Husker volleyball set to open NCAA Tournament

The Huskers will take on Texas State after the Bobcats defeated Utah Valley on Wednesday. Thursday's second round match will be streamed on WatchESPN.com at 2:30 p.m. 

OMAHA, Neb. (KLKN/Husker Athletics) — The Nebraska volleyball team opens the NCAA Tournament at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday at the CHI Health Center Omaha Convention Center. The Huskers will take on Texas State after the Bobcats defeated Utah Valley on Wednesday. Thursday’s second round match will be streamed on WatchESPN.com at 2:30 p.m.

Husker Sports Network will broadcast all the Husker action on HSN radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and AM 590 in Omaha. A live audio stream will be provided at Huskers.com and the Huskers app. John Baylor is in his 27th season doing play-by-play for the Husker volleyball program. Lauren (Cook) West, a former All-America setter for the Huskers, will provide color commentary.

About the Huskers
• The Huskers, making their 39th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, will open the tournament on Thursday, April 15 at 2:30 p.m. against the winner of the Texas State-Utah Valley first-round match that takes place on Wednesday, April 14.
• The top 16 seeds received a first-round bye. Nebraska’s region includes No. 4 seed Texas, No. 12 seed Baylor and No. 13 seed Penn State. The Huskers are on the left half of the bracket that also includes No. 1 national seed Wisconsin, No. 8 Florida and No. 9 Ohio State. The top two national seeds on the other side of the bracket are No. 2 Kentucky and No. 3 Minnesota.
• Nebraska, which has been to four NCAA Semifinals in the last five years and won National Championships in 2015 and 2017, finished the regular season 14-2 and in third place in the Big Ten Conference. The Huskers played 16 of their 22 scheduled regular-season matches, as six were canceled due to COVID-19 issues for opposing teams.
• The first-round bye will be the Huskers’ first automatic advancement to the second round since 1997 when the tournament featured 56 teams. In 1998 the field was expanded to 68 teams. The Big Red will await the winner of Texas State-Utah Valley, who will play on Wednesday, April 14 at 2:30 p.m.
• The Huskers led the Big Ten in defense last season and picked up where they left off this season, holding opponents to .157 hitting to rank second in the conference behind only Wisconsin.
• Nebraska’s .272 season hitting percentage also ranked second in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin.
• Nebraska ranked third in the conference in kills (14.11 per set), second in assists (12.82 per set) and fourth in digs (14.79 per set).
• Senior outside hitter Lexi Sun leads the Huskers with 3.82 kills per set with 19 service aces as well as 2.13 digs per set. She ranked fifth in the Big Ten in kills per set and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection. Sun was named the Big Ten Player of the Week on March 8 after averaging 5.17 kills per set on .315 hitting in the two wins at Illinois. Sun earned the conference player of the week honor again on March 22 after 4.33 kills per set on .408 hitting in two sweeps over Iowa.
• Senior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins is putting up 3.21 kills per set on a team-high .468 hitting percentage, which led all Big Ten players this season and ranked fourth in the nation. She was also named to the All-Big Ten First Team.
• Junior setter Nicklin Hames paces the Husker attack with 10.93 assists per set – most in the Big Ten – and she chips in 2.89 digs per set with 12 service aces. Along with Sun and Stivrins, Hames was a repeat All-Big Ten First-Team selection.
• Sophomore outside hitter Madi Kubik adds 2.71 kills per set and 2.54 digs per set.
• Junior transfer middle blocker Kayla Caffey has stepped in for the Huskers and contributed 1.96 kills per set on .362 hitting with 1.04 blocks per set.

Scouting Texas State 
• Texas State played 38 matches – more than any team in the country – spread out over both the fall and spring and posted a 30-8 record. The Bobcats won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in November for the third year in a row. Texas State is coming off a 3-1 win at No. 9 Baylor on April 1.
• Janell Fitzgerald paces the Bobcats with 3.47 kills per set on a .311 hitting percentage. She was an All-Sun Belt First-Team selection, and her 462 kills are the most in the nation for the 2020-21 season. Junior setter Emily DeWalt is a three-time Sun Belt Conference Setter of the Year. She averaged 10.73 assists per set this season and posted 1,427 assists for the season to lead the nation.

Series History
• Nebraska is 1-0 all-time against Texas State. That lone win was a 3-0 sweep in 1992.

Coaches
• John Cook: 21st year at Nebraska (602-83); 28th year overall (763-156)
• Sean Huiet: 1st year at Texas State (30-8)

2020-21 Huskers at a Glance
• The Huskers return every starter from last year’s 28-5 squad that reached the NCAA Regional Final against eventual national runner-up Wisconsin.
• Senior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins and senior outside hitter Lexi Sun were AVCA All-Americans and All-Big Ten First-Team selections in 2019. Junior setter Nicklin Hames was also an All-Big Ten First-Team choice in 2019. Stivrins and Hames return to captain the Huskers for a second straight season.
• Sophomore outside hitter Madi Kubik was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2019 and, along with sophomore libero Kenzie Knuckles, was a member of the All-Big Ten Freshman Team.
• The Huskers added four newcomers during the offseason, including junior Missouri transfer Kayla Caffey. The middle blocker ranked ninth nationally with a .408 hitting percentage during the 2019 season. She joins three freshmen who are new to the program: middle blocker Kalynn Meyer, setter Anni Evans and defensive specialist Kaylei Akana.

Huskers Ranked No. 4 in AVCA Coaches Poll
• Nebraska is ranked No. 4 in the AVCA Coaches Poll this week.
• The Huskers have been ranked No. 1 in 100 all-time polls, the most in NCAA history.
• The Huskers have been ranked in the top 10 a total of 514 times, which is also the most in NCAA history.
• Nebraska has appeared in all 570 AVCA Coaches Polls it has been eligible for since it was established in 1982. With Stanford dropping out of the poll this year, Nebraska is the only program to be ranked in every eligible poll all-time.

Categories: Husker Sports, Sports