Huskers Clinch Share of Big 12 Crown with Win

Christina Houghtelling's 19 kills led five Huskers in double figures, as No. 1 Nebraska clinched at share of the Big 12 title with a 30-16, 32-34, 30-15, 30-26 victory over Kansas State Saturday evening in front of a sellout crowd at the NU Coliseum.

Christina Houghtelling led Nebraska (27-0, 18-0) with a team-high 19 kills on .333 hitting, as the junior outside hitter also established career highs in both digs (20) and blocks (six), helping the Huskers to their eighth Big 12 crown in 10 seasons and the 27th title in 30 years of league competition. NU can clinch the outright title as early as Sunday, if Missouri defeats Texas in Columbia.

While Houghtelling paced NU's offensive efforts, middle blockers Tracy Stalls and Melissa Elmer totaled 12 and 10 blocks, respectively, as the Huskers recorded a season-high 24 blocks. It marked the third time this season that NU, which has won its last 41 Big 12 matches, has had two players record at least 10 blocks.

Stalls' 12 stuffs set a career best, while Elmer, who reached double figures in blocks for the eighth time in 2005, broke three-time All-American Amber Holmquist's school record for block assists. Elmer now has 654 blocks assists, eclipsing Holmquist's total of 646 set from 1999 to 2002. Elmer now is only eight blocks away from Holmquist's Big 12 record of 728 career blocks.

"Amber was a naturally gifted blocker, while Melissa has willed herself and worked herself into this record," Cook said. "For Melissa to break this record, it is a major, major accomplishment. It's a huge deal, especially passing up Amber. She was a three-time All-American, and Melissa has proven herself as one of the best blockers in all of college volleyball."

A season-high five Huskers recorded double-doubles in the victory, including Elmer (10 kills, 10 blocks), Houghtelling, All-Americans Sarah Pavan (14 kills, 10 digs) and Jennifer Saleaumua (11 kills, 17 digs) and freshman Jordan Larson (12 kills, 14 digs).

The balanced effort offset a strong performance by KSU outside hitter Agata Rezende, who totaled a match-high 20 kills as the Wildcats dipped to 18-10 overall and 9-9 in the league.

In game one, Nebraska's defense was the story, as NU recorded eight blocks and held Kansas State to -.022 hitting in a 30-16 victory. Houghtelling had seven kills on 10 swings, while three others had at least three kills in a balanced attack. The Huskers took control early, using a 6-0 run which included two kills and a block from Pavan, to take an 8-2 advantage. Nebraska continued to roll, as KSU used both of its timeouts in the first 16 points of the match and NU built a 12-4 lead. The visitors closed to within 13-5, but NU ran off five straight points to take an 18-5 lead on a Houghtelling kill and never led by fewer than 10 points the rest of the way.

Kansas State came back in game two, out-hitting NU, 231-.130, as they evened the match with a 34-32 victory, the longest game of the year for the Big Red. The Huskers led 13-10, but KSU used a 5-1 run to take a 15-14 advantage. The teams traded points until KSU built a 25-23 lead on a Rezende kill, one of eight in game two for the KSU hitter. NU then responded, running off four straight points to take the lead on a Saleaumua solo block of Megan Kroeker. KSU would fight back, scoring three next three points to take a 28-27 lead and had a29-28 lead before Houghtelling's kill tied the score. Leading 31-30, NU had a chance to take a 2-0 lead, but Rezende's kill tied the game at 31. With the score tied at 32, kills by Rezende and Rita Lilliom gave KSU the victory.

Nebraska's block overwhelmed KSU in game three, as NU posted a 30-15 victory. NU recorded nine blocks, including five by Stalls and four by Elmer as KSU hit -.023. Elmer led the early surge, recording two kills and three blocks as the Huskers raced to an 8-2 lead. KSU closed to within 13-7, but could not get closer, as NU ran off eight straight points. Stalls had three blocks and a kill in the run, helping the Huskers build a 14-point lead at 21-7, as the Huskers took a 2-1 lead.

In the finale, the Husk rallied behind Larson and Elmer, who combined for half of NU's kills in a 30-26 win. NU trailed 13-11 before Stalls' two blocks highlighted a 5-1 spurt that gave NU a 16-14 lead. KSU would fight back, tying the score at 18-all on a block by Jamie Perkins and Joy Hamlin, but NU responded, running off four straight points to take a 22-18 lead. KSU would pull to within 22-21, but NU Dani Mancuso led a 4-0 Husker run to make it 26-21 on a block by Elmer and Saleaumua. The Wildcats made won last run, scoring four straight points to get within 26-25 on a Lilliom kill, but kills by Elmer, Pavan and Saleaumua made it 29-25 before Pavan's kill moments later gave the Huskers their 28th straight home win.

The Huskers return to action on Wednesday, Nov. 23, as they host Colorado for a 7 p.m. start. The Huskers will honor their seniors following the match, which is also Read to Succeed Night, as fans who bring in books for children in the Lincoln Elementary Schools will have a chance to win an autographed team volleyball.

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