At nine points a piece in the first game, the Huskers
passing a little sloppy to begin the first game of the first match of the NCAA
tournament, one might have wondered if this was typical Nebraska, playing
somewhat to the level of their competition.
The wondering ceased shortly thereafter, junior outside hitter Christina Houghtelling ripping off six straight points for the Huskers, serving three aces, the Huskers racing to a 15-9 lead.
After that, it was a series of runs, freshman outside hitter Jordan Larson taking over in the first game, going back to serve with a 16-11 lead, and when she was done, the Huskers' margin ballooned to 13, NU leading AAMU 24-11. During the nine-point run for the Huskers, Larson had three aces. The Huskers set a school postseason record with 14 aces in the match.
The Huskers took game one 30-15, but in game two Nebraska put an exclamation point on their stature in this tournament versus that of their opponent. The
At 13-5 of game two, senior outside hitter Jennifer Saleamua served eight straight points, sophomore setter Maggie Griffin then followed that up with serving six in a row, the Huskers' now bashing on the Bulldogs 27-6. Houghtelling would serve out the second as Nebraska beat Alabama A&M a whopping and tournament best in regard to margin of victory in a game, 30-7. The disparity in hitting percentage was equally dramatic, Nebraska hitting a whopping .565, while A&M hit a negative .273.
Even prior to game three, head coach John Cook had been substituting fairly liberally. Dani Mancuso had played even early in the first game. Freshmen Amanda Gates (middle blocker), Rachel Schwartz (Libero) and sophomore middle blocker Meghan Smith also saw time in games two and three. In fact, outside of injured freshman setter Rachel Holloway, every Husker played at some point.
That didn't help their opponent, though, A&M doing markedly better in the final game, but Nebraska's service kept humming, Nebraska scoring at least three consecutive points on serve from both Houghtelling and Griffin, while Saleamua accomplished the same feat twice. It all added up to Nebraska hitting a solid .368 in the final game, the Bulldogs unable to get in the positive again, hitting a negative .031.
On the match, Nebraska hit .405 to A&M's negative .0.72 and the Huskers were led by Houghtelling, who notched 11 kills on 18 attacks, hitting .556 in the match.
Of the record number of serves, Houghtelling, Larson and Saleamua each had three aces, followed by sophomore outside hitter Sarah Pavan and junior outside hitter Dani Mancuso, who had two, Griffin finishing it up with an ace of her own.
Nebraska moves their record to 29-1 and will face Duke (24-7) at 7:00 P.M. CST this evening. The Blue Devils also swept their first round opponent, beating American University 30-14, 30-16, 30-16.
Hitting percentage: .750 – Melissa Elmer
Attacks: 18 – Christina Houghtelling
Kills: 11 – Chrstina Houghtelling
Digs: 9 – Christina Houghtelling
Aces: 3 – Christina Houghtelling, Jordan Larson, Jennifer Saleamua
Blocks: 2 – Christina Houghtelling, Meghan Smith
Sets: 21 – Maggie Griffin POST GAME AUDIO
Head Coach John Cook
"It's good to get our first win of the NCAA Tournament. I thought (Alabama) A&M came out and really hit some tough serves right away to start play tonight, and then the Huskers served tough back at them, and it became pretty much a serving contest tonight. The crowd was great. I think the highlight of the night for me was that big long rally in game three. I don't remember if we won it or they won it but the crowd was almost in a standing ovation for these student-athletes. That was just a super job by our crowd tonight to applaud these athletes."
On his team's total of 14 service aces
"We've been working on serving. You've got to serve tough this time of year, and we've been working on it. Part of it is that I'm sure Alabama A&M isn't used to our level of serving. That's such a huge thing for us. If we can get teams out of system then it plays into our favor with our blocking defense."
On everyone on the team getting a chance to play
"I think these kids have worked really hard, it's the NCAA Tournament, and if we have a chance to get everybody in, and we did tonight, we don't know when we're going to need it, and I really wanted to do it. It really helps our team morale, and it's exciting to be in the NCAA Tournament and it's a different feel. For everyone to get in was great."
On how Duke played and how the team will fare against them tomorrow
"Well they hit well tonight and pretty much took care of American. I think their setter is really good. She was doing a really nice job running their offense. I've got to study them on tape tonight and tomorrow, but they didn't make a lot of errors. That's what you've got to do this time of year. I thought their sets going to the outside were going pretty fast. I don't know if it's something they normally do. Ironically we'll match up much better against Duke than we did (against Alabama A&M) tonight."
Senior middle blocker Melissa Elmer
On how the team played tonight
"We did some good things but I think there's some things that we need to work on. Serving and passing continues to be one of them."
On how far she has to come to play at the level needed to reach the Final Four
"Pretty far, but it's hard to judge it based on the teams you play, too. But we definitely have to play better and our serving and passing has to be better. Just ball handling and execution."
On getting the career
school record for blocks at
"Yeah, (I knew). Mostly because everyone has been asking me about it. I think for the program here it's definitely continuing a legacy here of great middle blockers. I just try my best to continue that legacy and follow in the footsteps of some great blockers."
Alabama A&M Quotes
Coach Betty Austin
"It was pretty much what I expected.
experience of playing
"It was everything that I thought and more. They are a very good team."
"We're not a big team.
"This is my fourth time coming to the NCAA Tournament, so the height wasn't unusual from what I've seen in the past. I never really looked at it. We're playing the No. 1 team in the nation and I knew the competition was going to be tougher than usual, so that's just how I looked at it."
"I don't think the serves were any tougher, it was just a matter of making adjustments and today we were slow on the adjustments. Early in the season we made the adjustments quicker."