— Husker Volleyball (@Huskervball) December 9, 2017
By Tommy Rezac
John Cook called the 2017 season a “reinvent” before it began.
He also said before the NCAA tournament that this year is among his top two favorites in his now 18th year at Nebraska.
For good reason. A “rebuilding” year turned into the third consecutive Final Four berth for the No. 5 seeded Huskers (30-4), who knocked off No. 4 seed Kentucky 3-1 (25-19, 25-22, 25-27, 25-22) in the NCAA Regional Final in Lexington, KY on Saturday.
Not only has Cook achieved his eighth Final Four in 18 years, but Nebraska has reached its third straight Final Four for the first time in school history; all behind the leadership of fifth-year senior setter Kelly Hunter, who finished Saturday’s match with 46 assists and now has the second most in school history at 4,041.
“To see this is just super, super satisfying and rewarding and the way she leads this group, it is incredible,” Cook said. “I have said, ‘She is becoming one of the greatest leaders of Nebraska volleyball has ever had.’ She leads this group and she has done an amazing job. She has got three great seniors that support her and work with her and look what they have done.
“Nobody else. Nebraska volleyball has never done that before. Three straight Final Fours. Two of them have been through Lexington…it had to be fun to watch if you were a fan.”
This year marks Nebraska’s 14th NCAA Semifinals appearance; the second most in NCAA history. The Huskers beat BYU and Washington in Lexington in 2015 to reach the Final Four in Omaha, where they swept Texas for the program’s fourth national title.
The quest for five will now go through Kansas City, MO, when Nebraska takes on No. 1 Penn State on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. at the Sprint Center.
The match will be televised on ESPN and air on 107.3 FM in Lincoln.
The other Final Four match between No. 2 Florida and No. 3 Stanford will follow on Thursday at 8 p.m. The championship match is set for Saturday, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m.
The Nittany Lions are 33-1. Their only loss; getting swept by Nebraska at home on Sept. 22. Penn State has since won 24 straight matches. The Huskers have won 17 in a row.
“I mean, it is a great match up,” Kelly Hunter said. “They are ranked number one and we see them a lot and we only saw them once this year. So, I am sure they are going to be hungry to beat us. We are the only team that beat them…it is always a good rivalry with them.”
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.