No. 7 Nebraska upsets No. 2 Stanford in Runza/AVCA Showcase Opener

8/29/2008

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OMAHA, Neb. - Sophomore Tara Mueller totaled a career-high 15 kills, while All-American Jordan Larson's strong serving keyed a Husker comeback in the finale, as No. 7 Nebraska topped second-ranked Stanford, 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 26-24) at the Runza/AVCA Showcase Friday night at the Qwest Center.

Mueller, making just her third career start, paced Nebraska with 15 kills on .355 hitting and five digs, while sophomore Lindsey Licht had a career-high 10 kills on .450 hitting in her first collegiate start to help the Huskers to their 77th consecutive win in the state and move to a perfect 10-0 in the Qwest Center.

With Friday win, Nebraska knocked off a higher ranked team for the first time since September of 2000 and for just the second time since 1996. The Huskers held the Cardinal to just .194 hitting and totaled eight aces to none for Stanford, the two-time NCAA runner-up.

The Huskers used the combination of strong serving and stifling defense to win the opener 25-17. Nebraska totaled four aces in the first set, opening and closing the set with Anderson aces. Nebraska out-hit the Cardinal, .312-.167, and totaled four blocks to Stanford's none. Although the Huskers never trailed, NU led only 15-14 before running off five of the next six points to take a 20-15 advantage on Larson's ace. Stanford pulled to within 21-16, but a Kori Cooper block, a Kayla Banwarth ace and a Mueller kill gave Nebraska a comfortable 23-16 cushion. Anderson, who dished out 37 assists and added seven digs, closed out the set with a kill before ripping her second ace of the match.

In the second set, the team traded the lead back and forth before the Huskers took command late in a 25-19 victory. Mueller totaled five kills on 10 swings, while Nebraska limited the Cardinal to just six kills and .037 hitting. Neither team could take control through the first half of the set, as the largest lead through the first 30 rallied as a three-point NU lead at 14-11. Stanford pulled even with three straight points, capped by a Cynthia Barboza kill. The Huskers regained the lead for good moment later, as two Cardinal miscues and a Licht kill to make it 17-14. The Cardinal made one last run, getting to within 20-18, but kills from Mueller and Larson and a Banwarth kill made it a 23-18 lead. Mueller then drilled home the final two points to send NU to the locker room up 2-0.

In the finale, the Huskers were forced to overcome a five-point deficit, as well as fight off three set points before prevailing, 26-24. The Huskers trailed 14-9 and were down 19-15 before scoring winning three of the next four rallies to get within 20-18 on a Mueller kill. NU trailed 24-21 closing out the match on a decisive 5-0 sport to complete the sweep. After a Cardinal service error, Larson stepped to the service line and rolled off the final four points. Mueller totaled three of her eight kills in the spurt, including the final two kills of the match

Cynthia Barboza led the Cardinal with 10 kills while Nebraska limited AVCA National Player of the Year Foluke Akinradewo to six kills on .125 hitting.

Press Conference Quotes
Stanford Coach John Dunning

Opening Statement

I would like to say congratulations to the AVCA for putting on the event that they have and for the Nebraska fans for coming out like they always do. It is an amazing place to play. I thought the Cornhuskers did a great job today. I want to congratulate them. They have a lot of new players on the court, and I thought they did a great job together. Other than that, I think we have some work to do and that is why you come to play in tournaments like this. It's great to be here, it's exciting and you want to find out where you are and what you need to do next. We definitely know more, but congratulations to them.

On his team's passing against Nebraska

Yes, it's definitely a game of dominos, that's for sure. I thought they served really well and very aggressively right from the start. They took us out of it early. We had a hard time recovering, but once you get knocked on your heels, it's kind of hard to figure out how the game's going to go your way. I thought we did a good job of fighting back in game three. We blocked some good balls, and I thought we played some great defense in game three.

On his expectations of Nebraska this year

It's a great program, with great coaches and they've been good for a long time. You don't replace people you just find a different way to do it. They did a real nice job tonight.

Stanford's Cynthia Barboza

On how Nebraska came out

The first match of every season is pretty interesting. It give you a good gauge of where you are and where you need to be. They came out and played really, really well. They were serving tough and pushed us out of system. That tells us that we need to improve our out-of-system offense. I was really proud of the way that our team kept talking and communicating and adjusting throughout the match. We saw early on what some of our weaknesses are and I think a big difference from last year is that we kept talking, where as last year in a situation we would freeze up. That gives me a lot of hope for the matches to come, that we are able to adapt as the match progresses and keep working on stuff. I don't think anyone in our locker room is hanging their heads right now. I mean, you'd obviously like to win every match, but we did some good things. Jessica Fishburn came in and played some great defense. We just want to focus on the things we did well and now we know which areas of our game need to get better. That's a good thing going into the next practice. You always want to have stuff that you can be improving, because you want to be your best at the end of the year, not the beginning of the year.

Nebraska Coach John Cook

Opening Statement

I thought it was a great opening match for us. I probably felt more uncertainty about how we would play tonight than in many, many years that I can remember. I knew this team would compete really hard tonight. They have been preparing for this match since January with their training, lifting and work this summer. It's great to see them be rewarded with a tremendous effort tonight. This is something we've talked about with Jordan (Larson) all year and all summer, teams are going to try to stop her. As I said, she can win a match from any skill, and you saw what happened tonight. That was one of the gutsiest serving performances I've ever seen, with so much on the line there, great effort.

On the team's play

We've been really stressing service, because we've got to create opportunities. When you play Stanford, they pass well. We had to slow down (Cynthia) Barboza and (Alix) Klineman also by serving them and Klineman got served out of the game. When you've got hitters that are that elite, your only chance is to serve tough and slow them down. We've put together in our rotation, a very strong group of servers who can always be attacking.

On Sydney Anderson's first start

Sydney is a gamer. She found ways to be successful tonight. She didn't serve a perfect match by any means, but she served really tough. One of the things I've noticed is our team plays well around her. She's a great communicator, and we had one little lapse, but for those chaos plays she's really controlling things really well. I think that's a gift she has. It's hard to coach that. I think that's one of the reasons you saw we won a lot of rallies tonight. It may have taken us four or five swings, but we were winning those rallies and Syndey does a great job with that. This is a really great start for her first match at Nebraska.

Nebraska's Jordan Larson

On her clutch serving

(I) just trust it. I think it's the part of my game that I'm most comfortable with. I've got to the point now where I'm comfortable in big situations. I think I've done this a couple of times at the end of matches. My hitting wasn't going so well and when one thing of my game isn't going well I try and focus on another thing, so that was my focus.

On the team's attitude and the atmosphere

It was a great atmosphere. Everybody was so engaged and so excited after every point. If Stanford had a great hit, we knew we were going to come back, we're going to pass and we're going to play the next point. I think we did a great job of that, just focusing on our side and worrying about what we can control.

Nebraska's Sydney Anderson

On her first start

I've never played in that kind of environment, with so many people and so many fans cheering for you. I think it was really easy for me to play on this team and with these girls because of practice. They are so welcoming and haven't treated me any different from a newcomer to someone who's been there for four years. It's really nice to actually get out there and play a game.

Nebraska's Tara Meuller

On her 15 kills

It was just looking to my teammates and everyone doing their part and trusting that. I think we all had to step up. We knew what was coming. We knew we'd have to fight every play, every one of us was playing together and competing.

Article courtesy of Nebraska athletics.

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