Preview: Huskers set for Final Four match against No. 3 Pittsburgh

The 10th-seeded Nebraska volleyball team (25-7) makes its 16th NCAA Semifinal appearance in program history this Thursday, Dec. 16, facing No. 3 seed Pitt (30-3) at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (KLKN/Husker Athletics) — The 10th-seeded Nebraska volleyball team (25-7) makes its 16th NCAA Semifinal appearance in program history this Thursday, Dec. 16, facing No. 3 seed Pitt (30-3) at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. First serve is set for 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN with Paul Sunderland handling play-by-play duties, Salima Rockwell providing color commentary and Christine Williamson reporting courtside.

This week’s action will be carried on Huskers Radio Network with the NU radio team of John Baylor and Lauren Cook West. Baylor is in his 28th season handling play-by-play duties for the Husker volleyball program, and West, a former All-America setter at NU, will provide color commentary and is in her sixth straight year.

Huskers Radio Network will carry the matches on HRN radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and AM 590 in Omaha. A live audio stream will be available at Huskers.com and on the Huskers app.

No. 10 Nebraska joins No. 1 Louisville, No. 3 Pitt and No. 4 Wisconsin as the final four teams left standing to contend for a national championship. Louisville and Wisconsin meet in Thursday’s first semifinal match at 6 p.m. CT. The winners of each semifinal will advance to Saturday night’s national title match.

Tourney Time

• Nebraska was selected as the No. 10 overall seed for its 40th straight NCAA Tournament appearance — second most in NCAA history, behind only Penn State (41).

• The Huskers are the first double-digit seed to reach an NCAA Semifinal since BYU in 2014. NU looks to become only the second double-digit seed to win the national championship since the NCAA began seeding teams with the 2000 NCAA Tournament. Stanford won the 2004 NCAA title as the No. 11 seed and is the lowest seed to ever win the national championship.

• With Saturday’s Regional Final win over Texas, Nebraska advanced to an NCAA Semifinal for the 16th time in program history and for the fifth time in the past seven years. The Huskers’ 16 semifinal appearances rank second in NCAA history.

• Nebraska is 122-34 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers rank second in NCAA history in postseason wins and winning percentage (.781).

• Head coach John Cook has guided 10 Husker teams to an NCAA Semifinal in 22 seasons at Nebraska. Cook joined Penn State’s Russ Rose (13), UCLA’s Andy Banachowski (11) and Stanford’s Don Shaw (10) as the only coaches in NCAA history to lead a school to at least 10 NCAA Semifinals.

• Cook is 89-22 in his NCAA Tournament career. He ranks third in NCAA history in career postseason victories and second among active coaches behind Penn State’s Russ Rose.

• Nebraska (156) and Stanford (164) are the only programs in NCAA history to play 150 NCAA Tournament matches.

• Cook is 81-17 in the NCAA Tournament as Nebraska’s head coach. His .827 postseason winning percentage at NU is the top mark in NCAA history among any coach with at least 20 NCAA Tournament matches at one school.

• NU is 45-27 on the road or on a neutral court in the NCAA Tournament.

Quick Hits

• Nebraska carries a five-match win streak into Thursday’s semifinal, in place since Nov. 27.

• NU has played a postseason match at Nationwide Arena just once before, falling 3-0 to Texas in the 2016 NCAA Semifinal.

• Nebraska’s matchup with Pitt is its 20th all-time against a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference and its third this season. The Huskers fell to ACC champion Louisville on Sept. 18 and swept Florida State on Dec. 4.

• Nebraska has 27 service aces in the tournament the most of any team in the 2021 NCAA Tournament field.

• NU has 237 digs in the NCAA Tournament. That total ranks second among all 2021 NCAA Tournament teams, just 19 digs behind Purdue, who played four more sets than Nebraska through the first four rounds of the tournament.

• The Huskers are holding opponents to a .123 hitting percentage in the NCAA Tournament. That ranks second among all 2021 NCAA Tournament teams behind only No. 1 seed Louisville (.095).

• Nebraska leads the country with an average home attendance of 8,185 this season at the Devaney Center.

• Nebraska was the last unbeaten team in Big Ten play this year. Its 10-0 start was their second-best since joining the conference in 2011.

Scouting the Pitt Panthers

Pitt is 30-3 on the season after defeating Purdue 3-1 in Saturday’s Regional Final in Pittsburgh for the Panthers’ first NCAA Semifinal appearance in program history. Pitt was led by Leketor Member-Meneh’s 21 kills on .383 hitting, and she added nine digs. Serena Gray had 14 kills on 24 swings with no attack errors to hit .583 and also put up six blocks. Rachel Fairbanks was two digs shy of a triple-double, finishing with 10 kills, 28 assists and eight scoops.

Member-Meneh was named the Pittsburgh Regional’s Most Valuable Player, and Gray, Fairbanks and Chinaza Ndee were also named to the all-tournament team.

The victory extended the Panthers’ win streak to four matches.

Pitt ranks sixth nationally for assists per set (13.28), seventh for kills per set (14.26) and 10th for team hitting percentage (.286).

Head coach Dan Fisher is in his ninth year at Pitt with a record of 227-57 and his 11th year overall with a career mark of 302-59.

Noting the Series: vs. Pitt

Nebraska leads the all-time series against Pitt with a perfect record of 12-0, including 2-0 in the John Cook era. With Cook at the helm, NU won 3-0 on Aug. 31, 2002 at the Ball State Tournament in Muncie, Ind., and 3-1 on Aug. 29, 2015 at the Nebraska Invitational at the Devaney Center.

All-time, Nebraska is 3-0 against Pitt in the NCAA Tournament.

NEBRASKA VS. PITT IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT

Season — Result (Round) — Location

1984 — W, 3-0 (First Round) — Lincoln, Neb.

1986 — W, 3-1 (First Round) — Lincoln, Neb.

1990 — W, 3-0 (Regional Semifinal) — Lincoln, Neb.

Up Next

With a win over Pitt on Thursday, Nebraska advances to the NCAA Championship Final on Saturday, Dec. 18 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The match is set for 6:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN2.

Categories: Husker Sports, Sports