BYU was the NCAA runner-up a year ago, and had five of six starters back.
Nebraska, which had lost to the Cougars in the Seattle region final a year ago, made sure a repeat wouldn't happen Friday in Lexington, Ky. The Cornhuskers, the No. 4 overall seed, swept No. 13 BYU 26-24, 25-17, 25-23.
They did it with balance. Kelsey Fien, Amber Rolfzen and Annika Albrecht all had 12 kills. And each hit well, Fien .310, Rolfzen .550 and Albrecht .312.
And they dug. Boy, did the Huskers did. They had 64 digs -- a season-high in a three-set match. Justine Wong-Orantes, the Big Ten's defensive player of the year, had 23 digs by herself.
And they won the close sets. With the score tied at 24-all in the first set, a Fien kill and teammate Cecilia Hall's block ended it. In the third set, a Fien kill made it 24-22 and the Huskers won on a BYU attack that went out.
Alexis Gray, the Cougars' star, had 18 kills but it was not nearly enough. BYU finishes 28-4. Said Gray of the Cornhuskers, according to the Omaha World Journal, "They're a good digging team. They're scrappy."
Nebraska, coached by John Cook, now has won 13 matches in a row, is 29-4 and headed for its fourth region final in a row.
There it will face Washington, the co-champion in the Pac-12 and the No. 1-rated team in the last American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. Somehow the Huskies got seeded fifth, though.
Said Cook, "We can't worry about Omaha." That's the site of the Final Four next weekend.
No, cause Washington wants to get a little revenge. The Cornhuskers beat the Huskies 3-1 in the Seattle regional semifinals last year, ending a 34-match home winning streak. Washington is 31-2, losing only to Stanford and USC.
Nebraska's last Final Four appearance was in 2008.
Penn State was the No. 7 overall seed and two-time defending champion, but its reign ended in the region semifinals in Des Moiesn. Hawaii eliminated Russ Rose' club 25-22, 27-25, 25-16. The Rainbow Wahine had been 0-5 against PSU.
Hawaii is 29-1 and has won 24 matches in a row now, longest current streak going. And the team was ranked No. 7 in the most recent coaches' poll, but the selection committee didn't put much stock in that, it seems. Hawaii was not one of the 16 teams seeded.
So it had to play on the road in the first and second rounds and Dave Shoji seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder: "I don't know if Minnesota actually started scouting us until halfway through the second game. It's an honor to be here in the first place."
He is the second winning coach in D-I volleyball with over 1,000 wins. One more witll get Hawaii in the Final Four.
Nikki Taylor had 18 kills and eight digs vs. PSU; Tai Manu-Olevao had 14 kills, one error and hit .500, Olivia Magill had nine kills, no errors and hit .474.
Hawaii has not a Set 2 all season, but PSU led 24-23 and 25-24 in the second set on Friday but lost on a net violation and a Magill kill.
Hawaii hit .389 with five aces and five blocks, PSU hit .228.
The Nittany Lions finish 28-6.
* The top four seeds are all still playing. No. 1 USC beat Creighton 3-1 and No. 3 Texas beat UCLA 3-1.
* Hawaii is the only unseeded team still left. The lowest seed still alive is No. 11 Flordia, which plays the Longhorns in the Elite Eight.
* Washington beat No. 12 seed Ohio State 23-25, 25-20, 25-18, 12-25, 15-8. ... Florida took out No. 6 seed Wisconsin 25-17, 25-23, 19-25, 22-25, 15-12.
* And then there was the match between two Big Ten teams, which the Gophers won 3-0 over Illinois in Des Moines.