Nebraska

Lauren Stivrins (center) and the Nebraska volleyball team get the No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will host Ball State Friday. (BH Media News Services)

LINCOLN — Nebraska’s name popped up on the giant video board in the Devaney announcing that it had received the No. 5 national seed in the NCAA volleyball tournament.

The Huskers’ reaction? Crickets.

NU (25-4) will begin its 38th straight postseason by spending its first weekend at home and is looking forward to the challenges set forth during the selection show on Sunday evening.

The Huskers open up with MAC champion Ball State (20-11) in the first round Friday at the Devaney Center. Missouri (21-7) and Northern Iowa (24-10) meet in the other first-round match in Lincoln with the winners meeting on Saturday.

“We didn’t really know what to expect,” junior Lexi Sun said. “We saw it and it’s all business now.”

The top four overall seeds, which will host regionals if they advance to the second weekend, are Baylor, Texas, Stanford and Wisconsin.

“I feel good about being the fifth seed,” Nebraska Coach John Cook said. “The committee realizes we won some big matches and we play in a tough conference. I am really happy Wisconsin got a seed. I was worried they wouldn’t get it.”

The biggest obstacle in the Huskers’ quest for a fifth straight Final Four appearance is a possible third meeting this season with the Badgers in the regional finals in Madison. The Big Ten Champions swept both meetings this year against NU and have won six of the last eight meetings dating back to 2014.

“I’m always glad to see Wisconsin,” junior Jazz Sweet said. “That was a toss-up between 5 and 6. It was either going to be them or Stanford. You never know.”

Cook said he wasn’t ready to worry about a potential showdown with Wisconsin quite yet.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “In some ways, it’s not good because that’s two Big Ten teams that have to play each other before the Final Four, but we got to win two matches here first. We’ll worry about that next week.”

Pittsburgh, which was ranked No. 2 in the most recent coaches poll and received 20 first-place votes, is the No. 6 seed overall.

Michelle Durban, NCAA volleyball tournament selection committee chair, said the seeding committee examined head-to-head results, strength of schedule, common opponents, the RPI and a team’s last 10 matches to determine the order for the fourth through sixth seeds.

“We looked at those three schools, and we felt that Wisconsin checked the most boxes and that is how they ended up as the four seed,” she said during an interview on ESPNU.

Overall, Nebraska played 11 tournament teams including nonconference matches against Stanford, Creighton, San Diego, UCLA and Denver. The Huskers went 9-4 against the teams that qualified for the tournament.

The Big Ten Conference was well represented with seven teams in the tournament. It received five national seeds: Wisconsin, Nebraska, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 11 Penn State and No. 16 Purdue. Michigan is headed to Kentucky and Illinois is playing in the BYU quad. Illinois was one of the last four teams selected by the committee after going 16-13 and 11-9 in league play.

“It’s much deserved. This conference is brutal,” Cook said of the Big Ten getting seven teams in the postseason. “If you get a winning record in our conference, you deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament. There are not 64 teams better than that.”

The selection show kicked off with highlights of last year’s championship match where Stanford defeated the Huskers in five sets.

“It didn’t feel good. It was another reminder,” Sun said. “We are always remembering that game and looking back and using it as motivation. We are using it as motivation as we get started in the tournament this year.”

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