By Tommy Rezac
Nebraska (30-4) is set for its Final Four match against No. 1 seed Penn State (33-1) at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO on Thursday evening at 6 p.m.
The match will be televised nationally on ESPN, and will be carried on 107.3 FM and on KLIN (1400 AM) in Lincoln. KLIN will sync its audio with the TV broadcast on ESPN. KLIN’s signal will be synced with Spectrum in Lincoln, which is Channel 34.
Just found out that in addition to our sister station B1073's usual coverage, @KLINRadio will also carry the @Huskervball match Thursday & sync @johnbaylorACT & @Lo_Cook's call with the ESPN broadcast, so turn your TVs down and radios up! pic.twitter.com/yDBKtUQK9e
— Jack Mitchell (@JackM_KLINRadio) December 11, 2017
The other two teams in the Final Four, No. 3 Stanford (30-3) and No. 2 Florida (29-1), will face off on Thursday night at 8 p.m.
The championship match is scheduled for Saturday night at 8 p.m.
Of the 32,000 tickets sold for Thursday’s and Saturday’s now sold out matches, 4,800 of them were sold to Nebraska residents.
With Kansas City being only three hours from Lincoln, Nebraska head coach John Cook expects the Big Red faithful to be out in full force.
“The fact it’s Kansas City, it’s close to Nebraska, it’s sold out, it’s a great testament to the Husker Nation and how well volleyball is supported in the Midwest,” Cook said. “It’s just awesome for our sport.”
There’s a pep rally being held for Husker fans at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Power and Light District, which is right across the street from the Sprint Center.
Nebraska senior setter Kelly Hunter was named a first-team AVCA All-American on Wednesday, headlining four Huskers to receive honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
Hunter says it’s a great feeling to be an All-American, but one that wouldn’t be possible without those around her.
“We always say an individual award is a team award,” Hunter said. “So, none of us could have gotten any awards if it weren’t for the team, pushing us every single day. We just have a great group of 14, 15 girls who work their butts off every single day.”
Senior outside hitter Annika Albrecht and junior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke were selected as second-team All-Americans. Senior middle blocker Briana Holman received honorable mention honors. These selections improve Nebraska’s nation-leading total of All-Americans to 87 all-time.
In addition, senior defensive specialist Syndey Townsend was honored Wednesday night with the 2017 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Elite 90 award. This award is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA participating at each site of each NCAA championship.
Townsend earned her second consecutive Elite 90 award, making her one of only two Division I women’s volleyball student-athletes all-time to earn multiple Elite 90 awards.
— Husker Volleyball (@Huskervball) December 14, 2017
Nebraska is appearing in its third straight Final Four, which has never been done before in school history. This is also the Huskers’ 14th-all time trip to the NCAA Semifinals; the second most of any school in NCAA history.
Penn State, who was knocked out by Nebraska in five sets in the NCAA Regional Final last year, has only loss in 2017.
They were swept by the Huskers at home on Sept. 22, marking the first time since 2003 that the Nittany Lions had been swept off their home floor at Rec Hall.
“Something our team does really well is we stick to what we train,” Albrecht said. “We always talk about serve and pass, and I think we did a really good job ball controlling them and starting them off out of system with our serve. That really helped our block and everything kind of fell from there.”
“I think just sticking to what we trained and sticking to our game plan really helped us. I didn’t think they knew what to do.”
Penn State knows what they’ve been doing since that night. They’re 24-0 ever since.
The Huskers are currently on a 17-match winning streak. Nebraska and Penn State both finished the regular season as Co-Big Ten Champions with a 19-1 record in conference play.
Cook said on Tuesday, before the team left, that Thursday’s match could help decide 2017’s true Big Ten Champion.
If that’s the case, this Final Four match is destined to be another great chapter in what’s been an epic tale of two volleyball powerhouses.
“If you’ve followed the history of us, Nebraska-Penn State, we’ve had a lot of epic matches,” Cook said. “It’s one of the, I think, most exciting rivalries, if you want to call it that, in college volleyball. They’re a lot of fun to play, and I think both teams bring out the best in each other.”
Nebraska has won the last six matches against Penn State, meaning Nebraska has never lost to the Nittany Lions with Hunter in the rotation.
“It might not be exactly a Nebraska-Penn State rivalry, but everyone wants to beat them,” Hunter said.
“So, they’re just kind of that team you get really hyped up to play. Especially this year, only one loss all season, everyone’s hyped to play them.”
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.