Tickets for the first and second rounds in Lincoln are already sold out and over 10,500 tickets have been sold for the Omaha Regional. In addition to Omaha, State College, Pa,. (Penn State), College Station, Texas (Texas A&M) and Palo Alto, Calif. (Stanford) are the other NCAA regional host cities, as sites were predetermined before the start of the season.
The 2005 season marks the 21st time that Lincoln has played host to first and second-round competition. Last year, Nebraska hosted the first and second rounds at the NU Coliseum before traveling to the Louisville Regional. Nebraska is 59-21 (.737) in 23 previous NCAA Tournament appearances, ranking third among NCAA schools in wins and winning percentage.
The Huskers were one of seven Big 12 schools to qualify for the tournament, the most of any conference. In addition to the Huskers, Missouri was the No. 10 seed overall and is joined in the tournament by Texas, Kansas State, Colorado, Texas A&M and Kansas.
The Huskers, who clinched the Big 12's automatic berth with a 19-1 conference record, is led by its trio of All-Americans in senior middle blocker Melissa Elmer, who leads the nation with 2.15 blocks per game and is hitting a team-best .407, sophomore right-side hitter Sarah Pavan (3.79 kills per game on .354 hitting) and senior outside hitter Jennifer Saleaumua (2.23 kills ad 3.87 blocks per game). Nebraska is 13-0 at home this season and has a 29-match home winning streak.
Alabama A&M comes to town riding a 12-match winning streak and earned the SWAC's automatic bid after winning the league's tournament title earlier this month. The Bulldogs, who have made six straight NCAA Tournament appearances, are led by Alexandria Brazelton, who was named the MVP of the SWAC Tournament. She averages 3.46 kills per game.
American is making its fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and seventh overall after winning the Patriot League title. The Eagles are led by two-time All-Patriot League pick Cutrina Biddulph, who averages 4.05 kills per game and is hitting .337 after earning honorable-mention All-America honors in 2004.
Duke makes its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance and fourth under seventh-year Head Coach Jolene Nagel. The Blue Devils have won 12 of their last 13 matches and finished third in the ACC with a 17-5 record. Middle blocker Carrie DeMange leads Duke, as she averages 4.25 kills and 1.14 blocks per contest.
Friday, Dec. 2
Duke (23-7) vs.American (25-9) 5 p.m.
Alabama A&M (15-11) vs. Nebraska (28-1) 7 p.m. (or 30 minutes following match 1)
Saturday, Dec. 2 Friday's Winners 7 p.m (Winner advances to Omaha Regional)
Head Coach John Cook-Opening statement
"The first thing is that it's a big relief to know we're at home the first and second round. The reason it's a big relief is that one, our student athletes don't have to miss school this week. Second, it gives our Coliseum fans a chance to have two more matches in the Coliseum, and our seniors get to play two more matches in there as well, so that's really exciting. That will be our focus this week, trying to advance out of the Coliseum and try to head into Omaha."
On being the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament
"I guess that's a recognition that the Committee thinks that we've had the best season up until now. But really, there are 64 teams that are undefeated right now that are starting a tournament for three weeks. Our goal is to win six matches, and that's the only way you have to look at it. Seeding doesn't really mean anything anymore. It's about next point and trying to advance in each match."
On whether the loss to No. 11 Texas can bring positives
"I hope (good things can come out of it). I can't really say how the players feel, I can only say how I feel. But I think that first of all, it was a great match for us to be in at this time of year. I think it brought an awareness to our team, the importance of how it's going to be from here on out. It's means that every point is crucial to the game. It doesn't matter whether you are ahead or behind, you have to maximize on every point. That's one thing we learned last night too. If we don't stay focused and stay committed to what we're supposed to be doing, we can't allow that to happen from here on out, or we won't accomplish all of our goals. I think it was a good wake-up call. It made us aware of how we're going to have to play mentally. And it was also a great match for our players to be in to get the fire going for what we're up against."
On what it feels like to be the No. 1 seed
"It puts a bigger bull's-eye on our back, I guess, but I think we're used to that. But more than anything it's an honor, because they think we've had a really good season so far. And we have done a great job this season. Our players have really been consistent and have played very well. We actually did some incredible things last night. The result wasn't what we wanted, but I think we'll be better in that situation next time after having gone through what we did last night."