No. 1 Huskers Up to the Challenge against Minnesota

Lincoln – Behind double-doubles from Sarah Pavan and Jordan Larson, No. 1 Nebraska survived Minnesota's upset bid, posting a 28-30, 30-25, 20-22, 30-22 victory over the Golden Gophers to win the Ameritas Players Challenge Sunday afternoon in front of national television audience.

The Huskers (7-0) took their own tournament title for the second consecutive weekend, as Pavan totaled a match-high 23 kills on. 407 hitting and 11 digs for her first double-double of the year and seventh of her career. Pavan earned tournament MVP honors, as the 6-foot-5 right side hitter averaged 5.90 kills on .409 hitting, 2.30 digs and 0.70 blocks in three victories, including a pair of sweeps over ranked teams.

Larson joined Pavan on the all-tournament team after posting her fifth double-double of the year with 17 kills and 11 digs. Larson totaled 12 of her kills in the final two games, including five kills on nine swings in the finale. Rachel Holloway was the third Husker on the all-tournament team, as the setter totaled a career-best 57 assists, eight digs and seven kills. Holloway helped the Huskers hit .337 as a team, including .405 in game four.

Tracy Stalls was the third Husker to finish in double figures in kills, as the junior tied or set career highs in kills (14) and attempts (30) while leading NU with five blocks.

According to Nebraska Head Coach John Cook, Minnesota's strong effort was just what the Huskers needed to face after opening the season with six consecutive sweeps.

-NU Sports Information

“This was a good match for us to play,” Cook said. “We got pushed hard, and I was pleased with how our team responded to the challenge. The way Minnesota was playing early, we had to be prepared for a long battle. We kept plugging away and started wearing them down.”

Minnesota (2-4) gave the Huskers all they wanted early on, playing near flawless volleyball to take a 30-28 decision in game one – the first time NU had dropped a game all season.  In that game, UM hit .436 with only three errors in 39 swings. Katie Vatterrodt paced the visitors with eight kills on 11 swings, as the Gophers never trailed.  The teams traded points until midway through the first game when Minnesota scored four straight points to take a 14-10 lead on a Vatterrodt kill.  The Huskers trailed 18-14 before using a 6-2 run to tie the match on a Stalls kill off an overpass tied the game at 20, one of five kills for the Husker middle blocker in game one. Minnesota quickly responded with kills by Kelly Bowman and Vatterrodt, whose eighth kill of the game closed out the first game.

The Huskers began to slow down the Gophers in game two, out-hitting Minnesota, .348-.200 to post a 30-25 victory. Pavan totaled seven kills on .500 hitting while Stalls continued her quick start with five kills on just nine swings and pair of blocks. The teams traded points until the Huskers got on their first run of the match, using a pair of Holloway kills and a kill by Pavan to take a 14-11 lead. The advantage would be short-lived, as the Gophers pulled back even at 18 on a Kyla Roehrig kill. Leading 20-19, NU seized the momentum of a sold-out Coliseum crowd with a 4-1 spurt, capped by a Dani Mancuso stuff of Kelly Bowman to make it 24-20 and forced a Gopher timeout. UM got to within 25-22, but could get no closer as a Pavan kill and a Vatterrodt error gave NU a five-point lead, a lead the Huskers would take into the locker room.

Nebraska came out of the intermission with momentum, relying on the efforts of Larson and Pavan to take a 30-22 victory. Larson, who had five kills through two games, more than doubled that total in game three with seven on 10 swings, while Pavan slammed home six kills to help NU hit .326. Trailing 7-5, Nebraska used strong serving from Rachel Schwartz and Stalls in an 11-2 spurt that gave the Huskers some breathing room. Both players severed four straight points in the run which was capped by Holloway's kill into the back corner. The Huskers never led by fewer than six points and took a 2-1 advantage.

 “It was great side-out volleyball out there, and neither team was able to stop the other team's attackers,” Cook said. “As the match went on, we broke down their passers and that was the difference.”

The Huskers' strong serving continued early on in game four, as Larson ran off four quick points to help NU to a 5-1 advantage and force a Gopher timeout. Minnesota would pull to within 12-10 on a Roehrig kill, but a Dani Mancuso kill began a  4-1 run, including aces from both Dani Busboom and Pavan to make it a 16-11. The Gophers made one last run, getting to within 19-16 on a Vatterrodt kill, but two kills by Pavan and two UM attack errors ended Minnesota's hopes to getting it to a fifth game.

Roehrig finished with a team-high 19 kills on .485 hitting, while Vatterrodt chipped in with 17 kills

The Huskers open Big 12 play Wednesday evening, as they host Kansas at the NU Coliseum beginning at 7 p.m. The match will be carried on the Pinnacle Sports Network and on In addition, Tuesday's match will be shown state-wide on NET and nationally on CSTV.