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Huskers Meet Pitt in NCAA Semifinal in Tampa

• The No. 1 Nebraska volleyball team squares off against No. 4 Pittsburgh on Thursday in the NCAA Semifinals at 6 p.m. (CT) at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. The winner will advance to Sunday’s NCAA Championship at 2 p.m. (CT) on ABC against either No. 3 Wisconsin or No. 5 Texas. 
• Thursday’s match will be televised on ESPN and streamed on WatchESPN. Courtney Lyle, Holly McPeak and Katie George will be on the call. 
• 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 (32-1) 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’s 32 wins are tied for the most by a Nebraska team since the 2006 team won 33 matches (33-1).
• 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. 
• The Huskers, who led the nation in defense in 2022, have held their opponents this season to a combined .134 hitting percentage, which ranks first nationally. 
• Nebraska has been sharp offensively this season, hitting .279 to rank 18th nationally. The Huskers rank 10th nationally with 14.06 kills per set and 15th in assists per set at 13.02. 
• 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.
• The Huskers had six AVCA All-Region honorees, tied for the most in program history. 
• Thursday’s semifinals pits the nation’s top two defenses against each other. Nebraska is No. 1 nationally at .134, while Pittsburgh is No. 2 at .138. 
• Nebraska and Pittsburgh are the only two teams who are holding their opponents under .100 hitting in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers are No. 1 with a .090 opponent hitting percentage in the NCAA Tournament while the Panthers rank second with an .095 opponent hitting percentage.
• Nebraska has lost only one set in the NCAA Tournament, the only team in the tournament with fewer than two set losses.
• Nebraska enters the NCAA Semifinals with 32 wins. That ties for the most wins by a team entering the NCAA Semifinals since 2014, when Penn State entered the semifinals with a 34-3 record.
• Bekka Allick is averaging 2.4 blocks per set during the NCAA Tournament and is the nation’s leading blocker during the postseason.
• Bergen Reilly is looking to become just the fourth freshman setter to lead her team to a national championship. Bryn Keho set Stanford to a national title as a true freshman in 2004 as did Jenna Gray for the Cardinal in 2016. In addition to the two Stanford setters, Nebraska’s Rachel Holloway set the Huskers to a national championship in 2006, when she was a redshirt freshman.
• Merritt Beason has 444 kills in her first season as a Husker. With six more kills, Beason would join an accomplished group of four Huskers who totaled 450 kills in a season during the rally-scoring era (2001-present). That group includes Sarah Pavan, Kelsey Robinson, Mikaela Foecke and Jordan Larson. Pavan and Foecke were each named the NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player in their careers, while Robinson and Larson both won gold medals with Team USA at the 2020 Olympics, with Larson being the Olympics’ Most Outstanding Player.
• Andi Jackson is hitting .402 this season, as she attempts to become the first freshman in program history to hit .400. The current record for freshman hitting percentage is .388 by Karen Dahlgren in 1983. 

• Nebraska advanced to an NCAA Semifinal for the 17th time in program history and for the sixth time in the past nine seasons. The Huskers’ 17 NCAA Semifinals rank second in NCAA history, and Nebraska’s six semifinal appearances since 2015 lead the nation.
• John Cook has led Nebraska to an NCAA Semifinal for the 11th time in his 24 seasons. Cook is the fourth Division I coach to take one school to 10 or more NCAA Semifinals, joining Russ Rose (Penn State), Andy Banachowski (UCLA) and Jerritt Elliott (Texas).
• Nebraska is 129-36 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers rank second in NCAA history in postseason wins and winning percentage (.782).
• Cook is 88-19 in the NCAA Tournament as Nebraska’s head coach. He is 96-24 in his NCAA Tournament career. Cook ranks second all-time in career NCAA Tournament victories and NCAA Tournament wins at one school.
• Bekka Allick had a career-high 12 blocks in the regional final (her previous career high was 10 at Minnesota on Nov. 25, 2023). Allick’s 12 blocks were the most by a Husker in an NCAA Tournament match during the rally-scoring era (since 2001), breaking the record of 10, which was accomplished seven times by five Huskers. 
• Merritt Beason had 19 kills in the Arkansas match. She has produced double-digit kills in 17 of her last 18 matches, including all four matches of the NCAA Tournament. Beason has 444 kills this season. She moved into the top 10 on Nebraska’s single-season kills list, passing Mikaela Foecke (441 in 2017) and Sarah Pavan (443 in 2005) for the ninth-most single-season kills by a Husker in the rally-scoring era (since 2001).
• Lexi Rodriguez had 20 digs in the regional final to increase her career total to 1,404. Rodriguez became the seventh player in school history to total 1,400 career digs.

• Merritt Beason, a junior opposite hitter who transfered to NU from Florida, was named the AVCA Region Player of the Year, as well as All-Big Ten First Team and All-Region Team. Beason has stepped in as a team captain and is contributing a team-leading 3.86 kills per set this season with 2.09 digs per set and a .293 hitting percentage. 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.
• 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. She also earned AVCA All-Region and All-Big Ten First Team honors for the third time. Rodriguez, who averages 3.62 digs and 1.26 assists per set, leads a Husker defense that ranks first nationally in opponent hitting percentage. 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. 
• Freshman outside hitter Harper Murray was voted the AVCA Region Freshman of the Year and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, making her the second ever Husker (Madi Kubik, 2019) to earn that distinction. Murray also earned All-Big Ten First Team and unanimous All-Freshman Team accolades. Murray ranks second on the Huskers in kills with 3.23 per set and adds 2.10 digs per set with a team-high 34 service aces. Murray was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times this season.
• 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, All-Freshman Team, and AVCA All-Region Team accolades. Reilly, just the second true freshman setter to be the starter at Nebraska under head coach John Cook, is putting up 10.64 assists and 2.70 digs per set and has 15 double-doubles this season. The Sioux Falls, S.D., native ranks 17th 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 20 nationally in hitting percentage (.279) and kills per set (14.06). 
• Bekka Allick, a sophomore middle blocker from Lincoln, Neb., has been Nebraska’s top defensive presence at the net with a team-best 1.45 blocks per set this season. Offensively, Allick adds 1.80 kills per set on .325 hitting. Allick had a career-high 12 blocks in the NCAA regional final win over Arkansas, the most by a Husker in an NCAA Tournament match during the rally-scoring era. Allick received AVCA All-Region and All-Big Ten Second Team honors for the second year in a row. 
• Andi Jackson, a freshman middle blocker from Brighton, Colo., averages 2.04 kills per set and 1.09 blocks per set and has a team-high .402 hitting percentage, which ranks 18th nationally. Jackson was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week in November and has hit .500 or better in 13 matches this season. She was selected to the AVCA All-Region Team, All-Big Ten Second Team and Big Ten All-Freshman Team.  

• Pittsburgh (29-4, 16-2 ACC) earned a third straight trip to the NCAA Semifinals with a 3-2 reverse sweep of Louisville in the regional finals, its second time in four weeks reverse sweeping the Cardinals. 
• The Panthers rank second nationally in opponent hitting percentage (.138) and third in hitting percentage (.308). Pitt is No. 2 in the nation in blocks at 2.97 per set.  
• Outside hitter Olivia Babcock was the ACC Freshman of the Year. Babcock leads the attack with 3.61 kills per set and has served a team-high 50 aces. 
• Setter Rachel Fairbanks was the ACC Setter of the Year. Fairbanks averages 9.32 assists per set. 

• Nebraska is 13-0 all-time against Pittsburgh. The teams met in the NCAA Semifinals in Columbus, Ohio on Dec. 16, 2021. The Huskers won that match, 3-1 (16-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-22) to advance to the NCAA Championship match, which Wisconsin won 3-2. 

• 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, 11 final fours, 13 conference championships and 21 top-10 final rankings since 2000. 
• Cook has 849 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 (688-99). 
• 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 AVCA North Region Coach of the Year and Big Ten Coach of the Year 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. 
• Nebraska’s total attendance for the 2023 season was 264,665 (including the 92,003 for the outdoor match). Nebraska volleyball became the first female sport in NCAA history to draw 250,000 home fans in a single season.