Nebraska Volleyball Advances to Final Four

Behind strong serving, suffocating defense and stellar offensive performances its freshmen pin hitters, the No. 10 Nebraska volleyball team won a thrilling 3-1 victory over No. 2 Texas late Saturday night at the Longhorns’ Gregory Gymnasium in the final of the Austin Regional. With the 25-19, 25-23, 23-25, 25-21 victory, the Huskers advanced to next week’s NCAA Semifinal in Columbus, Ohio.

With the win, Nebraska (25-7) became the lowest-seeded team to advance to the NCAA Semifinals since 2014. The Huskers, who handed Texas (27-2) its first loss at Gregory Gym since the 2019 NCAA Regional Semifinal, will make their 16th NCAA Semifinal appearance next week and their fifth trip in the past seven seasons.

The Huskers were led offensively by their talented freshmen hitters Ally Batenhorst and Lindsay Krause, who combined for 28 kills on .519 attacking. Batenhorst, a Texas native, had 15 kills – tying her career high – with only two errors on 32 swings, hitting .406. Krause, who was celebrating her 19th birthday, put down 13 kills – two shy of her career high – while attacking at a .500 clip to tie for the highest hitting percentage of her career. Krause also added five blocks, matching Lauren Stivrins for team-high honors in that category. Madi Kubik matched Batenhorst for team-high honors with 15 kills. Keonilei Akana had a career-high seven aces, the most ever by a Husker in a four-set NCAA Tournament match and tied for the most by a Nebraska player in any NCAA Tournament match. Lexi Rodriguez added a match-high 20 digs – her eighth 20-dig match of the season – while Nicklin Hames posted another double-double with 43 assists and 13 digs, and she also had kills on all three of her attempts.

At the match’s conclusion, Hames, Krause and Kubik were all named to the NCAA Austin Regional All-Tournament Team. Hames was also honored as the regional’s Most Outstanding Player.

Nebraska hit .259 in the match while limiting Texas, the nation’s top hitting team, to a .250 attack percentage. The Longhorns had hit at least .346 in each of their first three NCAA Tournament matches. NU also outdug Texas 55-42, while the Longhorns had the edge in blocks, 13-9. At the service line, Nebraska had nine aces to Texas’ six. Logan Eggleston and Skylar Fields tied for match-high honors with 20 kills apiece for the Longhorns, while Brionne Butler had a match-high eight blocks.

Set 1
Stuck in a 6-6 tie, the Huskers outscored Texas 8-3 over the next 11 rallies, ending the stretch with a 4-0 run on two kills and a block from Krause. A Kubik kill and back-to-back Akana aces – her second and third of the set – extended the NU lead to a commanding 17-10. UT got the next three points back before the Huskers took a timeout.

But NU pushed ahead with a 5-1 run to make it 22-14, started with four straight kills — including three in a row from Batenhorst. The Huskers hit set point on a Longhorn service error and finished it off on a Kubik swing two rallies later, taking set one 25-19.

The Huskers hit .265 to UT’s .125 in the opening set, boosted by five kills from Kubik and four each from Batenhorst, who hit .667, and Krause, who hit at a .429 clip. Akana had three aces, and Stivrins added a pair of blocks as NU had a 3-2 blocking advantage.

Set 2
The second set tied eight times up to 11-11 before the Huskers exploded for an 8-0 run on two kills each from Krause and Kubik, a Rodriguez ace and two Krause/Stivrins blocks to build to a 19-11 advantage. With NU leading 20-12, Texas used a 10-2 run to lock it up at 22-22. The Longhorns knotted it once more on a Fields kill, but the Huskers stayed tough. A UT service error got it to set point, and Caffey was the closer with a kill to seal it, 25-23.

UT improved to .224 hitting in the set, but NU came in at .284. Caffey and Krause had three kills apiece, and Stivrins added two more blocks.

Set 3
The third set was tied 10 times up to 14-14, and NU took the lead on a Knuckles kill. Akana piled on with back-to-back aces again, stretching it to 17-14 to force a Longhorn timeout. UT pulled within one at 17-16 on a block and an ace, and NU called for a timeout of its own. Kubik and Stivrins terminated back-to-back out of the break for a 19-16 edge.

But the Longhorns claimed five of the next seven rallies, tying it at 21-all on consecutive kills by Fields. NU regained the lead on a service error, but the momentum swung the other way as Texas won four of the last five rallies and took the set 25-23 on an Eggleston/Butler block.

UT outblocked the Huskers 7-0 in set three and hit .300, while NU dropped to .118.

Set 4
After a close set to start, Nebraska worked its way out of a 12-12 stall with a Kubik kill and a huge block from Hames and Stivrins on Eggleston, prompting a Longhorn timeout. Kills from Kubik and Batenhorst — the latter on an overpass — spotted a 17-12 lead by another Texas timeout.

NU swiftly boosted the run to 8-0 with two more swings from Batenhorst and a Kubik ace for a 20-12 advantage. Another Batenhorst kill — her fifth of the set — made it 21-13 before UT got the next three rallies to whittle it to 21-16. The Longhorns eventually made it a 6-0 run to pull within two at 21-19. Batenhorst snapped the run with a kill, and a Caffey/Krause blocked put Nebraska two points away from a victory. The Huskers earned their first match point on a Caffey kill and following a Texas sideout, Krause closed out the match with her 13th kill of the night.

Up Next
Nebraska advances to next week’s NCAA Semifinals at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The Huskers will take on No. 3 seed Pittsburgh on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. CT The match will be broadcast on KBBN 95.3 FM with coverage on the Huskers Radio Network beginning at 8 p.m.