No. 1 Huskers Stuff No. 4 Penn State

All-American Melissa Elmer earned InfoUSA/Arby's Players Challenge tournament MVP honors by helping No. 1 Nebraska to a three-game sweep (30-14, 30-27, 30-23) of No. 4 Penn State Sunday at the NU Coliseum. The Huskers improved to 8-0 on the season by out-hitting a powerful Penn State squad .367-.168 for the match to pick up their fourth win of the season over a top-five foe.

Freshman Jordan Larson added 14 kills on .480 hitting, while All-American Sarah Pavan and Christina Houghtelling each contributed 12 kills while combining to hit .477 on 44 swings. Houghtelling also matched her career high with 14 digs to record her first double-double of the season.

Husker setters Maggie Griffin and Dani Busboom powered a potent and balanced attack by combining for 58 assists to help the Huskers hit .350 or better for the fourth time this season. NU's percentage was made even more impressive because it came against a Nittany Lion club that held their first seven opponents to .160 hitting.

The decision-making of Griffin and Busboom helped the Huskers defeat a top-five regular-season opponent at the NU Coliseum for the first time in 10 years. It also marked the first time in three years that NU won its own tournament.

Melissa Elmer, who averaged 2.80 kills on .393 hitting and 2.70 blocks per game during the Huskers' three matches in the tournament, finished with nine kills on .421 hitting, while adding six blocks to help NU out-block PSU, 12-6 on the day. Houghtelling, Pavan and Jennifer Saleaumua, who finished with seven kills and 12 digs, all joined Elmer on the all-tournament team.

"That's our system," Cook said. That's how we designed that system to be balanced, so we're not relying on anybody. We have people who can put the ball away and have setters that can mix it up."

Playing in front of a sellout crowd of 4,193 and a national television audience, the Huskers came out firing in game one, blitzing the Lions, 30-14 in the opener. The Huskers hit .467, had four service aces and out-blocked PSU, 4-0. Pavan's two service aces triggered an 11-3 spurt, as NU took a 16-7 lead. PSU closed to within 20-13, but the Huskers closed out the game with a 10-1 run, capped by Houghtelling's service ace at game point.

The Nittany Lions led for most of game two, but the Huskers closed the game with a fury in a 30-27 triumph. After spotting the visitors an 8-5 lead, Nebraska kept it close before finally tying the game at 17 on a PSU hitting error. Trailing 26-24, Pavan took over, recording consecutive kills to tie the match before a Christa Harmetto error gave the Huskers a 27-26 lead.

Pavan then blocked Kate Price to make it 28-26. After Price's kill pulled PSU within 28-27, Pavan's fifth kill of the game gave NU a two-point lead before Larson's sixth kill of game two sent NU to the locker room with a 2-0 lead.

The Huskers closed the match in style, hitting .395 in a 30-23 victory. Early on, NU used its block, stuffing the Lions three times to take an early 8-3 lead. Penn State, which came back from a 0-2 deficit at then No. 4 Hawaii one week ago, fought back and used a 6-0 run to take a 17-14 lead. Trailing 18-17, Houghtelling led NU back, ripping three straight kills to highlight a 4-0 spurt, as NU took a 21-18 lead and never trailed again.

Nicole Fawcett and Cassy Salyer led PSU with 10 kills apiece, as the Nittany Lions saw their six-match winning streak snapped. Fawcett and setter Sam Tortorello, who had 36 assists and a team-high 13 digs, were also selected to the all-tournament team

In the day's first match, Pepperdine posted its first win of the tournament with a 30-15, 30-25, 30-17 victory over Pacific. Julie Rubenstein drilled 16 kills on .419 hitting to help Pepperdine out-hit Pacific, .356-.000. Lecca Roberts also added 10 kills and six blocks for the Waves, who improved to 3-3 on the season. Rubenstein rounded out the seven-member all-tournament team.

Nebraska opens Big 12 play next Saturday, Sept. 17, by traveling to Colorado. First serve is set for 8 p.m. (central) and the match will be carried live on radio by B107.3 FM in Lincoln.

InfoUSA/Arby's Players Challenge All-Tournament Team
Melissa Elmer, Nebraska, MVP; Sarah Pavan, Nebraska; Christina Houghtelling, Nebraska; Jennifer Saleaumua, Nebraska; Sam Tortorello, Penn State; Nicole Fawcett, Penn State; and Julie Rubenstein, Pepperdine.


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