The crowd also marked the 25th NCAA Division I attendance in excess of 10,000 fans in matches not played in conjunction with another special event such as basketball Midnight Madness. Both the NCAA and the AVCA are celebrating their 25th anniversaries this season.
Nebraska, leading 18-17 in game one, used an 8-1 run to pull away from Hawai'i en route to a 30-23 victory. Sarah Pavan totaled two kills and a block in the run, while Melissa Elmer chipped in a kill and two blocks in the deciding first-game run. Nebraska held a 14-7 lead in game two, but had to withstand two rushes from the Rainbow Wahine. The Husker finally used two blocks from Elmer and a kill from Jennifer Saleaumua to close the game at 30-26. Nebraska put game three out of reach early with a 6-0 run after trailing 6-5 as the Husker completed the sweep with a 30-21 victory.
Christina Houghtelling paced the Huskers with 14 kills on a .440 attack percentage, along with five block assists and seven digs. Jennifer Saleaumua hit .688 with 12 kills and 14 digs as part of a double-double. Melissa Elmer charted 10 kills on a .421 attack percentage with eight blocks on defense. Sarah Pavan dropped 10 kills and six digs on the stat sheet, while the 6-2 offense of setters Maggie Griffin and Dani Busboom paced the Huskers to a .306 team attack percentage.
Alicia Arnott led the Rainbow Wahine with nine kills to go with six digs, while Victoria Prince hit .421 with eight kills and three blocks. Kanoe Kamana'o chipped in 32 assists and 12 digs in the loss as Hawai'i was held to a .123 team attack percentage. Sarah Mason, who went down with a third-game ankle injury was limited to four kills in her first match since transferring from Oregon State. Susie Boogard produced five kills.
Nebraska bolted to a 5-1 lead in the opening game as Houghtelling, Pavan and Elmer all recorded kills. Hawai'i scored four of the next five points as Arnott slammed two kills in the run to put the Rainbow Wahine within one at 6-5. Nebraska picked up a three-point advantage, 10-7, only to Hawai'i come back to tie it at 12-all. Saleaumua gave the Huskers back-to-back kills to give Nebraska a 14-12 margin. Nebraska inched its lead to 17-14 following a Hawai'i ball-handling error, but the Rainbow Wahine came back to within one at 17-16 following a kill from Sanders and a block from Prince and Mason. The Huskers recaptured their three-point advantage, 20-17, after Elmer and Pavan hammered kills on successive rallies. The pair of Elmer and Pavan combined for another block followed by a Larson kill to lift the Huskers to a 22-17 lead on a 4-0 spurt. Hawai'i temporarily stopped the bleeding with a kill from Prince, but Elmer stuffed a Rainbow Wahine attack and Pavan spiked a deep cross court point to move the score to 25-18 in favor of the Huskers. Nebraska eventually built an eight-point margin at 26-18, and Hawai'i could not overcome the deep hole as the Huskers won game one 30-23. Nebraska hit .457 in the first game as Saleaumua chipped in five kills on seven errorless swings. Arnott paced Hawai'i in the first game with five kills.
Nebraska zoomed to a 6-2 lead in the second game as Larson pounded out two early kills. The Rainbow Wahine closed to within one at 8-7, but Houghtelling scored three kills around a Pavan kill to bring the Husker advantage back to five at 12-7. Nebraska continued the run of six unanswered points on two more Hawai'i miscues for a 14-7 lead. The Rainbow Wahine pulled to within three at 16-13 as Prince recorded a kill followed by a combined block from Kamana'o and Gregory. Nebraska responded with a 3-0 run of its own as Elmer, Saleaumua and Pavan charted kills for a 19-13 lead. After two Gregory kills cutting the deficit to 19-15, Nebraska canned four of the next five points for a 23-16 score. The Rainbow Wahine pulled together yet another charge with four of the next five points. However, it cost Hawai'i the services of Mason with an apparent leg injury following a joust at the net at 24-20. The Rainbow Wahine, after a Houghtelling kill, scored three straight points on two kills from Prince around a Thurlby ace to whittle the deficit to 25-23. Hawai'i came within one at 25-24 following a Husker ball handling error, but Larson and Elmer triggered a momentum switch with kills to give the top-ranked team a 27-24 lead. However, the Rainbow Wahine stayed within range following an Arnott kill and Husker attack error to move the score to 27-26. Nebraska recomposed itself as Elmer combined with Pavan for a block, followed by a block solo from Elmer and game-ending kill from Saleaumua at 30-26. Houghtelling and Larson chipped in six kills for the Huskers in game two. Nebraska hit .158 in the second game, but held Hawai'i to a .043 mark. Prince led the Rainbow Wahine in the second game with five kills on nine errorless swings, while Ashley Watanabe handled six digs.
After a nip-and-tuck start to game three, Nebraska came back from a 6-5 deficit to score five straight points to take a 10-6 advantage forcing the first Rainbow Wahine timeout. During the stretch, Houghtelling and Elmer combined for two blocks, while Houghtelling added a kill of her own. Out of the timeout, Pavan stretched the unanswered streak to seven points with a kill followed by a opposition error to give the Huskers a 12-6 lead. Hawai'i closed to within 21-16 after a Prince block solo and Husker ball handling error. Nebraska made its final rush with a 3-0 run as Saleaumua provided a kill, followed by a tandem block from Houghtelling and Amanda Gates. The Huskers concluded the match with a Pavan kill at 30-21. Nebraska hit .406 in the third game as Elmer charted five kills and three blocks. Saleaumua added four kills on five swings in the final game. Hawai'i was held to a .097 attack percentage in the third game as Arnott contributed nine kills.
NOTES All four matches of the AVCA/NACWAA College Volleyball Showcase will be televised live on CSTV.
Entering the match, Hawai'i and Nebraska had split the 10 all-time meetings. Nebraska gained a sense of revenge as the Rainbow Wahine won the previous meeting on Dec. 14, 2002, snapping a Husker home-court win streak of 63 matches.
Nebraska, 30-2 in 2004, starts the 2005 season as the top-ranked team in the CSTV/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll. Hawai'i, which finished 30-1 last year, was voted fourth in the preseason poll conducted by the AVCA.
Nebraska is 28-3 all-time in season-opening matches. The last time the Huskers dropped a season-opener was in 1999 at the Showcase, formerly referred to as the NACWAA Classic. Overall, Nebraska is 5-4 in the Showcase event and claimed its only event title in 2001 that included a three-game win over Hawai'i.
Hawaii's only loss of 2004 was a five-game match versus Wisconsin in the NCAA Division I Tournament Regional Semifinals. The Rainbow Wahine fall to 3-4 all-time record in the Showcase. Hawai'i claimed the 1996 title with victories over Florida and Nebraska.
Hawai'i is 7-11 when facing the top-ranked team in the CSTV/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll. UH has lost its last four matches to teams ranked number one, including three to Nebraska. Its last victory over a top-ranked team was against UCLA on Sept. 4, 2000.
Post Match Quotes
Nebraska Head Coach John Cook:
Opening Statement: "There was a lot of pressure on our team tonight – a big crowd, being in Omaha, and I thought our kids responded really well. It was a good win, but it was very unfortunate that the Hawai'i girl (Sarah Mason) was injured. I know that took a lot away from Hawai'i. It was a really good effort on our part, and for us running the two-setter system tonight, it went a little smoother than I thought it would."
On the new two-setter system: "We hit .400 in the first game. We were pretty focused, and there was a lot of adrenaline going. With Hawai'i, that's the first time they've seen us, and it's a hard system to defend. You have three hitters in three different spots coming every time. We had a lot of single blocks when we were hitting."
On Jennifer Saleaumua and Christina Houghtelling: The first thing is a lot of those were one-on-one blocks where those blockers are chasing out there, and our setter did a great job of getting it to the antenna. A lot of those blocks got deflected out of bounds, and again, that's the stress of trying to cover three hitters with the block. They are getting in a really good rhythm with their setters."
On Stanford, the Huskers' Saturday opponent: "They looked pretty good today. (Cynthia) Barboza and (Kristen) Richards are both big bombers out there, and I saw the freshman middle getting a lot of swings. It's going to be great to play them, but I also think there's a big weight off our shoulders. To come in here with that big a crowd and disappoint them tonight could have been devastating for us. Now we'll be a little more free to play tomorrow, and I think it's going to be a great match."
On freshman Jordan Larson: "I think she lives for this stuff. She's been in a lot of big matches before internationally, but you could see the sparkle in her eye when she walked out there. She did a nice job for her first match as a Husker."
On blocking by Melissa Elmer: "She led the nation in blocking last year. That's what she's out there to do. I think that's experience to be able to sense that something needs to happen with a big play."
On the atmosphere at the Qwest Center: "It was a lot different than the Coliseum – a lot different feel. It gave you goosebumps all over, so it was a lot like a first game in the Coliseum. It hyped us all up and we came out ready to play."
On the focus in the last game: "We had a string of errors serving, passing, setting, and we just had to bring it into focus and finish the game. Those are the kinds of moments in games that we have to eliminate. Other than that little moment, I think we played a great match tonight. "
Hawai'i Coach Dave Shoji
Opening Statement: "This was a much better Nebraska team than we saw last spring. They've added a lot, not only in terms of personnel, but in system. They ran an attack we'd never seen before and we had a trouble adjusting to it. They beat us in every phase of the game. It was just not a match. We weren't ready to play at that level tonight.
"There wasn't one phase of the game we could have played better and won the game. We couldn't slow them down and in every phase of the game we got whipped."
On what the team did to pull close in Game Two: "We served tougher and got a couple of aces. We started forcing them to serve the ball where we needed them to, but we couldn't sustain it."
On Nebraska's block: "They definitely had a very good block. When I went over the block, their defense was there to dig it up."
On the loss and preparing for tomorrow's game: "I'm upset that we lost, but we play Penn State tomorrow. We can't focus on this. We can only focus on Penn State. We have to be ready. We have to be more enthusiastic. We have to play as hard as we can every point."
On the game: "In every aspect, we had trouble. We had a hard time running our transition. They came right back at us and put the ball down. It was tough."
On Nebraska's Jennifer Saleamua: "She's a smart hitter. She was using us a lot, I know she used me. She worked her way around the block."