Huskers Reach Regional Finals Sweeping Louisville

Christina Houghtelling recorded her second straight double-double with 13 kills and 10 digs, as No. 1 Nebraska reached the regional finals with a 30-22, 32-30, 30-19 victory over No. 15 Louisville Friday evening in front of a school-record crowd of 3,800 at the Kentucky International Convention Center Friday evening.

The Huskers (30-1) will advance to meet USC, a 30-26, 30-20, 25-30, 30-20 victor over San Diego in the evening's first semifinal in Saturday's regional final, which will be televised nationally on College Sports Television (Ch. 305 on Time Warner Cable in Lincoln and Ch. 610 on DirecTV).

Houghtelling, who had one double-double during the regular season, also served three aces, as the 6-foot-2 sophomore was one of two Huskers to finish in double-digit kills. Melissa Elmer tied Houghtelling for match-high honors with 13 kills on .500 hitting, as Elmer is hitting .517 in Nebraska's three NCAA Tournament matches.

The Huskers who have won 27 straight matches and reached the 30-win plateau for the 16th time in school history, held the Cardinals to a season-low .148 hitting, as Louisville, which had won 22 straight matches, ends its season with a 30-3 mark.

Nebraska used a decisive 7-1 run midway through game one to take the opener, 30-22. The Huskers held the Cardinals to .125 hitting, while Elmer and Houghtelling had five kills apiece for NU. Leading 14-12, the Houghtelling's kill started the spurt, as NU pushed the lead to 21-13 after a pair of Louisville hitting errors. The Huskers had a 29-20 lead before Louisville fought off two game, but Elmer's tip capped the 30-22 triumph.

The Huskers fought off a valiant Cardinal squad in game two, pulling out a 32-30 victory. The Cardinals took an early 13-12 after a Bing Sun kill, only to see the Huskers strike back with five unanswered points, taking 17-13 lead after a kill by Tracy Stalls, who finished with seven kills on .385 hitting and four blocks. NU led by as many as four points on several occasions, the last being at 27-23 after another Stalls kill. The Huskers led 29-26 before Louisville came back, scoring three straight points to tie the match at 29 after a Husker hitting error. The match was tied at 30 before NU regained control with a kill by Elmer before a ball-handling error on Sun sent the Huskers to the locker room with a 2-0 lead.

In game three, Nebraska broke open the match behind the serving of Dani Busboom, as she served eight straight points in a 9-0 Husker run, turned an 8-all tie into a commanding NU 17-8 cushion. The Huskers out-hit the Cardinals, .325-.069, in the finale and cruised to the 30-19 win to complete the sweep.

Jennifer Hoffman led Louisville with 12 kills on .500 hitting, as the Cardinals were held to under .200 hitting for the first time all season.

Nebraska will take on USC Saturday afternoon, as the Huskers will look for their ninth NCAA Final Four appearance and first since 2002. The match can also be heard on the Pinnacle Sports Network, including B107.3 FM.

Louisville coach Leonid Yelin

"We've never had such a big crowd. I would like to thank our fans for coming and cheering for us, they are the best fans. They don't cheer only when the team wins. They are always behind us and believe in us. I hope they will come back and support us because it's the only way we can get better, we can't do this without them. "

"I think we could have played better. Part of the reason we didn't was due to the great game Nebraska played. Our key players - outside hitters were hitting under .100, for the first time this season. We have to credit Nebraska for that. We did a great job blocking. We are still positive because we have a big returning class, we only lose two players. We're a young team, have a lot of things to work on. Tonight was a great experience and a great lesson we can learn from."  

On the play of Nebraska

"Unfortunately we don't have even one team in our conference which is even close to the level of Nebraska. It doesn't even help us to play a long season if it's not against top competition. All season long we lost only two games including the first and second rounds. So I think Nebraska playing in the Big 12, a much stronger conference, the kids get used to almost every night having to fight. It prepares them much better for this kind of night."

Steph Marsh

On team's poor hitting performance

"I think it stems from our passing because the outside always had a double block, the middles couldn't do a lot to hold the blockers and the outside couldn't do a lot against two blockers which was not necessarily what we were used to because we usually pass a lot better than that."

Lena Ustymenko

On her play

"I tried a lot of things and they just didn't work and that's usually when players start making mistakes because you get frustrated when stuff that always works, doesn't. That's why everything just falls down, our serving, our passing..."

Jennifer Hoffman

On the home crowd

"When we all came out, it was a rush, but personally I don't think about anything once I'm on the court it's all about volleyball. Sometimes when we have a big crowd you have to block it out when you're on the court and you've got to play your game and be mentally ready. I think some of our teammates weren't mentally prepared. They came in and were excited, but it took us awhile to get where we really needed to be where we were passing better and hitting better off of the passing. It was a great experience."

Nebraska coach John Cook

"It was a great win for our team. I thought the crowd was great tonight. You could really feel a lot of energy from the crowd down on the court. It was great to see their crowd come out and support Louisville volleyball. I thought our kids did a great job of working through mistakes, staying composed and finding a way to win each game. We were able to dictate how we wanted to play with our serving and our defense. It was a great win, that's what it's all about in the NCAA tournament."

"They started playing really well. We had a chance to side out and a couple of times to win, but we just didn't get it done with them right in the game. We maintained our composure and found a way to win that game. This was a great win against Louisville who is an excellent team on their home court. This is probably one of the biggest matches in the history of their program. The regionals, the crowd, playing Nebraska, there was a lot of pressure tonight and I thought our kids did a great job finding ways to be successful."

Christina Houghtelling

On the feeling on the court in second game lead change

"When the game was on the line, of course everyone wants the ball, I really felt that tonight. I knew I wanted the ball and I wanted to make a difference."

Melissa Elmer

On how important it was to win the second game

"When you get into those stretches in a tight game like that, the adrenaline is really flowing. It was great for Chris to come up and make a big play like that. When you get in those types of stretches, teams tend to back off and start tipping the ball just to not make a mistake. She just went up and wasn't afraid to make an error. I think that was a big turning point for us."

On Louisville's size

"That forces us to make good passes on our outside, but a couple of times we just forced it down into their big blocks. We adjusted to it, we took advantage of their weaknesses."

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