Lexington Volleyball Regional: Nebraska 3, Washington 1

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Fourth-seeded Nebraska powered its way to the NCAA volleyball national semifinal on Saturday afternoon, picking up a 3-1 (25-17, 21-25, 25-20, 25-21) win over fifth-seeded Washington in Memorial Coliseum. 

This season will mark the 12th time that Nebraska has advanced to the Final Four, tying national powers Penn State and UCLA for the most national semifinal appearances of all time. The last time Nebraska made the Final Four was seven years ago in 2008, when the Huskers lost in five sets to Penn State (11-15) in the national semifinal. 

Kadie Rolfzen led the way offensively for the Huskers, with a match-high 20 kills, hitting .472 against one of the nation’s best defensive teams in 2015. Following the performance, Rolfzen was named the Lexington Regional’s Most Outstanding Player. Teammates Amber Rolfzen, Kelly Hunter and Justine Wong-Orantes also made the All-Tournament team.

Lianna Sybeldon, an All-Tournament team member, was the leader on offense for UW, with 15 kills in the match. Melanie Wade also had a large part in the match, charting 10 kills. 

With the win, Nebraska (30-4) has won 14 consecutive matches, its longest win streak since 2011. The Huskies of Washington cap off the season 31-3 on the season, bowing out in the regional final. 

Nebraska is now 5-2 all-time against Washington, with the last six meetings all coming in the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals or later, dating back to 2005. The Huskers upset the Huskies, 3-1, last year in Seattle to advance to the regional final. The teams have met in regionals in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and now 2015.

Nebraska will face either top-seeded Southern Cal or ninth-seeded Kansas at CenturyLink Arena in the national semifinal on Thursday, Dec. 17 on ESPN2.

Nebraska Quotes


Head Coach John Cook


Opening statement … 
“People don’t realize how hard it is to have that expectation. Everyone talking about it all the time. We embraced it. We took it on and we were not afraid to admit that it was our goal to get there. What is really rewarding and satisfying is to see our team play their best match of the year tonight, knowing what was on the line. That is a tremendous job by the team.”

On the strong performance of Kadie Rolfzen … 
“She played some big points tonight. Great. It was great to see her take this match over. She has had a lot of great matches but her presence and the big swings she took, the serves she hit, she made a couple of big runs in that fourth game. Her presence on the court and her ability to will us was huge.”

On Kelsey Fien fighting through adversity with strong finish … 
“We did great. When we had to side out, we sided out. The biggest barometer for the whole night was Kelsey Fien in the second game was 0-for-14 or something with several errors. I made a decision, I told her, ‘You are in trash-can drill the rest of the night and you need to approach it that way,’. And she came out and had a couple of big swings and our team just fed off of that. Makayla had a couple of big swings. Amber (Rolfzen) had a huge block there, that was a huge play that she blocked, they got the ball on a long rally and she finished it with a block. Being able to terminate those long rallies whether we blocked or made kills, you could see Washington wilting and the momentum going to our side.”

#3, Kelly Hunter, So., S


On reaching the goal of Omaha … 
“It is just so fun. We have a great time out there. It is still hitting us that we are actually going to Omaha. We talked about it all year. We had the expectation for ourselves and to finally make it just feel so good inside.” 

#4 Justine Wong-Orantes, Jr., L


On getting key momentum changes … 
“Yeah. That is a big momentum changer. Especially when those hitters are getting into good positions and taking big swings. That is what we want as defenders is to see our hitters execute and I think Kelsey Fein and Mikaela Foecke just did that and it is really awesome to just execute that point.  

#6, Kadie Rolfzen, Jr., OH


On the excitement of going to Omaha … 
“One thing coach said when he walked in was that there is going to be 17,000 people there cheering for us. That is one thing that having the final four in Omaha is such a big deal and us being there is even bigger. That’s our goal, what we tried to do all season and now that it is finally here – I actually have ‘Omaha’ written on my (athletic tape on wrist) so I have to change it now. (Started writing on the tape) in January and now I don’t know what I am going to put on it. Got to change it to something else.”  

Washington Quotes 


Head Coach Keegan Cook


Opening statement …
Coach Cook: First and foremost, congratulations to Nebraska. I thought they played an outstanding match tonight, particularly on the defensive end they were tremendous blocking all night. So congratulations to them, I think they have a real shot to take the title so congratulations. I’m very proud of the way that my team represented themselves this evening. To be your best when your best is needed is very difficult and these three players in particular, as well as the rest of their team, represented their university in the best possible manner. I’m very thankful to have coached this group. 

On if he knew before the match that he would’ve gotten the production that he did out of his two middles, if he could’ve then won the match …
Coach Cook: I think so. If you told me that they would both hit over 400 and have 10 kills each I think I would’ve said we’d have a pretty good shot to win it. So we were who we have been all season and these three players in particular were the best versions of themselves. Nebraska had a lot of answers for what they were doing, they were good. 

On what stood out to him the most about the final set …
Melanie Wade: I think that both teams were both playing tough defense and taking really good rips at the ball. I think both teams really wanted it so it was just kind of a battle down to the end. 

On the slide play and defense …
“I thought it was probably the best that we had been at it all year. Not so hot in each match from Michigan State to Ohio State to this one, but we did our best job defending the slide, which opened up some other things. In that phase of the game, I thought we finally learned and did a nice job.”

On how Nebraska can do going forward …
“I thought the team that won this region would win the title. I believed it was us and I think Nebraska has as good of a shot as anyone playing at home playing the way that they’re playing. They should be very confident.

On what he’s seen from the seniors …
“Transitions are not easy. It takes a group of amazing people to get through any transition in life. Certainly without these three players and our other seniors, we would not be in the situation where we are. They were the magic. They carried us through a tough spring, hard summer, and a season to a Pac-12 title. I think they exceeded everyone’s expectations in terms of what they were able to accomplish with a first-year head coach. 

#5, Melanie Wade, Sr., MB


On Nebraska’s Kadie Rolfzen …
“She’s a great player. We had a plan against her and she was still hitting good shots. She just did a good job reading blocks and hitting good shots. We wanted to see the set and get into a good spot and dig a few balls. She was hitting the corners and deep balls. That’s what you always aim to do.”

On what stood out to him the most about the final set …
“I think that both teams were both playing tough defense and taking really good rips at the ball. I think both teams really wanted it so it was just kind of a battle down to the end.”

#10, Lianna Sybeldon, Sr., MB


On what Nebraska did defensively to be successful tonight …
“I think they’re just a pretty gnarly team in general, pretty good at blocking, pretty good at digging, so you know, we hit a shot to avoid a block, they dig it. They’re good.”

#8, Cassie Strickland, Sr., L


On how she alters her serve when the other team starts to figure it out …
It always helps them to have good serving runs it gets them out of system. They did a good job passing well and that just stops us from streaking points when they handle it and they can side out right away, and stuff that we do to other teams so they were just doing a good job. I try not to think too much. I’m not going back there to try and get aces I got back there and hit good serves and get them out of system.

On after game two if they had the serve and pass battle on their side …
No, I thought it was going to be a battle the whole night. They have some great serves and really good passers so I knew it was going to be a tough battle the whole time.