He said it earlier this week, and Nebraska coach John Cook repeated it Friday: the Cornhuskers, in his view, have improved more than any team in the country since the start of the season. They backed up that boast with their 11th victory in a row, sweeping Kentucky 25-17, 25-20, 25-23 in a regional final Friday at Maturi Pavilion.
The seventh-seeded Huskers (27-6) got 14 kills from senior Mikaela Foecke and 13 from Lexi Sun to reach the regional final for the seventh consecutive year. They will face 15th-seeded Oregon on Saturday, with the winner moving on to the Final Four next weekend at Target Center. Nebraska, the NCAA champion in 2015 and 2017, has advanced to the Final Four in each of the past three years.
Kentucky, which had won 23 matches in a row, ended its season with a loss to Nebraska in the regional semifinal for the second year in a row. The Wildcats (26-5) committed nine service errors and were outblocked 8-3.
"We're the No. 1 defensive team in the country, and until you play us, it's hard to deal with that,'' Cook said. "This team has been building all year and learning how to win these close matches."
Champaign Regional: Big Ten rivals Illinois and Wisconsin will meet Saturday for the right to go to the Final Four. The third-seeded Illini (30-3) swept Marquette 25-19, 25-21, 25-16, while Wisconsin (25-6) routed San Diego 25-13, 25-16, 25-10.
The Illini and Badgers met twice in a span of 11 days in early October, with each team winning 3-1 on the other team's floor. Saturday's winner faces the Nebraska-Oregon winner Thursday.
Stanford Regional: Two seven-time NCAA champions will meet Saturday when eighth-seeded Penn State (26-7) plays top-seeded Stanford (31-1). Stanford last won the title in 2016, Penn State in 2014.
Provo Regional: Michigan fell in four sets to fifth-seeded Texas, which faces fourth-seeded Brigham Young for the regional title Saturday. The Wolverines were one of three unseeded teams to make it to the Sweet 16.