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Top seed Nebraska advances to NCAA volleyball semifinals

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Three of the No. 1 seeds and the defending champion, No. 2 seed Texas, won Saturday to advance to the national semifinals of the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament.

Overall top seed Nebraska got past a big challenge from No. 3 seed Arkansas, winning its Elite Eight match 3-1 to make it to the NCAA Final Four for the 17th time in program history. The Cornhuskers will face No. 1 seed Pittsburgh Thursday (7 p.m. ET) in the semifinals in Tampa, Florida.

That match will be followed by Texas vs. No. 1 seed Wisconsin; both semifinals are on ESPN. The championship match is Sunday, Dec. 17 at 3 p.m. ET and will be televised for the first time on ABC.

Nebraska won its first two sets Saturday against the Razorbacks at the Lincoln Regional, but Arkansas rallied to take the third set. Nebraska prevailed 25-23 in the fourth set. Merritt Beason and Harper Murray combined for 34 kills and 23 digs for the Huskers.

Nebraska has won five national championships, with head coach John Cook guiding the Huskers to four of those (2000, 2006, 2015, 2017). Pitt first made the national semifinals in 2021, and now has done so for the third consecutive season. But the Panthers are looking for their first national championship.

The Panthers beat ACC rival Louisville on Pitt’s home court Saturday. The teams split their regular-season matches, both winning at home. In Saturday’s Pittsburgh Regional final, Louisville took a 2-0 lead and it looked as if the Cardinals were going to repeat their win over Pitt in last year’s national semifinals.

But Pitt came back for the reverse sweep, winning the last three sets. The Panthers were led by 18 kills and 11 digs from Torrey Stafford.

Nebraska and Pitt also met in the national semifinals in 2021, with the Huskers winning before losing the championship match to Wisconsin.

This season, Nebraska made history Aug. 30, drawing 92,003 fans — the most ever for a women’s sports event — at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

Nebraska (32-1) had its lone loss at Wisconsin on Nov. 24. After sweeps in their first three NCAA tournament matches, the Huskers got more of a test from Arkansas, which was playing in its Elite Eight match.

Wisconsin won the Madison Regional with a 3-1 victory over No. 2 seed Oregon, led by 20 kills and 11 digs from Big Ten player of the year Sarah Franklin. This will be the Badgers’ sixth Final Four appearance.

The last match Saturday was the day’s lone upset, as Texas beat No. 1 seed Stanford on the Cardinal’s home floor in the Stanford Regional, 3-1. The Longhorns played the longest regional semifinal match Thursday, needing more than three hours to hold off Tennessee in five sets. But Texas looked fresh Saturday, closing out a tight fourth set 25-22 with a .400 hitting percentage. Big 12 player of the year Madisen Skinner led Texas with 24 kills.

This is the 15th Final Four for the Longhorns, who won the program’s third national championship last year.

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