Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois sweep into regional finals

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook calls his team the most improved in the country, an intriguing notion about a defending national champion.

But as Cook weaved seven new players into the lineup, four freshmen among them, it took time to develop the toughness and resiliency demanded in a Big Ten Conference that sent seven teams to the NCAA tournament and six into the final 16.

The Huskers exhibited some of those qualities Friday in the third set while finishing off an NCAA Regional semifinal sweep of SEC champion Kentucky.

"If you hold a team under .240 hitting percentage, you're going to have a great chance [especially] knowing the type of offense we have and the ability to put the ball away," said Kentucky coach Craig Skinner, a former assistant to Cook at Nebraska and Wisconsin.

"They played really hard in Game 3, and we didn't necessarily show the resiliency that we should have in the beginning," said senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke, who led Nebraska with 14 kills.

Kentucky's Leah Edmond appeared to stop the run with a kill for an apparent 24-23 Wildcats lead, but she touched the net on her follow-through.

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