Huskers Shut Down Longhorns

Freshman Sarah Pavan had 15 kills and a career-high nine blocks, as No. 2 Nebraska wrapped a ribbon around the Big 12 title with a 30-20, 30-19, 30-22 victory over No. 11 Texas Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 4,207 at the NU Coliseum.

The Huskers, who donned red ribbons in honor of senior Ally Rebholz, wrapped up Texas, holding the Longhorns to a season-low .032 hitting while recording 16 blocks in the three-game sweep. The Huskers, who improved to 11-0 against ranked teams, are 26-1 overall and 19-0 in the Big 12, while Texas dips to 23-4 overall and 15-4 in conference play.

Sarah Pavan shut down Texas All-American candidate Mira Topic, holding her to a season-low six kills and -.081 hitting on 37 swings, far under her Big 12 leading 6.00 kills per game. As a team, Texas was second nationally in hitting percentage, but the Huskers stifled the Longhorn attack, keeping Topic and fellow All-Big 12 hitter Bethany Howden in check throughout the entire match.

Pavan led a balanced Nebraska attack with a match-high 15 kills and hit .375 on 32 swings. Sophomore Christina Houghtelling joined Pavan in double figures with 10 kills, seven digs and a career-high four service aces, while the middle blocking duo of Melissa Elmer and Tracy Stalls also provided a damaging combination, combining for 13 kills and 13 blocks.

"It was a good win tonight," Nebraska Coach John Cook said. "I thought we played well the entire match.  We had few breakdowns and few letdowns tonight.  Our players executed our game plan really well."

"It was rewarding for our team and our coaches," Cook said. "It's a tough matchup for us considering we have the Big 12 wrapped up.  Texas comes in here with nothing to lose and a lot to gain.  Our focus hasn't been good the last couple of days, but I think we wanted to play well for Ally (Rebholz) and we wanted to play well in our last match at the Coliseum this year."

"Nebraska puts tremendous pressure on teams with its block. We never got in rhythm tonight," Texas Coach Jerritt Elliott said after his team was out-blocked 16-5.5 in the match.

Rebholz, the lone senior on the Husker roster, had three kills and three blocks, receiving a thunderous ovation from the season-high crowd on every play she made.

The Huskers put on a blocking clinic in game one, recording nine blocks and holding the Longhorns to .041 hitting in a 30-20 win. NU jumped off to a quick 6-2 lead and never looked back, as Pavan totaled six blocks and added four kills in game one to pace the Big Red. The Huskers built a 21-10 advantage before Texas made a run with six straight points, getting to within 21-16 after a Howden kill. Pavan and Rebholz recorded consecutive kills, giving the Huskers a seven-point lead before NU cruised to the win.

The Huskers used strong serving in game two by Houghtelling and Michelle Lynch in game two, using a 12-3 run en route to a 30-19 victory. With the score tied at 10, Houghtelling started the decisive run with a kill, before going to the service line to run off three straight points, giving the Huskers a 16-11 lead. Leading 19-13, Lynch ran off another four points, including an ace, as the Huskers pushed the advantage to 22-13. In all, Houghtelling and Pavan had four kills apiece in game two, while the Huskers held UT to -.081 hitting.

In the finale, the Husker offense began clicking, as NU hit .390 in a 30-22 win. Pavan led the charge with seven kills on 11 swings, while Lynch's serving sparked another early spark, as led Nebraska on an early 5-0 run, turning a 5-4 lead into a 10-4 cushion. The Huskers eventually pushed the lead to 20-10 before Texas made one last charge and closed to within 23-17 after a Husker hitting error. NU quickly extended the lead to 27-18 with a 4-1 run capped by a Houghtelling ace, one of seven for NU on the evening, and a kill by Elmer before closing out the match moments later.

The Huskers close out the Big 12 season on Saturday, Nov. 27, when they travel to Texas A&M. First serve is set for 7 p.m. and the match will be carried on the Pinnacle Sports Network, including B107.3 FM in Lincoln. The match will also be video-streamed on the Internet at HuskersNside.

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