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Huskers Face Illinois at NCAA Semifinals

Huskers Face Illinois at NCAA Semifinals
Photo by Isabel Thalken/Nebraska Communications
The sixth-ranked Nebraska volleyball team will make its program-record fourth straight trip to the NCAA Semifinals when they take on No. 3 Illinois on Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The match will be televised on ESPN and will be streamed online at WatchESPN.com. Paul Sunderland, Karch Kiraly and Holly Rowe will have the call.NU
• No. 1 Stanford and No. 4 BYU will play in the first semifinal at 6 p.m. on Thursday, also on ESPN and WatchESPN.com. The semifinal winners will meet in the NCAA Championship on Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.com. Tickets can be purchased at NCAA.com/tickets.
• The Nebraska-Illinois semifinal match will be broadcast 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 also on the official Huskers app. John Baylor is in his 25th season doing play-by-play for the Husker volleyball program. Lauren (Cook) West, a former All-America setter for the Huskers, will provide color commentary.

Nebraska’s History in the NCAA Semifinals

• The defending national champion Huskers have advanced to the NCAA Semifinals for the fourth straight year, a first in program history. Nebraska became the sixth program in NCAA history to reach at least four straight final fours, joining Stanford (1982-87, 1994-97), Pacific (1983-86), UCLA (1988-92), Penn State (2007-10) and Texas (2012-16). Only Penn State, Texas and Nebraska have accomplished the feat since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1998.
• The Huskers are making their 15th NCAA Semifinals appearance all-time, second-most behind only Stanford (22).
• Nebraska is 8-6 all-time in NCAA Semifinals appearances, including a 5-3 record under John Cook. The last three times the Huskers have won their NCAA Semifinal match, they’ve gone on to win the national title (2006, 2015, 2017).
• Cook is taking Nebraska to the NCAA Semifinals for the ninth time in his 19 seasons as head coach. Cook’s nine NCAA Semifinals appearances are tied for the sixth-most by any coach in NCAA history.
• Cook is just the fifth coach in NCAA history to make nine NCAA Semifinals appearances at one school, joining Andy Banachowski (UCLA, retired), Russ Rose (Penn State), Don Shaw (Stanford, retired) and Dave Shoji (Hawaii, retired).

Huskers’ Senior Class Most Decorated in School History

• Nebraska’s two seniors who have been with the program all four years – Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney – are 20-1 in their NCAA Tournament careers, and the duo is a combined 51-2 all-time in the months of November and December. Their 20 postseason victories are the most in a four-year span in Nebraska history.
• Foecke and Maloney will each play in their 22nd NCAA Tournament match on Thursday, the most postseason matches played by any player in program history. The duo have also each played in 72 career NCAA Tournament sets, trailing only Annika Albrecht (75 sets) and Jordan Larson (73 sets) for most career postseason sets played in Nebraska history.

About the Huskers

• Nebraska improved to 28-6 overall and won its 12th straight match last Saturday against No. 14 Oregon in the Minneapolis Regional Final. The Huskers have swept seven straight matches dating back to Nov. 17.
• The win was Nebraska’s 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament win dating back to an NCAA Semifinal loss to Texas in 2016. The 10-match postseason win streak is tied for the longest NCAA Tournament winning streak in program history (NU also won 10 straight matches from 2000-01 and 2015-16).
• NU held Kentucky to a season-low .165 hitting percentage last Friday in the NCAA Regional Semifinal, the 13th time this season Nebraska has held a team to its lowest hitting percentage of the season.
• Nebraska leads the nation in opponent hitting percentage at .136. Nebraska’s opponent hitting percentage is its best mark since holding foes to .126 in the 2005 season. The best defensive team in the John Cook era was the 2004 squad that held opponents to .103 hitting for the season.
• The Huskers have held 26 of their 34 opponents under .200 hitting this year, and 13 have hit below .100.
• Nebraska ranks 12th nationally in blocks per set at 2.79.
• The Huskers rank 16th in the nation in aces per set with 1.67. That is the Huskers’ highest ace total since 2007 (1.82) and is the third-highest mark by a Husker team in the rally scoring era.
• Nebraska has climbed to 17th nationally in hitting percentage with a .265 mark. During its current stretch of seven straight sweeps, the Huskers are hitting .350.

Coaches

• John Cook, Nebraska: 19th year at Nebraska (559-75); 26th year overall (720-148)
• Chris Tamas, Illinois: 2nd year at Illinois (55-14)

Series History

• Nebraska is 25-8-1 all-time against Illinois. The teams split the season series, 1-1. In the first match, a 3-1 Husker win in Champaign on Sept. 29, NU held Illinois to .157 hitting, and Mikaela Foecke had 13 kills and 11 digs while Callie Schwarzenbach had nine kills and eight blocks. Illinois returned the favor in Lincoln on Oct. 27, posting a 3-1 win over the Huskers, which is the Huskers’ last loss before their current 12-match winning streak. Jacqueline Quade had 23 kills for Illinois, which held the Huskers to a .099 hitting percentage that night.

Scouting Illinois

• No. 3 Illinois enters the match with a 32-3 overall record and finished second in the Big Ten with a 17-3 conference record. The Fighting Illini have won 17 straight matches, including seven wins against top-15 opponents in that stretch.
• Illinois is coached by former Husker assistant coach Chris Tamas, who was part of the Husker coaching staff during the 2015 NCAA Championship season along with his wife, Jen. Tamas took over as head coach at Illinois in 2017 and is 1-2 all-time facing Nebraska head coach John Cook.
• Illinois ranks ninth nationally with a .283 hitting percentage. Its opponent hitting percentage of .164 ranks 28th. All-America setter Jordyn Poulter leads the team with 11.61 assists per set. She was the Big Ten Co-Setter of the Year.
• Jacqueline Quade leads the attack with 4.19 kills per set and was an All-Big Ten selection. Megan Cooney adds 2.65 kills per set, and Beth Prince is averaging 2.63 kills per set.
• All-America middle blocker Ali Bastianelli ranks 19th nationally in blocks with 1.40 per set and is providing 2.30 kills per set on .352 hitting.

Foecke, Maloney Captain Young Husker Squad

• Seniors Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney are co-captaining the 2018 Husker squad. Foecke and Maloney are the lone players on the team who have been part of both the 2015 and 2017 NCAA Championship teams, and the duo will look to become the first in program history to win three national championships.
• Foecke, an outside hitter from West Point, Iowa, was selected the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championship in both 2015 and 2017 after leading the Huskers to their fourth and fifth NCAA titles all-time.
• Foecke became the fourth player in NCAA history to twice be named the MOP – as she also earned the honor in 2015 – and she was the first to earn the honor in non-consecutive years. The other three players to earn two most outstanding player awards were: Lauren Cacciamani (Penn State, 1998 and 1999), Keao Burdine (USC, 2002 and 2003) and Megan Hodge (Penn State, 2007 and 2008).
• Foecke, who was named Big Ten Player of the Week four times this season, leads the Huskers with 3.80 kills per set and adds 2.69 digs per set and 43 service aces this season. Her current kills per set average is Nebraska’s best since 2013 (Kelsey Robinson, 4.45). Foecke was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection for the second straight season. She has 21 aces in her NCAA Tournament career, the second-highest total in Nebraska history. Only Jordan Larson (36) has more.
• Foecke had the third and fourth double-doubles of her NCAA Tournament career at the Minneapolis Regional last weekend, and she was named the most valuable player.
• Foecke ranks third on Nebraska’s career kills list with 1,638, and her 132 career aces are eighth-most in school history. Foecke also has 263 career kills all-time in the NCAA Tournament, second-most in school history behind only Sarah Pavan (304).
• Maloney, a libero from Louisville, Kentucky, was named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament team in 2017 and was a PrepVolleyball.com first-team All-American after serving a school-record 13 aces during the NCAA Tournament.
• In her first season as NU’s libero in 2017, Maloney played all 125 sets and averaged 3.62 digs per set and 0.95 aces per set with season totals of 452 digs and 37 aces, second-most on the team.
• Maloney was named to the All-Big Ten team this year. She is averaging a team-high 4.06 digs per set and had a career-high 25 digs in a win at No. 14 Creighton and again at No. 3 Minnesota.
• Maloney became the 11th Husker all-time to reach 1,000 career digs when she did so against Missouri State on Sept. 15. She now has 1,369 career digs, fifth-most in school history.

Stivrins, Sweet Stepping Up in Sophomore Seasons

• After earning All-Big Ten Freshman team honors in 2017, middle blocker Lauren Stivrins and opposite hitter Jazz Sweet are both playing bigger roles as sophomores in the program.
• Stivrins is averaging 2.33 kills per set on a team-best .409 hitting percentage, NU’s highest individual hitting percentage since 2007 (Tracy Stalls, .473). She ranks sixth in the nation. Stivrins was also an All-Big Ten selection.
• Stivrins finished the 2017 season with 2.07 kills per set on .309 hitting and 1.02 blocks per set while playing all 125 sets. She tallied nine kills on .316 hitting against Florida in the NCAA Championship match and had seven kills and a career-high nine blocks in the NCAA Semifinal vs. Penn State.
• Stivrins picked up her first career Big Ten Player of the Week honor after becoming the third Husker in school history to post a 1.000 hitting percentage with at least 10 kills when she went 10-for-10 in a sweep of Northwestern on Sept. 28.
• Sweet also played in all 125 sets last season and had 2.22 kills per set on .273 hitting in her first year as a Husker. Sweet posted 12 kills on .375 hitting against Penn State in the NCAA Semifinal.
• This year, Sweet moved into the starting lineup for the Big Red and is averaging 2.27 kills per set.

Sun Shining for Huskers

• Nebraska added sophomore outside hitter Lexi Sun to its attack in the offseason. The University of Texas transfer was a 2017 first-team All-Big 12 selection and received All-America honorable mention in her freshman season with the Longhorns. A native of Encinitas, California, Sun was the PrepVolleyball.com National Player of the Year, the Gatorade Player of the Year and the All-USA Volleyball Player of the Year as a senior at Santa Fe Christian.
• Sun made her Husker debut on Sept. 14 against New Mexico. She had 13 kills on .346 hitting with five digs, and she followed that the next day with nine kills on .368 hitting with seven digs against Missouri State.
• Sun is playing all six rotations for the Huskers and is averaging 3.17 kills and 2.68 digs per set. She has 27 service aces.

Young Huskers Making Instant Impact

• Eight of the 15 Huskers on the roster are new to the team this season, and five are freshmen.
• True freshman setter Nicklin Hames is averaging 10.46 assists and 3.33 digs per set. Her 39 service aces are second-most on the team. Hames has 23 double-doubles this season, a Nebraska school record in the rally scoring era. Hames was an All-Big Ten Freshman Team member.
• Freshman middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach was also an All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection. Schwarzenbach leads the team with 1.38 blocks per set, which ranks 21st in the nation. Schwarzenbach has 170 blocks this season, which set a new Nebraska freshman record for blocks in a season, passing Tracy Stalls (160) in 2004.
• Defensive specialist Megan Miller has played in 27 matches and is providing 1.88 digs per set and has 19 aces from the service line. Miller had a career-high 23 digs at No. 15 Michigan on Nov. 10.
• Outside hitter Capri Davis has played in 24 matches and was huge for the Huskers in a 3-2 comeback win at No. 14 Creighton early this season, providing 18 kills.
• Defensive specialist Chen Abramovich made her first collegiate appearance against Wake Forest on Aug. 31.

Smith Makes Return to Huskers

• Senior setter Brooke Smith was part of the Huskers’ 2015 NCAA Championship team and 2016 Big Ten Championship team. She played the 2017 season at Kansas State before transferring back to Nebraska for her senior season this year. Smith was cleared by the NCAA to start playing for the Huskers on Sept. 7 and has played in 12 matches, recording nine assists and one ace. Smith received Nebraska’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award this year for the second time in her career.

Huskers Played School-Record 19 Home Matches

• Nebraska played a school-record 19 regular-season home matches in 2018.
• Nine of the Huskers’ 10 non-conference matches were played at the Devaney Center this season. The only road trip was to Omaha, where NU beat No. 14 Creighton, 3-2, on Sept. 6.
• The 2018 season marked the first time the Huskers didn’t play a non-conference match outside of Nebraska since 2007.

Huskers Record 250th Consecutive Regular-Season Sellout

• Nebraska holds an NCAA women’s record 253 consecutive regular-season sellouts. The Huskers celebrated their 250th straight regular-season sellout with a thrilling 3-2 win over No. 7 Penn State on Nov. 2.

Huskers Ranked No. 6 in AVCA Coaches Poll

• Nebraska is ranked No. 6 in the AVCA Coaches Poll.
• The Huskers have been ranked No. 1 in 99 all-time polls, the most in NCAA history.
• The Huskers have been ranked in the top 10 a total of 485 times, which is also the most in NCAA history.
• Nebraska has appeared in all 540 AVCA Coaches Polls since it was established in 1982. Nebraska and Stanford are the only two programs to be ranked in every poll all-time.

Cook Adds to Legacy; Joins AVCA Hall of Fame 

• Nebraska head coach John Cook is in his 19th season as the Nebraska volleyball head coach in 2018. He has led the Huskers to four national championships, nine final fours, 12 conference championships and 16 top-10 final rankings since 2000. Cook has 720 career wins and is one of the all-time winningest coaches in NCAA history.
• Since taking over the program in 2000, Cook has led the Huskers to a nation-leading .882 win percentage in that time (559-75).
• Under Cook, the Huskers have achieved 52 AVCA All-Americans and 19 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, both among the best in the nation. He is a two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year, earning the prestigious honor in 2000 and 2005, and a seven-time conference coach of the year, including Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2016 and 2017, his first and second Big Ten honors with the Huskers in their Big Ten era (2011-present).
• Cook was named the AVCA North Region Coach of the Year in 2016, his fifth career regional coaching honor and fourth while at Nebraska.
• Cook is one of only four active coaches – and one of six all-time – to be a two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year and was honored in 2008 by USA Volleyball, receiving its All-Time Great Coach Award.
• Cook was inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2017, joining former Husker volleyball coach Terry Pettit in the hall.
• Cook became the 10th active Division I head coach to reach 700 career wins with the Huskers’ eighth win of the season on Sept. 14 against New Mexico.  Cook is one of 27 Division I coaches all-time to have reached the 700-win mark.
• Cook passed former Husker head coach and AVCA Hall of Famer Terry Pettit on the all-time career wins list earlier this season. Pettit finished his career with 694 career wins, which Cook passed on Aug. 31 when Nebraska beat Wake Forest.

Husker Fans Set Attendance Standard Once Again

• Nebraska is averaging a nation-leading 8,205 fans per match in 2018, which would be the sixth straight season the Huskers have led the nation in attendance.
• Nebraska fans led the nation in attendance for a fifth straight season in 2017, averaging 8,202 fans per match, nearly 2,000 more than any other school. In 2016, the Huskers also led the nation with an average attendance of 8,210 fans per match, a new NCAA attendance record.
• In 2013, the Huskers led the nation in attendance (8,175) for the first time since 1992, ending Hawaii’s 21-year reign as the national leader.
• The Huskers repeated as attendance champions in 2014 with 8,083 fans per match, which included a school-record 8,585 fans at the Oct. 3 win against Penn State.
• Nebraska has ranked in the top three nationally in attendance every season since 1990 (27 straight seasons).

Foecke Named Senior CLASS Award Finalist

• Ten NCAA women’s volleyball student-athletes, including Nebraska senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke, were selected on Oct. 25 as finalists for the 2018 Senior CLASS Award in collegiate volleyball. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.
• A native of West Point, Iowa, Foecke carries a 3.649 GPA majoring in animal science and is a two-time NCAA Championship most outstanding player, making her one of only four volleyball players in NCAA history to accomplish that feat. Foecke was an AVCA second-team All-American in 2017 after leading the Huskers to their second NCAA Championship in three years. Foecke has excelled both on and off the court in her four years at Nebraska, as she is a three-time academic All-Big Ten selection and has received Nebraska’s high honors (silver) academic medallion twice.
• The Senior CLASS Award recipient will be announced during the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship in December.
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