Husker Earn National Runner-up Finish

San Antonio, Texas – Behind 15 kills from tournament MVP Christal Morrison, third-ranked Washington dashed top-ranked Nebraska's hopes for a third national title with a 30-26, 30-25, 30-26 sweep of top-ranked Nebraska Saturday evening at the Alamodome.

Morrison's 15-kill effort led the Huskies (32-1) to the school's first national crown, while ending the Huskers' season at 33-2 and the school's third runner-up finish (also 1986 and 1990). The Huskers fell one win short of becoming only the third in NCAA history to go wire-to-wire at No. 1.


All-Americans Sarah Pavan and Jennifer Saleaumua paced Nebraska's effort, as the duo combined for 28 kills on .450 hitting. Pavan totaled a match-high 16 kills on .429 hitting, while Saleaumua closed out a sterling career with 12 kills – one off her season high's on .545 hitting and nine digs.


The match also marked the final appearance of three-time All-American Melissa Elmer, who had seven kills and five blocks as Nebraska was held to a season-low .185 hitting. Christina Hougtelling, who earned national player-of-the-year honors on Friday, was the third Husker to total double figures in kills with 10 kills, 11 digs and a career-high six blocks.


Pavan, Saleaumua and Houghtelling were each named to the championship all-tournament team.


Nebraska, which was out-hit for the first time in 2005, had more kills and blocks, out-blocking the Huskies, 14-13, behind nine blocks by middle blocker Tracy Stalls. The Huskers were done in by a rash of errors, committing 24 attack errors and nine service errors, compared to just one service miscue by Washington.

Washington took advantage of several Husker miscues in taking a 30-26 victory in the opener. Both teams held each other in check, as neither team hit over .100 while the two teams combined for 42 digs and 11 blocks. NU had seven blocks, including five by Stalls, but totaled only 12 kills and had eight attack errors and five service errors.

The Huskers started out slow, as the Huskies scored the first two points and forced a quick NU timeout. Nebraska regained itself with strong serving, using a 10-5 run to build a three-point lead on a Sarah Pavan ace, the third ace by Nebraska in game one. Leading 12-11, Washington took advantage of several Husker errors, as they scored four straight points to take a 15-12 advantage.

Nebraska kept trimming the deficit, pulling to within 21-19 after a block by Stalls and Houghtelling, but Washington responded with a 4-1 spurt to make it 25-20 after a Darla Myhre kill off an overpass. The Huskers fought back, pulling to within 27-25 off a Washington error, but could not get further into the Husky lead.

In game two, Washington's offense came alive, as the Huskies out-hit Nebraska, .350-.196 in taking a 30-26 victory. Morrison did most of the damage for UW, totaling six kills and four blocks, as NU was out-blocked 5.5-2.0. Saleaumua and Pavan combined for 11 kills on 17 swings, as Saleaumua had six kills on eight swings.

Leading 6-5, Morrison led Washington on a 6-2 run with three kills and a block, as her kill gave the Huskies a 12-7 advantage. Nebraska battled back, pulling within 18-16 on a Houghtelling kill, but Morrison led UW to six straight points, as she totaled three kills and a block, including consecutive kills that made it 24-16 in favor of Washington.

Trailing 27-20, Saleaumua led the Husker comeback, as NU scored four unanswered points, including three off the serve of freshman Rachel Schwartz, to get within 27-24. That would be as close as Nebraska would get, as Washington closed out game two and took a 2-0 lead heading into intermission.

The Huskers came out swinging in game three as junior setter Dani Busboom sparked Nebraska to a 5-1 lead and forced Washington into taking a timeout. NU led 18-15, but Washington answered with three straight points, including consecutive kills by Morrison that tied the score. After the Huskies took their first lead of the game at 20-19, Nebraska fought back and took its final lead of the match at 23-22 on a kill from Pavan. The Huskies answered with three straight points and closed the game on an 8-2 run to claim their first-ever national championship.


Washington hit .237 as a team and was paced by Christal Morrison, who had 15 kills and was named Most Outstanding Player. Sanja Tomasevic and Brie Haggerty also finished in double figures, totaling 12 and 10 kills respectively. The sweep by the Huskies marked the first time since the 2002 season that NU had been swept and only the third time in Head Coach John Cook's six years at NU.


Fans can celebrate Nebraska's outstanding season by welcoming the team home on Sunday at the Coliseum. Doors open at 12:30 p.m. and the team is expected to arrive at approximately 1:15 p.m.




Match Facts

  • MATCH TIME: total 1 hour, 44 minutes;  1st game 0:28;  2nd game 0:31;  3rd game 0:29
  • GAME 1: 5 ties, 2 lead changes; NU largest lead 3 (10-7); UW largest lead 5 (3x, last 27-22)
  • GAME 2: 2 ties, 1 lead change; NU largest lead 2 (2x, last 3-1); UW largest lead 8 (4x, last 27-19)
  • GAME 3: 7 ties, 3 lead changes; NU largest lead 5 (7-2); UW largest lead 4 (30-26)


Team Notes

  • Nebraska's .185 attack percentage was a season low and was just the second time this season NU was held under .200 in a match. The Huskers' previous low was .193 in a win over Minnesota.
  • Nebraska's 14 blocks marked the 30th time in 35 matches that the Huskers posted 10+ blocks in a match.
  • Nebraska's 30-26 loss in Game 1 was the Huskers' first game loss in the NCAA tournament. It snapped a 15-game winning streak dating back to NU's regular-season finale on Nov. 26.
  • Washington became just the third team this season to beat Nebraska in Game 1 of a match, joining Oklahoma (Sept. 28) and Missouri (Nov. 13). The Huskers came back to win both previous matches (OU 3-1, MU 3-2).
  • Washington became just the second team this season to take a 2-0 lead on Nebraska, joining Missouri (Nov. 13). The Huskers came back to beat Missouri, 3-2.
  • Nebraska fell to 13-2 against ranked opponents in 2005.
  • Nebraska fell to 2-3 all time in NCAA championship matches. The Huskers lost in the title game for the first time since 1989 (wins in 1995 and 2000).
  • Washington was the first team to out-hit the Huskers this season (.237 to .185).
  • Nebraska finished the season with 33 wins, tying the Huskers with Florida and Ohio for most victories in 2005.
  • Nebraska was making its 24th appearance in the NCAA tournament, tied for fourth all time in championship history.
  • Nebraska fell to 29-22-1 all time against Pac-10 opponents and 2-1 this year.
  • Nebraska fell to 7-6 against Pac-10 teams all time in the NCAA tournament.


Individual Notes

  • Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Pavan tallied double-figure kills (16) in her 11th straight match and for the 30th time this season.
  • Senior outside hitter Jennifer Saleaumua tallied double-figure kills (12) for the seventh time this season.
  • Junior outside hitter Christina Houghtelling tied a career high in blocks (6).
  • Christina Houghtelling recorded her sixth double-double of the year with 10 kills and 11 digs and matched her career high with six blocks.
  • Jordan Larson totaled 12 digs and finished with 304 this season, moving passed Jennifer Saleaumua for second place on NU's all-time freshman digs list



2005 NCAA Division I

Women's Volleyball Championship

Alamodome    San Antonio, Texas


Championship Final Post-Match Quotes – Washington



Head Coach Jim McLaughlin

Opening Statement

"I don't have a whole lot to say. We're gonna have some fun with this one. Nebraska is an unbelievable program and a great university. We played our best match of the year against them. It was just a good match from start to finish. I'm just unbelievably happy for this group.  The time they put in, it's a little bit of pay-off, but more a gratification for an awful lot of hard work."


On instilling an attitude in his team …

"Our approach from day one has been if you want to go after it then you have to get after it. It's a cumulative process: every day counts and it just kind of builds on itself. We had to have the appropriate mindset but we were working on that mindset day to day. (Tonight) was time to just kick butt. We hadn't played a complete match. We had played segments of games – longer segments – but we needed to put it all out on the floor and put it all together."


On the importance of the serve and serve receive …

"It's key. There is some attractive stuff that is going on – that and every other part of the game – but it's those little things that are important. But it's the number one correlation to winning. It's just not a very glamorous part of the game, but it's the most important part. It's the key for us. Every time we've won the serve receive, we've won the match Candace Lee is Candace Lee. The expectations are high for her, but she's earned those expectations. She has to play at a (high) level everyday, but she knows that. Crystal (Morrison) was big time. They were on her and on her and on her, but she withheld the pressure and she stayed tough. She did a nice job. Sanya (Tomasevic) - everyone talks about her hitting, but watch her pass. It's the thing that makes me most happy."


On Candace Lee …

"Her position is not a glamorous position. She wins and makes everyone around her better. That's the greatest sign of a great player – to make people around you better. Candace is the most humble and genuine person I've ever been around, so it doesn't make any difference to her. She knows, but the great ones know. She knows her priorities."


On not losing a game in the 2005 NCAA Championships …

"We never thought about winning or streaking. We just talked about meeting our standards, and if you do, those things will happen. We were just meeting our standards. Thought it's a feather in our caps, for sure."



Sanya Tomasevic, Senior Outside Hitter

On always hearing about how good Nebraska was all year…

"Well, that's all we'd been hearing for the last three months: that Nebraska is huge, they're big, they're King Kong. We're not intimidated by that. We played five teams (in the tournament) and we played a lot of good teams this year in the Pac 10."


On the Huskies' defense frustrating Nebraska

"We stayed on our side of the court. We were thinking about putting up the block and making it harder for them to hit over and around. We played good defensive so they couldn't put the ball down. We wanted to play like it was the last time. And after we dug a ball, we were excited. They were hitting the ball hard and if Danka (Danicic) or Ashley (Aratani) dug the ball up, you felt like you had to get a kill after that."



Courtney Thompson, Junior Setter

On always hearing about how good Nebraska was …

"Jim is always preaching that we have to focus on ourselves, especially when someone is talking about how good another team is. It's comforting to know that all you can do is get better yourself. We were ready to roll. We got a little excited last year and we weren't going to make that mistake again."




On the unsung and underappreciated players on the Washington team …

We've had a good year and there're a lot of people on our team. The same kind of people get the same individual awards over and the people like Brie (Hagerty) and the people like Darla (Myhre) and people like Candace (Lee) – not to mention the seven or eight people in practice who kick our butts in practice everyday – don't get anything. All we all wanted was a championship and that's all we're going to remember, except maybe that Crystal (Morrison) was the most valuable player (of the NCAA Championship) because she deserves that. But we're one team and every single person is important on this team."



Brie Hagerty, Senior Outside Hitter

On the team's demeanor prior to the match …

"We all just seemed to have a calm about us the entire time. Before the game we weren't singing and jumping around. We were just sitting and thinking about what we had to do."



Crystal Morrison, Sophomore Outside Hitter

"Jim talked about in our pre-game meeting about focusing on what we needed to do: staying focused on the task at hand. We did that and we were focused. We knew what they were going to run. We were all over them and we all stepped up. We performed at a high level tonight and it was awesome."


On blocking the last point of the match …

"Nebraska out-blocked us by one, but you know what? It wasn't about the blocking. It was about the serve and serve receive. But I'm really glad I got the last block. (Melissa Elmer)didn't hit it, she tipped it and I was there."




2005 NCAA Division I

Women's Volleyball Championship

Alamodome    San Antonio, Texas


Championship Final Post-Match Quotes - Nebraska



Head coach John Cook

Opening Summary

"We certainly had chances and didn't take advantage, and we weren't very smooth tonight, and against a team like Washington you're going to make errors. Give them lots of easy balls and they are going to make you pay, and they did a very good job of that tonight. They were low error, they only missed one serve, and until game three we never really had any kind of rhythm. I don't know what we would do different. I thought we were ready to play, prepared, but that's sports."


Washington's ability tonight to keep rallies alive, dig balls, and the impact of just being able to keep hitting it over the net

Christina Houghtelling, Jr., OH

"Washington's a good team. Attacking defensively. They just did a great job, they pursued everything, and they did a great job tonight."


Talk about the game plan and how you think your team did carrying it out

Head coach John Cook

"I thought we did a very good job, we were in the right positions, we were covering their tips, we were where they were hitting the ball. Our problem was we just didn't transition back, we couldn't pressure. Part of our game plan was we were going to serve the Libero, and sometimes in big matches you get a little tentative and start serving the ball right down the middle of the court, she passes to many balls tonight. One of the reasons they missed one serve was because we weren't stressing them with our serve like we needed to, part of that is being a little tight and not putting pressure on them, we just let them off the hook too many times. But other than that, we were on them, we were prepared, I think our team knew exactly what to do, I felt really good about that part of our match tonight."


Did Washington's serve give you problems

Head coach John Cook

"Yeah, we did not pass very well tonight, and they broke us down a couple of times. There were a couple of times in those first two games were they got a couple two-three point runs and when you get to a match like this, you can't give up two, or three, or four point runs, you get to far behind, and your pressing to get back, we didn't do a great job passing like we needed to."


What accounts for Washington getting more easy points tonight

Head coach John Cook

"Ball handling, passing, getting our setter into rhythm, and we just weren't very smooth, and a team at this level, if you're just giving them easy balls, which we were, they are going to make you pay. As good defensively as we are, we actually won several of those rallies, but you can't be playing from behind or playing on the defensive all night long, and that's what this felt like for us. We just couldn't pressure them like we needed to."


Talk about the 9 service errors

Head coach John Cook

"It's a great question. It's anxiety, it's a part of sports. I thought we played really well Thursday, we've been playing better and better the last month, I have no explanation. I don't know what we would have done differently."


What went wrong this afternoon

Melissa Elmer, Sr., MB

"Like coach said, we had our chances, and we didn't take advantage of them. This is the national championship match, we're going to play a great team in Washington and when you don't take advantage, they are. We knew we were going to have to pass well, we didn't do that as well as we had been in the past."


Talk about the 7-2 lead, address the mental aspect and did you feel it slipping away

Jennifer Saleaumua, Sr., OH

"Sometimes we tend to relax a little bit. We were up by five, but that's no excuse. We played with them. I couldn't tell you what the problem was. They just came back. They're a good team, and we just let them. It happens."


Why did you call the timeout in the first match

Head coach John Cook

"The way it started out, we shanked the first ball, and I just didn't want us to get down five – zero. We've done that a couple of times this year, so my instincts telling me just stop it, take a deep breath, waiting around out there. There is a lot of anxiety building up and I thought, let's just take a deep breath and start over. I thought we responded pretty well to it, but that's what I was trying to avoid getting way down to start the game. You don't want to start game one playing in the hole."


What were your parting thoughts for the rest of the team as a senior

Melissa Elmer, Sr., MB

"Just take what they've learned from this match and work that much harder in the off-season to get back to this point. It's a similar situation to last season when we lost a heartbreaker in the regional finals. This team worked so hard just to get to here, this point, and we were great tonight. I just told them typical things seniors say, they mean so much to me and I've learned so much from them, and they make me the player that I am, and I can't thank them enough for that."


Jordan Larson didn't look like she had her game hitting wise, so you think that was attributed to her youth, and on the big stage

Head coach John Cook

"You probably have to attribute it to that, Jordan wanted to do well tonight. Sometimes when players are pressing, she was actually trying to do too much. We were just trying to get her to relax. She was still digging balls, and I thought she was passing well. I got her in and out a couple times, she'll learn from this and she'll be a better player for it."

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