Texas hit .336 and hammered away at Nebraska to beat the Huskers in Omaha 25-22, 19-25, 25-15, 25-21 and advance into the NCAA Tournament national semifinals.
Fourth-seeded Texas, the Big 12 champion which improved to 26-1, will play the winner of Monday’s next match between Wisconsin and Florida. Later Monday was the late match between Kentucky and Purdue.
Skylar Fields, who had one error in 27 attacks, and Logan Eggleston had 18 kills each for Texas in the regional final. Fields hit .630 and had a dig and a block, while Eggleston had five aces, four digs, and five blocks.
“I committed to Texas because I wanted to play in games like that and make it to final fours,” Eggleston said. “I’m just so proud that we got there this year. We’ve put in so much work, it’s such an amazing feeling right now.
Brionne Butler had six kills and five digs, while Molly Phillips had six kills, and five blocks.
Jhenna Gabriel had 46 assists, four digs, and two blocks. Morgan O’Brien had 14 kills and an ace, and Nalani Iosia had 11 digs, four assists, and two aces.
Coach Jerritt Elliott was asked in the post-match news conference if Texas was peaking at the right time.
“Peaking? We’re in the final four,” Elliott exclaimed. “We’ve got to be playing pretty good.”
Fifth-seeded Nebraska, an at-large from the Big Ten playing an hour from home, ended its season 16-3.
“Being in this gym it felt like it was a home-court advantage for them,” Eggleston said. “But I feel like we kind of switched the table and made it a home-court advantage for us by the way we were playing.”
The Huskers, who had home-state fans and the return of their best player, Lauren Stivrins, hit .171.
“Great match by Texas,” Nebraska coach John Cook said, giving credit to the Longhorns for winning the serve-and-pass game. “That was our only chance. If we didn’t pass well today we were going to have a tough time.”
Madi Kubik led the Huskers with 15 kills, an assist, five digs, and two blocks. Kayla Caffey had eight kills and five blocks. Lexi Sun had seven kills but hit .000. She had an assist, two aces, 13 digs, and a block. Stivrins, who missed Nebraska’s win over Baylor on Sunday with “an undisclosed injury,” recovered enough to have seven kills with two errors in 14 attacks, three assists, a dig, and a block.
Nicklin Hames had two kills in three errorless tries, 34 assists, three aces, and 13 digs. Kenzie Knuckles had 10 digs, three assists, and two aces.
Hames lamented the loss, acknowledging that “it would have been so much fun to play for a national championship,” in Omaha.
Texas, meanwhile, has at least one more match in pursuit of its first NCAA title since 2012.
“Tomorrow will be a really light day and we’ll get some recovery,” said Elliott, whose team plays again Thursday. “I really want our team to soak it in tonight. I don’t know what kind of mini-celebration we can have in our team room, but let them smile and be around themselves.
“This isn’t really a true bubble but we’ve stayed true and not letting family be a part of this and that’s really unfortunate but our goal to try to win this thing so we’re taking every precaution possible. So we’re going to let them just enjoy this.”
Texas is looking like the best team in the country. This may be their year to break through.