Connect with us

Huskers Begin NCAA Tournament on Friday

Photo Credit: NU Athletic Communications Photo Credit: NU Athletic Communications

• The Nebraska volleyball team was selected as the No. 1 overall seed for the 2023 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship and will host the first and second rounds at the Bob Devaney Sports Center this Friday and Saturday. 
• The Huskers, making their 42nd straight NCAA Tournament appearance and hosting the first round for the 38th time, will open the tournament on Friday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. against Long Island University (13-18), champions of the Northeast Conference. The 4:30 p.m. match will feature Missouri (17-12) of the SEC and Delaware (24-4) of the Colonial Athletic Association. Friday’s winners will meet in the second round on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.
• All first and second round matches will be streamed on ESPN+. 
• The Huskers Radio Network will broadcast all the action on their radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and AM 590 in Omaha. A live audio stream will be provided at and on the Huskers app. 
• John Baylor is in his 30th season doing play-by-play for the Husker volleyball program. Lauren (Cook) West, a former All-American setter for the Huskers, will provide color commentary.

• Nebraska is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in program history. The other years were 2000 (NCAA Champion), 2004 (NCAA Regional Finalist), 2005 (NCAA Runner-Up), 2006 (NCAA Champion) and 2016 (NCAA Semifinalist).
• The Huskers won the outright Big Ten title this season with a 19-1 league record, earning their first Big Ten title since 2017. Nebraska has now won four Big Ten titles since joining the conference in 2011. The years were 2011, 2016, 2017 (co-champions) and 2023. All-time, Nebraska volleyball has won 35 conference titles. John Cook has been head coach for 13 of them. 
• Nebraska won 27 matches in a row to begin the season and finished 28-1, its best regular-season record since going 28-1 in 2005. 
• NU went 17-0 in home matches in the regular season. The last time the Huskers went undefeated at home in the regular season was 2017 (15-0). 
• From Sept. 12-Sept. 29, Nebraska played five straight ranked teams and won all five matches. It was the sixth time in school history Nebraska played five matches in a row against ranked teams but the first time NU won all five. 
• The Huskers went undefeated in non-conference play for the first time since 2016 and just the second time since 2008.
• The Huskers, who led the nation in defense in 2022, have held their opponents this season to a combined .141 hitting percentage, which ranks third nationally. 
• Nebraska has been sharp offensively this season, hitting .282 to rank 15th nationally. The Huskers rank 10th nationally with 14.16 kills per set and 12th in assists per set at 13.10. 
• Nebraska had four All-Big Ten First Team selections and two All-Big Ten Second Team selections for a total of six all-conference players this season, the most in program history.

• Junior libero Lexi Rodriguez was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in her career, becoming the fifth player in Big Ten history to receive that honor twice in a career. Rodriguez, who averages 3.60 digs and 1.24 assists per set with a .979 serve reception percentage, leads a Husker defense that ranks third nationally in opponent hitting percentage. She also received All-Big Ten First Team (unanimous) honors for the third time in three years. The junior from Sterling, Ill., was twice named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week this season despite opponents frequently tailoring their game plans to avoid Rodriguez on the court. Rodriguez was a first-team AVCA All-American in 2021 and a second-team AVCA All-American in 2022, as well as an All-Big Ten libero both years. Rodriguez was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman in 2021 and also excels academically, earning Academic All-America honors in 2022. 
• Freshman setter Bergen Reilly was chosen Big Ten Setter of the Year, becoming the first ever freshman to earn the award since it originated in 2012. She also earned All-Big Ten First Team and unanimous All-Big Ten Freshman Team accolades. Reilly, just the second true freshman setter to be the starter at Nebraska under head coach John Cook, is putting up 10.74 assists and 2.60 digs per set and has 12 double-doubles this season. The Sioux Falls, S.D., native ranks 13th nationally in assists per set. Reilly was named Big Ten Setter of the Week four times this year and Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice. She paces a Husker offense that ranks in the top 15 nationally in hitting percentage (.282) and kills per set (14.16). Reilly posted her career high of 54 assists in a 3-2 win at then-No. 17 Purdue on Sept. 29. She also recorded 12 digs and a career-best five kills in that match. 
• Freshman outside hitter Harper Murray was voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year, making her the second ever Husker (Madi Kubik, 2019) to receive that distinction. She also earned All-Big Ten First Team and unanimous All-Big Ten Freshman Team accolades. Murray, a freshman outside hitter from Ann Arbor, Mich., ranks second on the Huskers in kills with 3.29 per set on .250 hitting and adds 2.10 digs per set with a team-high 31 service aces. Murray was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times this season and has seven double-doubles. She hit a career-high 21 kills in a 3-2 win at then-No. 17 Purdue on Sept. 29. 
• Merritt Beason, a junior opposite hitter who transfered to NU from Florida, has stepped in as a team captain and is contributing a team-leading 3.81 kills per set this season with 2.08 digs per set and a .284 hitting percentage. Beason was a unanimous All-Big Ten First Team selection. A native of Gardendale, Ala., Beason earned four Big Ten Player of the Week honors this season and was the AVCA National Player of the Week on Oct. 24 following 21 kills in a 3-2 win over then-No. 1 Wisconsin. Beason had a career-high 27 kills on .426 hitting in a 3-2 reverse sweep at then-No. 16 Penn State on Nov. 3. As a sophomore at Florida in 2022, Beason was an All-SEC and AVCA All-Region selection.
• Bekka Allick, a sophomore middle blocker from Lincoln, Neb., has been Nebraska’s top defensive presence at the net with a team-best 1.35 blocks per set this season. Offensively, Allick adds 1.82 kills per set on .324 hitting. Allick had a career-high nine blocks in the regular-season finale at Minnesota. Allick received second-team All-Big Ten honors for the second year in a row. 
• Andi Jackson, a freshman middle blocker from Brighton, Colo., averages 2.10 kills per set and 1.06 blocks per set and has a team-high .408 hitting percentage, which ranks 15th nationally. Jackson was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week in November and has hit .500 or better in 12 matches this season. She was selected to the All-Big Ten Second Team and All-Big Ten Freshman Team.  

• LIU (13-18) is making its 13th NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the Northeast Conference Tournament as the No. 4 seed. After finishing 9-5 in NEC play, LIU upset No. 1 seed Sacred Heart (3-1) and No. 2 Fairleigh Dickinson (3-1) to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2020. 
• Libero Alasha Colon was the NEC Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-NEC after averaging 5.45 digs per set, which ranks 10th nationally. Camelia Melendez leads the Sharks with 3.08 kills per set and was first-team All-NEC. 
• Amable Martinez is in his first year as head coach at LIU. Martinez was previously the head coach at St. Francis Brooklyn for four years, but the school ended its athletic programs following the 2022-23 year. Prior to that, Martinez was head coach at Saint Peter’s for two seasons. 

• Missouri (17-12) earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2020. The Tigers went 9-9 in the SEC to finish seventh in the standings. 
• Libero Maya Sands and opposite hitter Jordan Iliff were named to the All-SEC Team. Sands was named the SEC Libero of the Year, averaging 4.81 digs per set. Iliff leads the Tigers with 3.44 kills per set and 42 service aces. 
• Dawn Sullivan is in her first year as head coach and was the SEC Coach of the Year. Sullivan was previously at UNLV, where she was the Mountain West Coach of the Year in 2020 and 2022. 

• Delaware (24-4) won the Coastal Athletic Association Tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time and first since 2011. 
• Outside hitter Lani Mason was an All-CAA First Team member for the third year in a row, averaging 3.66 kills per set. Setter Ezgi Basaranlar and middle blocker Kirah Johnson were honored on the second team. Basaranalar averages 9.55 assists per set, while Johnson provides 2.38 kills per set and 1.01 blocks per set.  
• Kimberly Lambert is in her second season as head coach at Delaware after serving as associate head coach for three years. 

• Nebraska and LIU will be playing for the first time. 
• Nebraska is 73-3-1 all-time against Missouri. The Huskers have won 17 straight matches against their former Big 8 and Big 12 Conference foe dating back to 2003. The last time the teams met was Dec. 7, 2019 in the NCAA Tournament Second Round in Lincoln, a 3-1 Husker win. 
• Nebraska has never played Delaware. 

• Nebraska is ranked No. 1 in the AVCA Coaches Poll this week.
• Nebraska has been ranked No. 1 in 108 all-time polls, the most in NCAA history. 
• The Huskers have been ranked in the top 10 a total of 557 times, which is also the most in NCAA history.
• Nebraska has appeared in all 618 AVCA Coaches Polls it has been eligible for since it was established in 1982. Nebraska is the only program to be ranked in every eligible poll all-time.
• Nebraska’s 618 consecutive weeks of being ranked is the longest active streak in Division I for any sport, leading Connecticut women’s basketball and North Carolina women’s soccer.

• Nebraska head coach John Cook is in his 24th season as the Nebraska volleyball head coach in 2023. He has led the Huskers to four national championships, 10 final fours, 13 conference championships and 21 top-10 final rankings since 2000. 
• Cook has 845 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 .874 win percentage (684-99). 
• Under Cook, the Huskers have achieved 64 AVCA All-Americans and 20 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 an eight-time conference coach of the year, including Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2016, 2017 and 2023.
• Cook was voted Big Ten Coach of the Year by both coaches and media this season after leading a young Nebraska team with no seniors to its first Big Ten title since 2017. The Huskers finished the regular season 28-1 overall, their best regular season record since going 28-1 in 2005. After going 26-6 last year and missing the NCAA Regional Finals for the first time since 2011, the Huskers started over with a starting lineup featuring four true freshmen and a junior transfer (Beason). Cook’s Huskers won their first 27 matches of the season and held the No. 1 ranking from Oct. 23 through the end of the regular season. Despite having no seniors on the roster for just the second time in Cook’s 24 years at Nebraska - as well as starting a true freshman at setter for only the second time in Cook’s tenure - the Huskers earned the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016 and the sixth time overall under Cook.
• Cook is one of only two 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. 

• It was a record-breaking night at Memorial Stadium on Aug. 30 when Nebraska hosted Omaha in an outdoor volleyball match. The attendance of 92,003 set a record for the largest crowd to watch a women’s sporting event in the United States. The crowd of more than 92,000 also surpassed what is widely regarded as the world-record attendance for any women’s sporting event.
• The previously recognized world record was 91,648 fans in an UEFA Champions League match between Barcelona and Wolfsburg on April 22, 2022, at Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain. The previous record for an American women’s sporting event was 90,185 in USA’s FIFA World Cup Final against China on July 10, 1999, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
• Along with the two records mentioned above, the Huskers shattered a pair of NCAA records, exceeding the previous records for any NCAA volleyball match and an NCAA volleyball regular-season match. 
• Entering the match, the largest-ever crowd for any NCAA volleyball match was 18,755 when Nebraska played Wisconsin in the NCAA Final at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, on Dec. 18, 2021. The largest NCAA volleyball regular-season attendance was 16,833 when Wisconsin hosted Florida at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., on Sept 16, 2022.
• The Husker volleyball program has sold out 319 consecutive regular-season matches. Nebraska’s sellout streak is an NCAA women’s record. The Huskers have led the nation in attendance every season since moving into the Bob Devaney Sports Center in 2013.
• Nine of the top 11 crowds in NCAA volleyball history are matches that have involved the Huskers. 
• Of the 16 largest NCAA volleyball regular-season crowds, 14 have been Nebraska matches.
• On Oct. 21, Nebraska broke its Devaney Center attendance record since the arena was reconfigured for volleyball in 2013. A crowd of 9,198 turned out to see a five-set thriller between undefeated No. 1 Wisconsin and undefeated No. 2 Nebraska. Over the summer, 402 seats were added to the Devaney Center, increasing the seating capacity to 8,309.