Nebraska Blanks Stanford to Win AVCA/NACWAA Showca

Top-ranked Nebraska (2-0) claimed the AVCA/NACWAA College Volleyball Showcase title as it defeated third-ranked Stanford (1-1) by scores of 30-23, 31-29, 33-31 Saturday night at the Qwest Center OMAHA. The match was attended by 10,576 fans, the 11th largest women's volleyball crowd in NCAA Division I history. Nebraska has now won the tournament for the second time, the other coming in 2001.

For the second night in a row, the Showcase drew in excess of 10,000 fans (10,028 on opening night). The crowd also marked the 26th 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. The Showcase drew a tournament record 20,604, or an average of 10,302 fans per night.

Nebraska overcame an 18-17 deficit in game one with a 4-0 run, then held off the Cardinal with five unanswered points to end the stanza 30-23. Christina Houghtelling tallied nine kills in the opening game. The Huskers overcame an 18-13 deficit in game two, then needed to score four of the last five points to cap the second game at 31-29 as Jordan Larson came up with two big kills and Melissa Elmer and Sarah Pavan combined twice for blocks down the stretch. Nebraska allowed a 19-14 third-game lead evaporate and had to hold for a 33-31 victory capped by a Jordan Larson ace.

Houghtelling was named the tournament's most valuable player, and Elmer was chosen to the all-tournament team. Stanford's Cynthia Barboza and Kristin Richards also were tabbed to the all-tournament team, along with Penn State's Sam Tortorello and Christa Harmotto, and Hawaii's Victoria Prince.

Earlier in the evening, Penn State (1-1) defeated Hawai'i (0-2) in the AVCA/NACWAA College Volleyball Showcase consolation match.

In the 11-year history of the AVCA/NACWAA College Volleyball Showcase, the host team has not won the tournament on its home floor. Nebraska somewhat broke the streak as it has been the designated team host of this year's Showcase. The Huskers play their home matches in Lincoln, Neb., during the regular season.

Larson charted a double-double with 15 kills on a .419 attack percentage, 12 digs and six blocks. Houghtelling contributed 15 kills, seven digs and five blocks in the victory. Pavan ended the night with 12 kills and three blocks, while Melissa Elmer contributed eight kills and 10 blocks. Jennifer Saleaumua was credited with seven kills and 17 digs. Nebraska hit .312 for the night on the combined setting of Dani Busboom and Maggie Griffin.

Richards banged out 13 kills with 10 digs for a double-double for Stanford. Foluke Akinradewo hammered 12 kills with four blocks in the loss, while Barboza nailed 12 kills and eight digs. Bryn Kehoe notched 50 assists, 12 digs and three blocks while setting the Cardinal to a .211 team attack percentage. Franci Girard turned in 10 kills on a .353 attack percentage, and Courtney Schultz had a team-high 15 digs. Nji Nnamani banged out nine kills.

Nebraska held a 14.5 to 7.0 team block advantage, but the Cardinal defense was strong in the backrow with a 63-50 dig margin.

Houghtelling tallied three early kills and block assist in game one as Nebraska took a 5-2 lead. After Houghtelling recorded her fourth kill of the game to give the Huskers a 6-3 lead, Stanford regrouped with a 3-0 run as Girard slammed two kills to tie the game at 6-6. Pavan and Elmer knocked down consecutive kills to give the Huskers an 8-6 advantage, only to see Nnamani and Richards come back with kills of their own to knot the game back up at 8-8. Elmer sliced a kill before a Stanford attack error gave the Huskers a 10-8 margin. The Cardinal tied the game at 11-11 as Nnamani turned in a kill followed by a Stanford block from Richards and Akinradewo. The Cardinal took its first lead at 14-13 as Barboza hammered a kill and Pavan hit an attack long. Nebraska regained the lead, 16-15, as Elmer and Saleaumua combined for a block after a Cardinal attack error. Akinradewo blasted a kill through the Husker block to give Stanford an 18-17 lead after a Richards kill. Saleaumua provided the Huskers with consecutive kills, the second being an overpass hammer, to give Nebraska a 19-18 lead that was increased to 20-18 after a Cardinal attack went wide. Houghtelling added to the unanswered 4-0 run with a kill to extend the Nebraska lead to 21-18. Following a Houghtelling kill and Amanda Gates overpass kill upped the Husker score to 23-19, Stanford called its second timeout of the first game. The Cardinal closed to within 23-21 as Richards and Barboza pounded successive kills. The lead was trimmed yet another point to 23-22 after Akinradewo slammed a kill off the Husker defense. Larson and Houghtelling ended the Stanford run with kills to send the scoreboard to 25-22. Nebraska scored successive points on a Larson kill and a combined block from Elmer and Pavan, and a kill from Pavan on a long rally to go up 28-23. The partial Nebraska crowd stood up for game point 29-23 after a tandem block from Elmer and Larson, and the Huskers put the game away 30-23 on the first chance with an Elmer kill. Houghtelling ended the first game hitting .750 with nine kills, while Pavan, Larson and Elmer all had three kills for the Huskers. Nebraska hit .395 in the opening game and limited the Cardinal to a .182 percentage. Richards posted four kills on nine errorless attacks for the Cardinal in game one.

The Huskers picked up the first two-point advantage of game two as Saleaumua slammed a kills followed by a block from Houghtelling and Gates for a 7-5 lead. However, Stanford retaliated with a 2-0 run of its own to knot the score at 7-7 as Nnamani pounded a kill and Richards provided a block solo. Larson and Elmer had consecutive kills to lift the Huskers to 9-7, but Akinradewo contributed a kill and block solo followed by a Barboza kill leading to a Stanford 10-9 lead. The Cardinal gained a 14-11 advantage after Girard and Barboza contributed kills. Stanford took a 15-11 into the technical timeout after a Nebraska attack went long. The Cardinal gained an 18-13 lead after Nnamani cracked a kill followed by a Husker ball handling error. Nebraska chipped away at the lead with a 4-0 run after a Houghtelling kill, two Stanford attack errors and a Pavan kill putting the score at 18-17. Hougtelling tied the score at 18-18 with a kill, forcing a Stanford into its first timeout of game two after giving up a fifth consecutive point. Larson scored back-to-back kills to give the Huskers a 20-19 lead. Barboza followed a Husker service error with a kill to change the lead in favor of the Cardinal, 22-21. The lead reversed in favor of Nebraska at 24-23 as Elmer and Saleaumua scored kills. Nnamani and Akinradewo placed kills in back-to-back points to give Stanford the lead again at 26-25. Akinradewo gave the Cardinal a 28-27 lead with a kill forcing Nebraska to call its final timeout of game two. The Huskers turned the tide once again with a Larson kill and block from Elmer and Pavan to give Nebraska game point at 29-28. Richards save the game point with a kill to knot the score at 29-29. After Larson gave Nebraska its second game point at 30-29, the combination of Elmer and Pavan won a joust at the net on a loose ball that fell on the Cardinal side of the net for a 31-29 score. Larson ended game two with seven kills on 13 swings, while Elmer added five kills. Nebraska hit .250 in game two, while Stanford hit .158. Girard turned in five kills for the Cardinal in the stanza.

The Huskers snuck out to a 6-2 lead in game three as Nebraska scored four of its points on Cardinal miscues leading to a quick Stanford timeout. A Richards kill and ace led Stanford back from an 8-3 deficit to help close to within 8-6. Houghtelling stuck a kill, followed by a block solo from Larson and a combined block from Gates and Houghtelling brought score to 12-7. Richards and Girard notched consecutive kills to whittle the lead to 12-9. Stanford closed to within two at 14-12 after Akinradewo scored a kill. However, Nebraska netted consecutive points to go up 16-12 as Larson provided a kill and a Stanford ball handling error forced Stanford into its second timeout of the third game. Pavan and Saleaumua connected for consecutive kills extending the Huskers lead to 19-14. Back-to-back kills from Akinradewo and Barboza narrowed the deficit to 19-16, but the Huskers received points on a Cardinal service error and Larson block solo to put the score at 21-16. Busboom dinked a kill from her setter position, and was followed up with a Stanford attack error to put the Huskers in charge at 23-17. Nnamani hammered three consecutive kills to allow Stanford to creep within three at 24-21. After a Nebraska timeout, Richards added a fourth consecutive point with a kill, and the Huskers committed an attack error to put the score at 24-23. Pavan ended the Cardinal run with a kill, giving the Huskers a 25-23 lead. Stanford tied the score at 25-all on a triple block from Kehoe, Richards and Akinradewo. Houghtelling slammed a kill providing the Huskers with a 28-27 lead, and Larson slammed an overpass for a kill giving Nebraska its first match point at 29-27. The Cardinal saved match point with a kill from Girard, and Barboza added a kill to knot the score at 29-all. Larson pounded a cross-court kill for the Huskers second match point at 30-29, but Barboza saved it with a kill. The third Husker match point at 31-30 came on a triple block from Houghtelling, Elmer and Larson, but Houghtelling hit long on the next play to tie the score again at 31-all. Pavan tacked on a kill, and Larson served an ace on the fourth match point to end it at 33-31. Larson tallied five kills and four blocks in the third game as the Huskers hit .304. Pavan added seven kills in the final game. Richards paced the Cardinal in game three with seven kills, while Barboza added six kills.

NOTES Nebraska's Jennifer Saleaumua needs four kills to reach 1,000-career kills.

Nebraska closed the gap in the all-time series as Stanford leads the all-time series 7-4. Stanford won the previous meeting in three games on Dec. 13, 2001.

Nebraska snapped Stanford's 16-match win streak dating back to last season. The Cardinal ended 2004 with a 15-match win streak en route to claiming the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship.

Nebraska defeated the defending national champion for the first time in school history

Nebraska entered the tournament as the preseason favorite in the CSTV/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll with 35 first place votes. Stanford was ranked third in the poll with eight first-place votes. The Cardinal has been ranked among the top 10 in each of the coaches' preseason polls since 1982.

All four matches of the AVCA/NACWAA College Volleyball Showcase were televised live on CSTV.

The first day of the event drew a tournament-record crowd of 10,028. The previous tournament attendance record was 9,345 fans as Hawai'i hosted Southern California on Aug. 23, 2003. The match attendance also ranks as the largest crowd for a women's athletic event in Omaha.

Overall, Nebraska is 6-4 in the Showcase event and claimed its second event title. The Huskers won the event in 2001. Three of the losses were to the top-ranked team at the time of the match.

Nebraska has now defeated two top five teams to start the season. Entering the 2005 season, the Husker had not defeated a top-five opponent since 2001.

Stanford has claimed either first or second all four times the team has competed in the Showcase, including two championships.

Nebraska Head Coach John Cook Opening Statement: "I was informed that this is the first time in history that a host school has ever won this tournament, and now I understand why because when you have a crowd like this, the expectations and the level of competition, you have to play really well. I'm really proud of our team for living up to the expectations and giving these fans their money's worth. Also, I'm so impressed with these three teams that are here as well. College volleyball is getting really good. "

On going 2-0 in the tournament: "This is great. It's a great championship to win, just like any tournament. We known that it's a long season and we've got to continue to get better, and I already saw how much the teams got better after just one day. For this weekend, this tournament, we showed we're the best, and we're really proud of that. I think it will give us great confidence and I think the other thing is that it's going to get Nebraska fans even more fired up."

On how his team performed this weekend: "If you'd have told me we were going to win 3-0, 3-0, I would have bet my house on it that we wouldn't. I think our team did a good job. They worked really hard and I think they expect to play like this. The thing that worried me the most this weekend was the two-setter system. I had no idea how this would go and for having so many people coming in and out, they did a tremendous job of managing it."

On the two-setter system: "(The number of attacking options is) one of the reason we're running the two-setter system. If somebody's not going well or they're shutting somebody down, you have somebody else you can go to, so it makes us hard to defend. The setters did a tremendous job tonight of making adjustments to counter whatever Stanford was trying to do to us. That's the beauty of having experienced setters."

On what the team can take away from the two matches: "One of the things we talked about before this match was one of our goals of ‘one team.' These are the type of matches and tournaments that help forge their personality and how they're going to respond to great competition. You never know, as a coach, how it's going to go, but obviously we took some big steps this weekend. You don't win close games unless you're playing as one team like we did tonight."

On the play of the freshmen this weekend: "I think this is the best freshmen class I've ever been a part of. They just started school this week and to played front of 10,000 people, something 99 percent of college players never experience, and these guys went out and played against the top-five teams in the country. They're a special group and they proved it."

Jordan Larson On stepping up her play in game two: "I remember coming out after the timeout and Coach Cook said ‘drive through the ball' and ‘keep driving'. I kept that in the back of my mind. I felt like I needed to bring more to the team."

Christina Houghtelling On her quick start to the match: "(Dani) Busboom and I really connected well. I just wanted to come out strong and I know the whole team wanted to get an early lead. I just wanted to go out and give it all I've got and swing hard. That's all you can do."

Melissa Elmer On the significance of this weekend: "I don't think anyone expected us to come out 3-0 in two matches. It gives us confidence and definitely lays the foundation for the rest of the season. We know how well we can play and this just drives us to get better."

Stanford Head Coach John Dunning On the increased hitting percentage between games two and three: "(Nebraska) is a hard team to play against. They have six really big blockers, and they are going to make a lot of teams hit (a low) hitting percentage. We just hope to learn from what we experienced tonight and do a little better next time we see them down the road. Tonight it was just determination and getting to know them a little bit that made the hitting percentage go up."

"We looked lifeless at the start of the game. We looked like we were dead in the water. A sailboat with no wind is not a pretty picture. We fought, which is great. We found out about ourselves."

On where Stanford and Nebraska will be in three months: "I think they're really good. They are fun to watch, and I say they have a great chance to be in the Final Four. They have a lot of nice pieces that fit in the puzzle. For us, that's where we hope to be. I think we showed tonight we're not too far behind."

Kristin Richards On how Stanford stacked up before the game: "We didn't doubt ourselves, that's for sure. We're a fighting team, and we did a good job of that tonight. Nebraska is a very good competitor, a great team with a big block. We did a fantastic job of figuring out where we are with fighting ability. That was exciting to see. We have a lot of potential. Starting with these two teams (Penn State and Nebraska) is big risk in a way, and it can be a shot to the confidence. It's a chance to show what you're made of. We're going to be really good, and I'm excited about our season. We played some great teams this weekend. It's fun to see where we are."

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