Nebraska, Texas reach regional final
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Old Big 12 rivals Texas and Nebraska will meet on the volleyball court again.
The defending national champion Longhorns overcame a slow start to overpower American in four sets in the NCAA Lincoln Regional semifinals on Friday night. The Cornhuskers followed with a three-set sweep of San Diego in front of an overflow Devaney Sports Center crowd of 8,297.
Nebraska will mark its 200th consecutive sellout Saturday night with a match against Texas that will decide who goes to Seattle for next week's final four.
"I know a lot of people wanted to see that match, especially a lot of people in Nebraska," Big Ten player of the year Kelsey Robinson said. "So I think we did a great job of taking care of San Diego so we could get there. We're playing the best volleyball we've played all year. I'm just waiting to see what we can do tomorrow and looking forward to it."
Nebraska and Texas dominated Big 12 volleyball until 2011, when the Huskers left for the Big Ten. The Longhorns have won six of the last eight meetings, including a five-set thriller in Austin in September.
"I'd rather play them here than in Seattle," Nebraska coach John Cook said.
The top-seeded Longhorns (26-2) beat American 24-26, 25-14, 25-16, 25-20 for their 22nd straight win. Bailey Webster and Khat Bell gave the Longhorns a spark after they lost an opening set for the first time since Oct. 19. Webster had 18 kills and Bell had a season-high 16. Texas hit .324 for the match after hitting .208 in the first set.
"We were just thinking we needed to regroup and kind of settle down," Webster said. "We really weren't playing our game. At that point, if you over-think it too much, it's going to get worse. We needed to clear our heads and start fresh."
The Patriot League champion Eagles (34-3), who were unseeded and in the regionals for the first time in 13 NCAA appearances, put up resistance in spurts. But the Longhorns' superior strength and athleticism took over. Kristyna Lindovska led American with 11 kills, but the Eagles hit only .138. American's win streak ended at 16 matches.
"Proud of the first-game effort for sure," American coach Barry Goldberg said. "They just raised their level. Their blocking became so strong, it was hard to hit around them. They dug better and put more pressure on our serve reception."
The eighth-seeded Huskers (26-3) beat the No. 9 Toreros 25-20, 25-23, 25-22 for their third sweep in three matches and advanced to a regional final for the second straight year. Robinson recorded 14 kills after having only six against Fairfield and eight against Oregon in the tournament's first and second rounds. Robinson had eight kills in just the first set against San Diego (26-4).
The Huskers also benefited from San Diego's 10 service errors. Chloe Ferrari had 12 kills to lead the Toreros, who lost for the first time in 18 matches.
"Nobody wants to see it come to an end, and this one is going to sting. It always does," San Diego coach Jennifer Petrie said.