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Huskers rally past Nittany Lions, will face Gators in national title

Make it seven in a row against Penn State.

The Huskers (31-4) came back from a 2-1 deficit to down the Nittany Lions (33-2) in five thrilling sets on Thursday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO in front of a sold out crowd of 18,374 fans.

Quite a few of them were dressed in red.

“Obviously, our crowd is a big, important part of us, and having so many Husker fans here is great, and seeing them representing and cheering us on is something really special because we have such a great following,” junior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke said, who finished with a match-high 19 kills and career-high 19 digs.

“We did a really great job tonight coming together as a team, and the crowd kind of brought us up too.”

Nebraska will now face Florida (30-1) in the national championship match on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. The match will be carried live on 107.3 FM in Lincoln. It will also be televised nationally on ESPN2.

Penn State’s season and 23-match winning streak came to an end Thursday. At 33-2, their only two losses in 2017 came to the Huskers.

“Penn State’s a great team,” senior setter Kelly Hunter said, who’s 7-0 in her career against Nebraska’s biggest rival. “To win four National Championships (2007-2010) in a row is just ridiculous. So, we say they’re the team to beat. But, Nebraska might be the team to beat, too. So, it’s been really cool to get to play them so many times and have that great Big Ten rivalry and come out on top.”

Nebraska started strong on Thursday, taking the opening set 25-18. Penn State then used late rallies to win set two, 25-23 and set three, 26-24.

The Nittany Lions earned match point at 26-25 in the fourth set, but the Huskers scored the final three points of the set to rally for a 28-26 win.

In the fifth set, Nebraska trailed 6-4 before winning five straight points to take a 9-6 lead. Penn State never got closer than that, as Hunter closed out the win with a kill on the Huskers’ second match point. Nebraska won set five 15-11.

“The pass was tight and it led me there, and I finally got a jump that I won,” Hunter said. “Honestly, I was a little surprised. It was a great way to win the match. Yeah, it was awesome.”

Hunter posted her fourth double-double in five NCAA Tournament games this season, dishing out 47 assists and posting a career-high 23 digs.

Kelly’s a competitor,” John Cook said, who’ll be seeking his fourth championship ring on Saturday as Nebraska’s head coach. “She’s beaten Penn State seven straight times. I mean, you tell me anybody ever in the history of volleyball that’s done that?

“I don’t know what it is about her when she plays them, but, again, they always bring out the best in us. She’s a great competitor.”

The Huskers will play for their fifth national title as a program Saturday in their eighth all-time NCAA Final appearance.


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