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NU Punches Ticket to Tampa

LINCOLN, Neb. - The No. 1 Nebraska volleyball team advanced to the NCAA Semifinals with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over third-seeded Arkansas Saturday evening in front of 8,713 fans at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

Nebraska erased a late five-point deficit to rally and win set one, 26-24. The Huskers then cruised to a 25-14 victory in set two but Arkansas (28-6) battled over the next two sets. The Razorbacks won set three, 25-21, handing the Huskers their first set loss of the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas then led 19-17 in set four before NU rallied for a 25-23 victory.

Nebraska (32-1) will head to the NCAA Semifinals for the 17th time in program history and the sixth time in the last nine years. The Huskers will face No. 4 Pittsburgh on Thursday at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. A match time has not yet been announced.

The Huskers, who finished 21-0 at home this season, hit just .194 in the match, but Nebraska held Arkansas to a .100 attack percentage. The Huskers had the advantage in kills (57-47), blocks (17-9) and digs (78-62), but the Razorbacks served up eight aces while Nebraska's lone ace came on the first point of the match.

Merritt Beason, the NCAA Lincoln Regional Most Outstanding Player, finished with a match-high 19 kills. She recorded a double-double by adding 11 digs and nearly posted a triple-double after finishing with eight blocks, tying her career high. Harper Murray had 15 kills and 12 digs for the Big Red. Bergen Reilly also had a double-double with 40 assists and 16 digs.

Defensively, Bekka Allick had a career-high 12 blocks. Her 12 stuffs were the most ever by a Husker in an NCAA Tournament match during the rally-scoring era and were just one shy of the program record for any postseason match. Lexi Rodriguez had a match-high 20 digs to lead the Nebraska floor defense, as five Huskers finished with double-digit digs.

Reilly and Rodriguez joined Beason on the Lincoln Regional All-Tournament team.

Three Razorbacks finished with double-digit kills, led by 14 from Jillian Gillen.

Set 1: Arkansas went up 6-3 after three straight kills. The Razorbacks led 12-6 after a kill and ace by Gillen on back-to-back rallies. Murray and Beason posted back-to-back kills, and Beason and Allick combined for a block as the Huskers pulled within 12-10 after a 4-0 run. Arkansas answered with three points in a row and held a 16-11 lead before a kill by Batenhorst and Arkansas hitting error made it 16-13. However, the Razorbacks restored their five-point lead at 18-13. Back-to-back kills by Jackson brought NU back within three, 19-16, but once again Arkansas had an answer with a kill and block by Gillen to go up 21-16. Murray posted a sideout kill, which brought Kennedi Orr in to serve. From there, Murray terminated again and then added a block with Allick. A hitting error by Arkansas cut its lead to one, 21-20, after the Huskers' 4-0 run. The Razorbacks led 23-21 when a service error and block by Allick and Beason tied the score at 23-23. Beason terminated a kill for the Huskers' first lead since 2-1 and set point, 24-23. An Arkansas kill tied it 24-24, but Beason once again put down a kill to earn a second chance at set point. This time, a block by Beason and Jackson won the set, 26-24. 

Set 2: Allick had a block and kill, and Beason, Batenhorst and Jackson combined for six kills as the Huskers went ahead 9-2. Back-to-back kills by Jackson and Reilly kept the lead at seven, 11-4. Arkansas cut it to 15-10, but a kill by Beason and block by Beason and Jackson made it 17-10 Huskers. Arkansas got within five again, 17-12, but Beason recorded a kill and Jackson terminated on the slide to make it 19-12 Huskers. Jackson and Murray had kills for a 23-13 lead, and a kill by Beason and block by Allick and Reilly closed the set out, 25-14. 

Set 3: Arkansas held an 8-7 lead when kills by Allick and Beason put the Huskers on top, 10-8. Back-to-back aces by Gillen put Arkansas back in front, 13-12, but Batenhorst and Murray terminated two straight kills for a 15-14 NU lead at the media timeout. But the Razorbacks responded with a 4-0 run out of the break to claim an 18-15 advantage, and the Huskers used a timeout. A solo block by Murray ended the run, and a kill by Murray and block by Beason and Allick cut it to 19-18. But after a timeout, the Razorbacks got a kill and a block to go up 21-18, and the Huskers called timeout. Beason then tallied her 14th kill, and a back-row kill by Murray got NU within 21-20. The Razorbacks answered with a 4-1 run to win the set, 25-21. 

Set 4: Nebraska led 9-8 when a kill by Murray brought Orr in to serve again, and she delivered a 4-0 Husker run that put the Big Red up 13-8. Reilly and Allick had a block in that run, and Reilly dumped a kill. A kill by Murray put the Huskers ahead 14-10, but two straight hitting errors and a net violation allowed the Razorbacks within 14-13. Arkansas tied the score at 16-16, but Beason hit off the block and out to put NU back on top. But a service error and hitting error put Arkansas in front, 18-17, and an ace made it 19-17 Arkansas. Batenhorst terminated after a timeout, and a kill by Beason tied the score at 19-19. Arkansas regained a 20-19 lead but the committed a service error and attacking error to give the Huskers a 21-20 lead. Gillen answered with a kill, but the Huskers won the next three points on a pair of blocks and a third Arkansas attack error. The Razorbacks then fought off two match points before a service error sent Nebraska into the NCAA Semifinals.

Nebraska Post-Match Notes

  • 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 10th time in his 24 seasons. Cook becomes the fourth Division I coach to take one school to 10 NCAA Semifinals, joining Russ Rose (Penn State), Andy Banachowski (UCLA) and Jerritt Elliott (Texas).
  • With the win, Nebraska improved to 32-1 on the season. The 32 wins tie for the most by a Nebraska team since the 2006 team won 33 matches (33-1).
  • Nebraska improved to 129-36 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers rank second in NCAA history in postseason wins and winning percentage (.782).
  • Nebraska improved to 17-15 all-time in Regional Final matches, including a 9-5 record in matches played in Lincoln.
  • The win was Nebraska’s 22nd consecutive home victory in the NCAA Tournament dating back to 2013. The 22-match home postseason win streak ties for the longest in program history, as Nebraska also won 22 consecutive home NCAA Tournament matches from 1995 to 2002.
  • NU improved to 83-7 all-time in home NCAA Tournament matches, including 28-2 at the Devaney Center.
  • Nebraska finished the 2023 season with a 21-0 home record. The Huskers posted a perfect home record for the first time since 2017 (17-0) and for the 18th time in school history.
  • The Huskers’ 21 home victories are a school record, eclipsing the 20 home victories during the 2005 season.
  • The attendance for today’s match was 8,713. NU set an all-time NCAA record for any female sport with a total home attendance of 264,665 fans in 2023.
  • NU improved to 4-0 all-time against Arkansas, including a 2-0 mark in the NCAA Tournament.
  • The Huskers moved to 12-0 all-time against SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament.
  • John Cook improved to 88-19 in the NCAA Tournament as Nebraska’s head coach. He improved to 96-24 in his NCAA Tournament career. Cook ranks second all-time in career NCAA Tournament victories and NCAA Tournament wins at one school.
  • The Huskers won the first two sets against Arkansas and are 100-1 in the NCAA Tournament when taking a 2-0 lead. Nebraska has won 99 consecutive postseason matches when winning the first two sets.
  • Arkansas came back to win the third set, handing Nebraska its first set loss of the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers had won their first 11 sets of the postseason.
  • Arkansas took a 3-2 lead in the first set, marking the first time Nebraska trailed at any point in the first two sets in the NCAA Tournament. NU never trailed in either set one or set two in its first three NCAA Tournament matches.
  • Nebraska totaled a season-high 17 blocks in the match, eclipsing its previous high of 15 blocks at Minnesota on Nov. 25.
  • Bekka Allick had a career-high 12 blocks in the match (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. Allick's 12 blocks were just one shy of the Nebraska record for any NCAA Tournament match, including the sideout scoring era.
  • Merritt Beason had 19 kills in the 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).
  • Beason also had eight blocks, matching her career high. She also had eight blocks against LSU last season while playing for Florida.
  • Lexi Rodriguez had 20 digs in the match to increase her career total to 1,404. Rodriguez became the seventh player in school history to total 1,400 career digs. The 20 digs marked the 11th time in her career that Rodriguez has recorded 20 or more digs.

Lincoln Regional All-Tournament Team
Bianca Bertolino, Georgia Tech
Azhani Tealer, Kentucky
Maggie Cartwright, Arkansas
Jillian Gillen, Arkansas
Bergen Reilly, Nebraska
Lexi Rodriguez, Nebraska
Most Valuable Player: Merritt Beason, Nebraska