The No. 7 seed Nebraska volleyball team will play the No. 10 seed Kentucky Wildcats Friday in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament as it continues its quest to defend its 2017 national championship.
Both teams are red hot heading into this match. Nebraska has won 10 consecutive matches and has swept its last five opponents. Kentucky has not lost since Sept. 7 and is on a 23-match win streak. The Wildcats have also swept nine of their last 10 foes.
The Huskers swept Hofstra and Missouri in Lincoln in the first and second rounds to advance to the regional semifinals for the seventh-straight season. Kentucky also swept a pair of foes, Murray State and Purdue, to keep its championship hopes alive.
Last season, Nebraska defeated the Wildcats 3-1 in the Elite Eight of the tournament. Senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke led the way for the Huskers in that match with 18 kills. Kentucky’s now-junior outside hitter Leah Edmond earned 20 kills for the Wildcats in the match.
Those two players have had an equally impressive start to the 2018 tournament. Edmond led the Wildcats in their first and second-round matches with 17 and 13 kills, respectively. She is hitting .247 in the tournament so far.
Foecke finished with nine kills against Hofstra and 16 versus Missouri. Her 25 combined kills come with zero errors in the first two matches of the postseason. Foecke’s performances have earned her a .543 hitting percentage through rounds one and two.
Nebraska head coach John Cook praised the senior co-captain after the second-round victory over Missouri.
“She blocks, she passes, she digs, the whole thing,” he said. “Just to play at that level, with no errors two matches in a row, I mean, name the last player to do that.”
Senior middle blocker Brooke Morgan has also been impressive for Kentucky this postseason. The Iowa native posted 10 kills, seven digs and a pair of blocks in the Wildcats’ opening round win over Murray State. Against Purdue, she registered a dozen kills and had four service aces.
Morgan also leads a Kentucky defense that has not let either of its opponents hit .200 yet in the postseason. The Wildcats held Murray State to .172 and Purdue to .144. They also recorded nine total blocks and 107 digs between the two matches.
On the other side of the net, sophomore middle blocker Lauren Stivrins has played well for Nebraska in the postseason so far. She racked up 20 kills and nine blocks in the first two rounds of the tournament and is hitting .567. As a team, Nebraska has hit above .350 in its last five matches.
Nebraska’s defense has complemented the surging offense quite well. The Huskers held Hofstra to .134 hitting, including .000 and .083 marks in the second and third sets. Missouri only hit .216 against the Huskers after finishing with a .412 hitting percentage against Arizona. Nebraska also had eight blocks in each match for a total of 16 and had 86 total digs as well.
First serve between the Huskers and Wildcats is set for 1 p.m. CST on Friday. The match will take place in Minneapolis and will air on ESPNU.