USC 3, Nebraska 2



LOUISVILLE, Ky. In a match worthy of a national title match, two-time defending champion USC knocked top-seeded Nebraska out of the NCAA Tournament with a 33-35, 30-27, 30-21, 34-36, 15-12 win in a match that took nearly three hours.

USC improves to 23-5 and will meet the winner of the Minnesota/Ohio State match in the national semifinals next Thursday, while the Huskers end their magical run with a 30-2 record and see their 27-match winning streak come to an end.

Freshman Sarah Pavan turned in one of the most remarkable matches in school history, setting an NU NCAA postseason record with 35 kills, breaking the NU postseason record of 34 by Lisa Reitsma in 1996, and ranking tied for fifth among all Husker hitting performances. Pavan, who finished with 11 digs and four blocks, was one of four Huskers who turned in double-doubles, as Jennifer Saleaumua totaled 15 kills and 22 digs, while Christina Houghtelling had 11 kills and 14 digs along with five blocks. Dani Busboom rounded out the quartet with 66 set assists and 18 digs in the losing effort.

Keao Burdine carried the Women of Troy with 30 kills and 30 digs, as four Trojans finished with at least 10 kills. Staci Venski and Sarah Florian added 17 and `16 kills, respectively, as USC out-hit the Huskers, .188-.171.

Nebraska doubled USCs total blocks, at 20-10, with Melissa Elmer finishing with 10 blocks to lead Nebraska, which fell one game short of its ninth NCAA semifinal.

The opening game was a slugfest, as neither team led by more than three points in a thrilling 35-33 Husker win. Pavan shined with eight kills on .412 hitting, as Nebraska also out-blocked USC, 8-2. The Women of Troy took an early lead, only to see the Huskers take the lead for the first time at 11-10 on a solo block by Jennifer Saleaumua. The teams traded the lead back and forth, as Nebraska eventually built a 29-28 lead after a Trojan hitting error. Nebraska had a second game point after Pavans kill gave NU a 30-29 lead. USC came right back with two points and had a pair of match points, the last being at 32-31 after Bibiana Candelas kill. With the game tied at 33, Tracy Stalls put Nebraska up 34-33 before Keao Burdines hitting error gave NU game one.

In game two, neither team would give an inch, as the teams were within two points of each other until the final point of USCs 30-27 win that sent the teams to the locker room tied at one game apiece. The Huskers took a 24-22 lead after a Saleaumua kill, but USC came back with four straight points, including a pair of aces by Candelas, to take a 26-24 lead. Behind a kill by Pavan and a combined block by Christina Houghtelling and Dani Busboom on Emily Adams tied the match at 26. With the match deadlocked at 27, the 16th tie of the game two, the Women of Troy scored the final three points, capping the win on a kill by Staci Venski. Burdine had 10 kills in game two alone for USC.

The Women of Troy raced to a 6-2 lead in game three after a Debora Seilhamer ace before Nebraska responded. The Huskers closed to within 7-5, but USC went on a 9-3 spurt to push the margin to 16-9 after a combined block by Adams and Venski. USC continued to roll, pushing the lead to 19-10. Nebraska began to chip away, closing to within 25-20 after a pair of Pavan kills forced a USC timeout. The Huskers got within 25-21 on a Saleaumua kill, but could get no closer as USC scored the final five straight points to close out a 30-21 win. In all, USC out-hit Nebraska, .300-.075 to take a 2-1 lead.

In game four, the Huskers came out quickly, jumping to an 8-4 lead and forcing USC to take a timeout. After USC closed to within 8-6, NU scored three straight points to push the lead to 11-6 after a Michelle Lynch ace, her first of the match. Nebraska led 14-8 after a Stalls kill, but USC would charge back, using a 5-1 spurt to get within 15-13 after Sarah Florians kill, forcing NU Coach John Cook to call timeout. The Women of Troy sliced the lead to 15-14 before two straight kills by Christina Houghtelling and a kill by Saleaumua pushed the margin to 18-14 and forced a USC timeout. The Women of Troy chipped away at the Husker lead, using a 6-2 spurt to tie the match at 20 and took a 23-21 lead after a Burdine kill. NU got to with 24-23 after a Pavan kill, but two quick kills by USC pushed the lead to 26-23. A kill by Houghtelling and two kills by Pavan tied the match at 26-all. With the match tied at 27, an Elmer block and a USC hitting error gave NU game point, but the Trojans staved off two game points. NU then fought off three match points, tying the match at 33 and took a 34-33 lead on a Houghtelling kill. With the match tied at 34, kills by Elmer and Pavan gave NU a 36-34 win and sent the match to a decisive fifth game.

In the finale, USC got off to a 3-0 lead after Burdines 29th kill of the match and eventually pushed the lead to 5-1 before NU regrouped, using a 5-1 run to tie the match at 6-all on Saleaumuas kill. USC then took an 8-6 lead on kills by Candelas and Venski to take the lead at the switch. Trailing 9-6, NU got to within 11-10 on Pavans 35th kill of the match and tied the match on a net violation. The Huskers tied the match at 12, but a service error and hitting error put USC within a point of victory. On USCs next serve, Sarah Florian slammed an overpass, ending the Huskers magical run.

Notes: Jennifer Saleaumua broke Nebraskas career records for digs, as she broke the school mark held by Lindsay Wischmweier, who had 1,111 digs between 1999 and 2002...Saleaumua now has 1,132 career digs....With her 10 blocks tonight, Melissa Elmer moved into sole possession of second place on NUs single-season block list, passing Amber Holmquist (2001) and Stephanie Thater (1990), who both had 197 blocks...Elmer finished with 200 blocks...Pavans 30-kill match is the first by a Husker since Nancy Metcalf in 1999 and only the eighth by a Husker in the postseason...Pavan finished with 481 kills, breaking the freshman mark of 479 by Eileen Shannon in 1989, while her total ranked 10th on NUs single-season list...Busboom posted her 15th double-double of year, while Saleaumua (10th) and Houghtelling (fourth) also posted double-doubles...Pavans seventh 20-kill match, most by a Husker since Nancy Metcalf had 10 in 1999....NU drops to 8-9 all-time in regional finals.

-- Courtesy University of Nebraska