Huskers' Bid for Repeat Title Ends

Lincoln – Second-ranked Nebraska's quest for consecutive national titles ended Saturday night, as the Huskers fell to No. 6 California, 30-28, 31-29, 30-26 at the UW Field House.

The Huskers, bidding to become volleyball's first repeat champion since USC in 2002 and 2003, ended their season with a 30-2 record, while Cal improved to 26-7 and advanced to its first national semifinal in school history.

The loss ended a remarkable run for Nebraska's quartet of seniors, as Maggie Griffin, Christina Houghtelling and Sarah Pavan helped Nebraska to a 126-7 record, two national semifinal appearances, four Big 12 titles and the 2006 national championship.

Pavan became the first Husker and just the fourth Big 12 player to ever record 2,000 kills, as the senior right side hitter finished with a match-high 16 kills and finished her career with 2,008 kills to rank fourth in Big 12 history. Stalls finished with seven kills on .462 hitting, ended the year hitting a school and Big 12 record .473, breaking Virginia Stahr's mark of .440 originally established in 1990. Both were chosen to the NCAA Madison Regional All-Tournament team

Cal's outside duo of Angie Pressey and Hana Cutura keyed the Bears to the win, combining for 43 of Cal's 59 kills in helping the Bears out-hit Nebraska, .323 to .240. Cutura, who was selected as the Regional's Most Outstanding Player, totaled a match high 23 kills on .368 hitting, while Pressey finished with 20 kills on .444 hitting, a team-high 17 digs and three blocks.

Pressey's defense held hold Nebraska to just .240 hitting, its second-lowest offensive output of the season and only the seventh time in 32 matches that the Huskers didn't hit .300 or better.  Nebraska's middles were the bright spot of the Huskers' offense, as Stalls and Kori Cooper combined for 14 kills with only one error in 25 swings.

In game one, Cal used strong performances from its outside hitters in posting a 30-28 victory. Pressey and Cutura combined for 15 of the Bears' 21 kills, as Cal hit .279, as compared to .268 for Nebraska. The Huskers middle blocking duo of Stalls and Cooper combined for seven kills on just nine swings.  The Huskers fell behind early, as Cal won the first four rallies before the Huskers regrouped and ran off six of the next eight points, highlighted by three points off the serve of Stalls to tie the game at six.  From there, the match was close throughout, as Nebraska forged ahead 13-12 on a Jordan Larson kill and eventually built a 15-13 lead at the media timeout. Nebraska led 17-16 before Cal ran off three straight points, capped by a Kat Reilly kill to make it 19-17 to force a Husker timeout. The Huskers rallied and regained the lead at 23-22 on a Larson cross-court kill and led 25-24 before the game's decisive run. Ellen Orchard's kill sparked three unanswered points for Cal, which took a 27-25 lead on a Cutura kill, Nebraska fought back, as kills from Cooper and Larson tied the game at 27 and forced Cal to take a timeout. Cutura gave the Golden Bears the lead for good with a kill before a block by Morgan Beck and Kat Reilly put Cal at game point. NU fought off one game point as Pavan and Cooper combined for a block, but Cutura's eighth kill closed out the win.

As close as game one was, the second game was closer, as neither team led by more than two points in a game that saw 22 ties and nine lead changes before Cal won the final two points to take a 31-29 win. Once again, it was the duo of Pressey and Cutura who led Cal, as the pair combined for 13 kills, including eight by Cutura. Christina Houghelling kept NU in the game with five kills on nine swings, while Pavan also added five more for the Huskers. The game was back and forth throughout and Nebraska eventually built a 20-18 lead after a Pavan kill. Cal quickly tied the score, winning the next two rallies before the Huskers took their last lead at 23-22 on a Pavan kill. With the score tied at 25, Cal once again used a Cutura kill and a Nebraska ball-handling error to take a two-point lead. Trailing 29-27, Nebraska fought off two game points to tie it at 29-all on two straight Pavan kills, but the Bears again had an answer as a kill from Pressey and a double block by Cutura and Orchard on Pavan to send Cal into the locker room with a 2-0 advantage.

Unlike Friday's come-from-behind victory over Michigan State, the Huskers could not match the Golden Bears on this night, as Cal completed the sweep with a 30-26 victory. Cal hit a blistering .342, as the Golden Bears' duo combined for 15 kills and one error in 25 swings. Pavan totaled half of her kill total in the finale to keep NU close, but the Huskers were held to just .184 hitting. The Huskers built an early 7-6 lead, but two attack errors and a Carli Lloyd ace put the Huskers in an early hole. NU climbed back, running off three straight points to turn a two-point deficit into a 14-13 lead on a Cal attack error, but the Golden Bears took control. Cutura led Cal on a 5-0 run that allowed the Bears to take an 18-14 lead. Trailing 22-18, the Huskers raced off three straight points to get within 22-21 on a Houghtelling service ace, and were within 27-26, but could never tie the score, as Cal scored the final three points to complete the sweep. Pressey's 20th kill of the night sent the Bears into a joyous celebration as they reached the national semifinals for the first time ever.

Nebraska Notes
-Nebraska falls to 10-9 in NCAA Regional Finals play
-The loss snaps an 11 match winning streak.
-Nebraska falls to 73-23 all-time in NCAA tournament play.
-Nebraska falls to 2-2 all-time versus California and 30-23-1 versus the Pac-10.
-Nebraska had won 23 of its last 24 matches versus ranked teams. The Huskers are now 86-13 versus ranked teams under head coach John Cook.
-The match marked the second time this season that Nebraska was out-hit (.240-.323)
-The match was the seventh time this year that Nebraska hit under .300.
-Nebraska's senior class (Maggie Griffin, Christina Houghtelling, Sarah Pavan and Tracy Stalls) finished with a career record of 126-7. During their four years, the group went to four NCAA regional finals and two National Semifinals, winning the 2006 NCAA championship.
-Senior Sarah Pavan recorded her 2,000th career kill in game two. Pavan, who became the first Husker to reach the mark, finished her career with 2,008 which ranks fourth all-time in Big 12 history.
-Pavan also finished the year with 498 kills, good for ninth all-time in school history in a single-season. Her 4.83 kills per game ranks sixth all-time in a single-season.
-Senior Christina Houghtelling finished ninth in school history for digs in a single-season with 383.
-Senior Tracy Stalls set a school and Big 12 single-season record with a hitting percentage of .474.
-Junior Jordan Larson tied her own school postseason-record with 12 service aces.


Nebraska Quotes
Head Coach John Cook: "California played great tonight and certainly put the pressure on us and never let off. I thought our team rallied at times but could never put together a string of points and we didn't play very well at the end of close games and when you get to regional finals, that's what you have to be able to do, is put on pressure and play great at the end of games. Cal certainly did a tremendous job of that tonight."

Cook on the areas of the game where Nebraska struggled:
"I'm not sure we did anything really well tonight so it would be an all-around, we did it in spurts but we didn't do all the skills very well consistently. A lot of it starts with blocking and defensively and those have been our strengths and you have to give those left-side hitters a lot of credit tonight. Serving, normally we really stress team serving, we were really tentative serving tonight with errors at critical times, which takes the momentum away and we were inconsistent attacking and siding out tonight. Part of that, Cal probably made us feel that way."

Cook on the senior class: "The first thing that comes to mind is that they've set the bar so darn high. The last three years ago, we've lost five matches, played for two national championships, won a national championship on probably the greatest stage the history of volleyball may ever see. When you look at this group academically, they're all 4.0s, three academic All-Americans, they won the Life Skills Award as a team. Maybe I might get a job as a sportswriter because I'm not sure we'll ever top this group of seniors. Once the disappointment of tonight goes away, they're going to have some incredible accomplishments and memories and have set a great legacy at Nebraska, especially Nebraska volleyball."

Tracy Stalls on her career coming to an end: "I wouldn't say it has set in. I'm still kind of shocked, but I think what hurts the most is having to leave this group and this team. I'm disappointed in how we played. I'm disappointed that we weren't able to max out and that was the goal. As a result of that, we didn't reach as far as we wanted to go. The thing that hurts is having to say goodbye to this season of my life and this special group of people that I love so much and it's just been a pleasure. It's been a hard four years, but it's been so rewarding. That's all I have to say right now."

Box Score


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