Huskers Face Illinois in NCAA Regional Semifinal
The 10th-seeded Nebraska volleyball team (23-7) heads to the Lone Star State this weekend for its 10th straight NCAA Regional appearance, Thursday, Dec. 9 and Saturday, Dec. 11, in Austin, Texas. The Huskers face Big Ten peer Illinois on Thursday, with first serve set for 8:30 p.m. at Gregory Gym.
With a win, Nebraska would advance to Saturday's regional final against the winner of the Washington-Texas semifinal (Thursday at 6:30 p.m.). The regional final match is set for 9 p.m.
All three Austin Regional matches this weekend will be televised on ESPNU with Paul Sunderland handling play-by-play duties and Salima Rockwell providing color commentary.
This week's action will be carried on Huskers Radio Network with the NU radio team of John Baylor and Lauren Cook West. Baylor is in his 28th season handling play-by-play duties for the Husker volleyball program, and West, a former All-America setter at NU, will provide color commentary for the sixth straight year.
Huskers Radio Network will carry the matches on HRN radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and AM 590 in Omaha. A live audio stream will be available at Huskers.com and on the Huskers app.
• Nebraska was selected as the No. 10 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament, which secured its 40th straight NCAA Tournament appearance -- second most in NCAA history, behind only Penn State (41).
• Nebraska is 120-34 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers rank second in NCAA history in postseason wins and winning percentage (.779).
• Nebraska (154) and Stanford (164) are the only programs in NCAA history to play 150 NCAA Tournament matches.
• NU is 30-6 all-time in NCAA Regional Semifinal matches.
• A win over Illinois would send Nebraska an NCAA Regional Final for the 10th consecutive season and the 31st time in program history.
• John Cook has led Nebraska to an NCAA Regional in 21 of his 22 seasons. The Huskers have advanced to a regional final 18 times in the previous 21 years under head coach John Cook.
• The Huskers are 56-1 all-time against unranked opponents in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, Nebraska has won 85 consecutive matches against unranked opponents dating back to the 2017 regular season.
• Nebraska is 43-27 on the road or on a neutral court in the NCAA Tournament.
• Two wins this weekend would secure NU its 16th NCAA Final Four appearance.
• Cook is 87-22 in his NCAA Tournament career, including a 79-17 record as Nebraska's head coach.
• Nebraska last played in Austin at the VERT Challenge, Sept. 4-5, 2015. The Huskers fell 3-2 to Texas and defeated Oregon, 3-2, that year.
• This weekend is a return to her home state for Houston product Ally Batenhorst. Born in Nebraska but raised in Texas, she is the 11th Husker player all-time to come from the Lone Star State.
• Nebraska finished as Big Ten runner-up this season.
• NU is one of a nation-leading eight Big Ten teams to qualify for the 2021 NCAA Tournament field and is one of six conference teams to qualify for an NCAA Regional this weekend. The Huskers won the conference's most recent national title (2017).
• Nebraska's matchup with Illinois Thursday is its third this season. The Huskers won both during the regular season in three sets. In the second meeting on Nov. 4, both teams were ranked in the top 25 (Nebraska at No. 9, Illinois at No. 25).
• Nebraska leads the country with an average home attendance of 8,185 this season at the Devaney Center.
• Nebraska was the last unbeaten team in Big Ten play this year. Its 10-0 start was their second-best since joining the conference in 2011.
Scouting the Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois is 22-11 on the season after defeating West Virginia in the first round, 3-1, last Friday and No. 7 Kentucky in the second round, 3-1, last Saturday. Raina Terry led the Illini with 27 kills, and Megan Cooney added 17 more. Diana Brown dished out 52 assists in leading Illinois to a .331 team hitting percentage.
Illinois heads into its 19th NCAA Regional appearance this weekend and its third under head coach Chris Tamas. In his fifth year leading the program, Tamas carries a career record of 100-51.
The Illini are second nationally for total aces (232) and 13th for aces per set (1.87). Individually, Brown is fifth in the country for total assists (1,291), and Terry is 12th for total aces (54). Taylor Kuper is just behind her at 17th for aces (50) and also ranks 18th for total digs (567).
Noting the Series: vs. Illinois
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Illinois 31-8-1, including 18-3 in the John Cook era. The Huskers have won six straight in the series dating back to 2018, and they look for their fifth consecutive sweep of UI Thursday night. NU has an 7-0-1 advantage over Illinois on a neutral court and have a 4-2 edge in the NCAA Tournament.
The Huskers last met Illinois in the postseason on Dec. 13, 2018, winning 3-2 in the national semifinal in Minneapolis.
With a win over Illinois on Thursday, Nebraska advances to the NCAA Regional Final on Saturday, Dec. 11 to face the winner of Thursday's Washington-Texas semifinal. First serve is set for 9 p.m. CT at Gregory Gym in Austin, Texas.