Mikaela Foecke magical once more in Nebraska loss to Stanford

Morgan Hentz makes two big-time digs to keep the ball alive, but Mikaela Foecke comes up with the kill to put Nebraska up 4-0 in the fourth set.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Nebraska's Mikaela Foecke came oh-so-close to finishing her college career as a three-time national champion. But after a five-set loss to Stanford in which she gave all she had, with 27 kills and 11 digs, Foecke said, "It wasn't good enough to win."

That's not what will be remembered about Foecke, though. She'll be remembered for how great she was, particularly in the postseason. She helped Nebraska make four trips to the final four, winning two of them. She won most outstanding player honors twice, and had the Huskers prevailed in Saturday's five-set loss to Stanford, she would have won that award again.

But that was the last thing on her mind. All she wanted was another title.

"I was just telling my teammates the other day," Foecke said. "I would give back every individual award I have for another feeling like last year and an opportunity to share such a large moment with some of your closest friends."

AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

In her final game for Nebraska, Mikaela Foecke had a game-high 27 kills.

Nebraska coach John Cook said that when Foecke arrived at Nebraska, he wouldn't have pegged her as being a team leader. Yet she was a key player as a freshman for the Huskers' 2015 championship team, and her stature with the team continued to grow.

Before this season, Cook made Foecke and fellow senior Kenzie Maloney the team captains; no vote from the team was necessary. He praised their leadership throughout the season and said how much he'd miss them next year.

"We have a special bond. It's been really a cool journey with those guys," Cook said. "My phone cover picture is of Mikaela and Kenzie sticking their tongues out at me, doing weird signs. They put that on there. I don't know how to get it off."

He might not actually want to. Cook has won five NCAA titles at Nebraska and coached numerous great players. This season, the Huskers had to work in a lot of freshmen and new players, including a rookie setter. In October, they lost five of seven matches.

Yet they kept persevering. The Huskers made the final four for the 15th time and then had to rally from two sets down against Illinois to make the final. The dream ended Saturday, but Foecke and the Huskers went down swinging.

"She has a cannon on her arm. She was amazing tonight and has had an incredible career," Stanford libero Morgan Hentz said. "She definitely gave us trouble tonight. I was just trying to read and anticipate, but there are some I couldn't get to."

Foecke, who grew up on a farm, has the talent to play volleyball professionally, but she has other plans as well. She has applied to veterinarian school in her home state of Iowa.

"I don't know if they let you defer if you get in," she said on the matter of if she would play professionally. "I don't really know what my future plans are."

Cook said that whatever she does, she'll do it well.

"She's learned and developed some incredible skills while at Nebraska," he said. "She will be the best dang veterinarian in eastern Iowa, probably, throughout her life."

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