Top-seeded Huskers win women's volleyball title

OMAHA, Neb. -- Sarah Pavan and Jordan Larson led Nebraska to the NCAA women's volleyball title Saturday night, combining for 41 kills in the Cornhuskers' 27-30, 30-26, 30-28, 30-27 victory over Stanford.

Pavan had 22 kills and Larson finished with 19.

Nebraska broke an 11-all tie in the fourth game with a kill, consecutive blocks and a Stanford hitting error that made it 15-11. Stanford pulled to 29-27, but Larson's kill ended the game, giving Nebraska its first title since 2000.

"This team maxed out their ability -- and they never really wavered the entire year," Nebraska coach John Cook said. "To win it here in Nebraska with this group of people -- to overcome the expectations of getting hear and dealing with that pressure -- is definitely number one."

Stanford coach John Dunning called the final the biggest game in college volleyball history. The Qwest Center capacity crowd of about 17,200 was the largest to ever watch a college volleyball match.

"I don't think you can underestimate that. The Red Wave was pretty powerful," Dunning said. "To have that behind them was a big thing."

Nebraska (33-1) became the first non Pac-10 team in five years to win a title, capping a season-long run atop the rankings. The Huskers came from behind in its final three wins, starting with a five-game comeback after going down 0-2 to Minnesota in the Gainesville (Fla.) regional final.

"The game volleyball is a game of streaks," Stanford setter Bryn Kehoe said. "I would say we were up, we let a streak go and that's how the game goes."

Stanford (30-4) went up 16-12 in the first game after a 7-1 run during which Foluke Akinradewo had three kills and a block assist. The Cornhuskers tied it 18 after a Cardinal hitting error and net violation.

Stanford led 27-24 after a five-point run on two errors and a net violation by Nebraska, and eventually won the first game 30-27.

Larson had seven kills and no errors in the first game for Nebraska, after posting six kills and six errors in the semifinal against UCLA on Thursday.

The Cornhuskers jumped to a 5-1 lead in the second game, but Stanford reclaimed the lead at 9-8 after two blocks, two kills and a service ace.

With the score tied at 24, Pavan deflected Cynthia Barboza's attempt straight up into the air, but couldn't see the ball. Rachel Holloway scrambled to make the dig and Larson set the ball across the court to Mancuso, who ended the point with a kill. The Huskers won the game 30-26.

"Whenever anybody makes a great play, it definitely pumps the team up," Holloway said. "I had an opportunity to make the play and I saw she didn't see it. She had no idea where the ball was."

The Cornhuskers were down 26-22 in the third game but rallied to tie it at 27. Erin Waller had nine kills in the game for Stanford, but Larson blocked her possible 10th kill to put the Cornhuskers up 29-28. Pavan ended the game on the next point with her 16th kill, giving Nebraska a 2-1 match lead.

"Her [Holloway's] sets were unbelievable," Pavan said. "I was like drooling when I was hitting them."