraska (31-4) advanced to the NCAA Final for the second time in three seasons and for the eighth time in program history (third-most in NCAA history). The Huskers will go for their fifth national title on Saturday.

John Cook has taken a Husker team to the NCAA Final for the fifth time in his 18 seasons at Nebraska, and he will go for his fourth national title on Saturday.

Nebraska won its 18th straight match, which is the nation’s longest win streak after the Huskers snapped Penn State’s nation-leading streak at 23. Penn State finished 33-2 in 2017, with both losses coming to Nebraska. Dating back to November of 2016, Penn State is 0-3 against the Huskers and 39-0 against all other teams.

NU also won its seventh straight match over Penn State. The Huskers’ seven-match winning streak is the longest in the history of the Nebraska-Penn State series and marks the first time in the NCAA era (since 1981) that Penn State has lost seven consecutive matches to a single opponent.

The Huskers defeated Penn State for the first time in three tries in an NCAA Semifinal match. Overall, Nebraska improved to 8-3 against Penn State in the NCAA Tournament and 21-10 overall.

Nebraska improved to 8-6 all-time in NCAA Semifinal matches, including a 5-3 record under John Cook. Cook moved to 65-14 overall in NCAA Tournament play as Nebraska’s head coach.

The Huskers improved to 11-3 record against ranked opponents, including a 6-0 record vs. top-10 foes and a 3-0 mark against top-five opponents.

John Cook improved to 6-2 at Nebraska when playing the No. 1-ranked team, including a 3-1 record against Penn State when the Nittany Lions are ranked first.

Nebraska improved to 30-1 this season when winning the first set and moved to 2-1 in five-set matches.

The last time Nebraska won a five-set match in the NCAA Tournament was a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Penn State in last year’s Regional Semifinal in Lincoln, and the Huskers are 4-1 in five-set matches with Penn State in the NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions had two match points in the third set last year and tonight, Penn State had one match point in the fourth set.

With the win, Kelly Hunter improved to 15-1 in her NCAA Tournament career as Nebraska’s starting setter. Her 15 postseason wins are the most by a starting setter in Husker history, as she passed Fiona Nepo (14-3) for the most

Hunter recorded her 500th career NCAA Tournament assist in the match. Her 527 career assists in the NCAA Tournament rank fourth in NU history, eight shy of Christy Johnson (535) for third place.

Kelly Hunter recorded her fourth double-double of the NCAA Tournament and 16th of the season, finishing with 47 assists and a career-high 23 digs.

Annika Albrecht appeared in her 20th NCAA Tournament match at her Nebraska, becoming just the fifth Husker to play in 20 career NCAA Tournament matches.

Mikaela Foecke posted her eighth double-double of the season and her first career double-double in the NCAA Tournament. The junior finished with 19 kills and 19 digs.

In four career matches at the NCAA Championships (Semifinals & Final), Mikaela Foecke has totaled 63 kills. She is hitting .320 and has averaged 15.8 kills per match and 4.2 kills per set in her four career NCAA Semifinal and Final matches.

Kenzie Maloney had four service aces in the match. She has 12 aces in the NCAA Tournament, tying the Nebraska record for most aces in one NCAA Tournament.

Briana Holman tied her season high with 13 kills.

Lauren Stivrins had a career-best nine blocks.

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