Huskers, Badgers set for NCAA Championship rematch
10th seeded Nebraska volleyball team (26-7) start their 10th NCAA title game and fight for their sixth national championship this Saturday, Dec. 18, facing the No. 4 seed Wisconsin (30-3) at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The first serve is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2 with Paul Sunderland handling play-by-play tasks, Salima Rockwell providing full color commentary and Christine Williamson reporting on the pitch.
This weekend’s action will air on Huskers Radio Network with the NU radio crew of John Baylor and Lauren Cook West. Baylor is in its 28th season handling play-by-play functions for the Husker volleyball program, and West, a former All-America passer at NU, will provide full color commentary and is in his sixth consecutive year.
Huskers Radio Network will broadcast the games on HRN affiliate radios, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and AM 590 in Omaha. A live audio stream will be available on Huskers.com and on the Huskers app.
• Saturday’s NCAA Finals are a rematch of the 2000 National Championship game, which Nebraska won in five sets against the Badgers in the secondary scoring season in college volleyball.
• NU has qualified for the NCAA Finals for the 10th time in program history and the fourth time in the past seven seasons.
• Nebraska previously made the NCAA Finals in 1986, 1989, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2015, 2017 and 2018, winning the National Championship in 1995, 2000, 2006, 2015 and 2017.
• The Huskers’ 10 appearances in the NCAA Finals at Penn State for the second most appearances in NCAA history. Stanford’s 17 appearances are the NCAA record.
• Nebraska advanced to the NCAA Finals as the No. 10 seed. The Huskers are the fourth lowest seed to advance to the National Championship game since the NCAA began ranking teams in 2000. Stanford (seeded No. 11 in 2011), Wisconsin (seeded No. 12 in 2013) and BYU (unranked in 2014) made the NCAA Finals as a lower seed than this year’s Nebraska team.
• NU appears to become only the second double-digit seed to win the National Championship since the seeds debuted in 2000. Stanford won the NCAA title in 2004 as the No. 11 seed and is the lowest seed to win the national championship.
• This is NU’s 40th consecutive appearance at the NCAA tournament – the second in NCAA history, behind Penn State (41).
• Nebraska is 123-34 all-time in the NCAA tournament. The Huskers are second in NCAA history for playoff wins and winning percentage (0.783).
• NU is 46-27 on the road or on neutral ground in the NCAA tournament.
• Lauren Stivrins will play his third NCAA Finals on Saturday after helping the Huskers win the national title in 2017 and a runner-up in 2018. In his two NCAA Finals on Saturday, Stivrins had 28 kills on just 45 swings, attacking in a . 489 clips. She averaged 3.1 kills per set in her first two domestic league games.
I have things that cook
• Saturday’s NCAA Finals to Mark Head Coach John cookGame 100 of the NCAA Tournament as Nebraska Head Coach (82-17 record).
• Cook guided 10 Husker teams to a Final Four and seven to the Championship game in 22 seasons in Nebraska. Cook joined Russ Rose (13) of Penn State, Andy Banachowski (11) of UCLA and Don Shaw (10) of Stanford as the only coaches in NCAA history to lead a school to at least 10 NCAA semifinals.
• Cook is 90-22 in his NCAA tournament career. With the victory over Pittsburgh, Cook became only the third coach in NCAA history to win 90 NCAA tournament games.
• He ranks third in NCAA history for playoff wins and second among active coaches behind Russ Rose of Penn State.
• Cook’s .827 playoff winning percentage at NU is the highest score in NCAA history among any coaches with 20 or more NCAA tournament games at a school.
• Cook is 9-2 against opponents of the Big Ten in the NCAA tournament as the head coach of Nebraska. The only losses were in the 2008 NCAA Semi-Finals against Penn State and the 2019 NCAA Regional Finals in Wisconsin.
• Five-time national champion Nebraska has made it nine times in the NCAA Championship final, most recently in 2018. Wisconsin has never won a national title, but Saturday marks their fourth final appearance in the history of the program. The Badgers last reached the title game in 2019.
• Nebraska lead a six-game winning streak in Saturday’s final, in place since Nov. 27.
• Saturday will be NU’s third playoff game at Nationwide Arena. The Huskers lost 3-0 to Texas in the 2016 NCAA Semifinals at the venue ahead of the 3-1 semifinal victory over Pitt on Thursday.
• Nebraska has 33 serving aces in the NCAA tournament with one game remaining. In the last 15 NCAA tournaments (as of 2007), the only teams with more playoff aces are Nebraska in 2017 (44), Penn State in 2007 (43), Penn State in 2012 (38) , Stanford in 2018 (36) and Penn State in 2014 (35).
• NU has 268 to lead the NCAA tournament field.
• The Huskers maintain their opponents at a 0.149 hitting percentage in the NCAA tournament. This ranks third among all teams in the tournament.
• Nebraska have led the country with an average home attendance of 8,185 this season at the Devaney Center.
• Nebraska were the last undefeated team in the Big Ten this year. His 10-0 start was their second best since joining the conference in 2011.
Wisconsin Badger Scouting
Wisconsin are 30-3 this season after beating undefeated No.1 Louisville in five sets Thursday in the NCAA’s first semifinal game. The victory extended the Badgers’ winning streak to 10 games, in place since Nov. 14.
Anna Smrek totaled a career-high 20 kills while reaching 0.704 to lead UW. Dana Rettke (14) and Grace Loberg (13) also had double-digit kill nights, and Rettke put in six blocks. Sydney Hilley recorded her third consecutive double-double with 58 assists and 11 digs as well as four saves at the net.
Wisconsin had three honored players on the 2021 AVCA All-America squads this week: first teams Rettke and Hilley and second team selection Lauren Barnes. Rettke was also named 2021 AVCA Player of the Year on Friday.
The Badgers are second nationally in kills per set (14.71) and boast the sixth-best batting percentage (0.296). They are also third in assists per set (13.54) behind Hilley’s 12.03 assists per set. Rettke oscillates with a clip of 0.436, which ranks third in the country, as well as eighth for blocks per set (1.38).
Kelly Sheffield is in her ninth season at Madison. He has a 233-53 record at UW and a career mark of 506-165 over 21 years as a head coach.
Noting Series: Against Wisconsin
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Wisconsin 19-10-1 and is 9-9 in the John cook time.
The Badgers have won seven straight series victories, the latest of which sealed UW’s third straight title at the Badgers home in a 3-1 decision after NU won the first set. The Badgers also won this year’s meeting at the Devaney Center, 3-0, on October 27.
All-time Nebraska is 3-1 against Wisconsin in the playoffs. NU won their second NCAA Championship with a five-set victory over the Badgers in 2000, John cookIt’s freshman year in Nebraska after spending seven years as a head coach in Wisconsin.
NEBRASKA VS. WISCONSIN IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
1991 – W, 3-0 (Regional Semifinal) – Lincoln, Neb.
1998 – W, 3-2 (regional final) – Lincoln, Neb.
2000 – W, 3-2 (NCAA Championship) – Richmond, Virginia.
2019 – L, 3-0 (regional final) – Madison, Wisconsin.
With Saturday’s Nebraska-Wisconsin game on the horizon, the Big Ten Conference is assured of a national champion for the ninth time in the past 15 seasons. The Huskers won the Big Ten’s most recent national title (2017).
Nebraska, which finished second in the Big Ten this season, was one of eight most important conference teams in the country to advance to the 2021 NCAA tournament.
Saturday’s game marks the sixth NCAA final between conference opponents. Wisconsin and Penn State (Big Ten) also met in the 2013 NCAA Finals in the only other 64-team era championship game to feature teams from the same conference. Previously, the Pac-10 teams competed for the title in 1981, 1984, 1992 and 1994.