December 14, 2023
TAMPA — All that remained was the waiting, to see if we will have a rematch of the 2021 five-set epic NCAA championship match between Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Top-seeded Nebraska did its part, completely overpowering No. 4 Pittsburgh on Thursday night in Amalie Arena in the NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship national semifinals.
Sunday, the Huskers (33-1) will play the winner of the later match between No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 7 Texas after dismantling Pittsburgh 25-20, 25-23, 25-17.
Big Ten-champion Nebraska was led by Harper Murray, the freshman outside hitter who had 13 kills, five digs and two blocks. Merritt Beason added eight kills but hit .038 to go with two assists, four aces, four digs and five blocks.
“Tonight is a great win for us, but at the end of the day, Sunday is our goal,” Murray said. “We just have to stay focused on that and do everything we can to prepare for that match.”
Ally Batenhorst also had eight kills and added two digs and four blocks, one solo. The Nebraska middles were errorless in a match in which the Huskers battled uphill to hit .245. Andi Jackson had five kills with no errors in nine swings, a dig and four blocks, one solo, and Bekka Allick had four kills with no errors in seven attacks to go with an assist and 10 blocks, three solo. Allick, the sophomore playing for her hometown team, had 12 blocks in Nebraska’s regional-final win over Arkansas.
Setter Bergen Reilly had a kill in two errorless tries, 31 assists and three digs. Lexi Rodriguez had 14 digs, four assists and an ace.
Nebraska had 15 blocks to Pitt’s eight.
“I thought it was a great effort on our part. Pittsburgh is a very good team,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “Just watching video on them, they had our respect. I thought this would be a really, really tough match, and I knew we’d have to play great to win.”
But I thought our team — we talked about winning some close points. There were some ugly volleyball. We found a couple ways to win a couple points out of that, and I just thought our serving and blocking and defense really put some pressure on Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh, the ACC co-champion, finished its season 29-5 after losing in the national semifinals for the third year in a row. When the Panthers and Louisville made it this far in 2021, it was the first time an ACC school played in the final four.