The Nebraska Cornhuskers volleyball team finished second in the country Saturday night, falling to Big Ten rival Wisconsin 3-2 in the NCAA Tournament National Championship game in Columbus, Ohio.
Sterling native Lexi Rodriguez, the National Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-American who starts at libero for the Huskers, finished with 13 digs and four assists in the match, which saw Nebraska nearly rally from a seven-point deficit in the final game before Wisconsin (43-3) pulled out a 22-25, 31-29, 25-23, 23-25, 15-12 victory.
In that final set, the Huskers (26-8) fell behind 7-0 before battling back. They cut the deficit to three points on three different occasions – at 10-7, 11-8 and 12-9 – then fended off the first three Wisconsin match points to get within 14-12 before a kill by the Badgers’ Dana Rettke ended it.
Nebraska, which was looking for its sixth national championship, got 19 kills and 14 digs from Madi Kubik, and 15 kills and two blocks from Kayla Caffey. Nicklin Hames had 56 assists and 23 digs, Keonilei Akana added 24 digs, and Kenzie Knuckles had 10 digs and two aces. Lindsay Krause had 12 kills, six digs and 2.5 blocks, Ally Batenhorst spiked 11 kills, and Lauren Stivrins added 10 kills and 2.5 blocks.
Anna Smrek led Wisconsin with 14 kills to go with 3.5 blocks, Jade Demps had 12 kills and nine digs, Rettke finished with 11 kills and eight blocks, and Grace Loberg spiked 10 kills. Sydney Hilley had 51 assists and 13 digs, Lauren Barnes finished with 31 digs and seven assists, and Julia Orzol added 12 digs, five kills and three blocks. Devyn Robinson chipped in six kills and five blocks for the Badgers.
It’s the first national title for Wisconsin, which lost in the title match in 2019, then fell in the Final Four as the tournament’s top seed last season.
Dixon starts 2-0 in Ottawa: The Duchesses won their pool at the Ottawa Holiday Tournament, defeating Pontiac 49-39 and LaSalle-Peru 48-33.
Dixon opened with the win over L-P, leading 16-7 after the opening quarter, and stretching it to 27-13 by halftime; both teams scored 12 points in the third period. Ella Govig had 16 points and seven rebounds, Sam Tourtillott finished with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists, and Rylee Pfoutz, Abby Knipple and Harvest Day each scored six points; Pfoutz and Knipple both hit two 3-pointers.
The Duchesses (12-1) then defeated Pontiac, leading 20-14 after one quarter, 26-22 at halftime, and 37-27 through three periods. Day had 19 points, seven rebounds and four steals, Kait Knipple added 10 points and five rebounds, Tourtillott finished with nine points, five rebounds and six assists, and Pfoutz and Govig both added seven points.
Rockets split, Warriors 0-2 in Sterling: Rock Falls defeated Naperville Central 60-55 and lost 48-36 to Moline, while Sterling fell 64-53 to Naperville Central and 58-19 to Hononegah on the opening day of the Sterling Shootout at Musgrove Fieldhouse.
The Rockets (7-5) trailed 19-7 after one quarter and 35-25 at halftime against Naperville Central, then erased a 52-45 deficit through three periods with a 15-3 scoring edge over the final eight minutes. Mallory Pinske had 15 points, Jacee Sigel finished with 14, Taylor Reyna scored 10, and Claire Bickett added eight.
Rock Falls fell behind Moline 30-7 by halftime and couldn’t come back despite outscoring the Maroons 29-18 in the second half. Reyna and Emily Lego had eight points each, and Pinske and Brooke Howard scored six points apiece.
The Golden Warriors (1-10) led Naperville Central 32-28 at halftime, but were outscored 20-9 in the third quarter and 16-12 in the fourth. Addie McCombs poured in a game-high 27 points for Sterling, Kathryn Rowzee finished with 15, and Kaydence Weeks scored six.
Sterling fell behind Hononegah 19-5 in the first quarter, then was outscored 23-1 in the second period. McCombs had eight points, and Olivia Turner added four.
Oregon 38, South Beloit 23: The Hawks pulled away to beat the SoBos in a nonconference game at the Blackhawk Center.
Hadley Lutz had 18 points for Oregon (5-10), which led 6-4 after one quarter, 18-11 at halftime, and 25-12 through three periods. Kelsi Morris scored six, and Katelyn Bowers finished with five.
Madalyn Brooks led South Beloit (3-9) with 12 points.
Sterling 61, Davenport Central 57: The Golden Warriors won their game at the Genesis Shootout in Rock Island, as teams from Illinois faced teams from Iowa at Augustana College.
Sterling (6-4) led 24-15 after the opening quarter, but Davenport Central rallied to tie the game 46-46 heading into the fourth quarter before the Warriors pulled out the win.
JP Schilling had 22 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and five steals for Sterling, while Lucas Austin added 13 points and nine rebounds. Tyree Kelly had 10 points, five rebounds and two steals, and Andre Klaver and Kyle Billings both added seven points and two assists; Billings also had three steals.
Kaden Johnson’s 13 points led a balanced attack for Davenport Central, which had nine different players score.
Fulton 46, Macomb 45: The Steamers held on for a win at the Great Western Shootout at Abingdon-Avon High School, pulling away from a 19-19 halftime tie for a 35-29 lead through three quarters, then holding on after a Macomb rally in the fourth.
Baylen Damhoff poured in 31 points for Fulton (9-1), which bounced back from its first loss Thursday night to rival Morrison. Ian Wiebenga added nine points.
Connor Watson scored 19 for Macomb.
Sterling swims to win in Clinton: The Water Warriors won the team title at the 11-team River Kings Holiday Invite in Clinton, Iowa, winning two events, placing second in five more, and totaling 17 top-five finishes in the meet.
Sterling recorded two top-five finishes in six different events, and scored 280 points to defeat runner-up Dubuque Hempstead (266), while Davenport Central took third (227). The Warriors and United Township were the only Illinois schools at the meet.
Reiley Austin won the 200 IM in 2:02.33, and Michael Garland won the 100 breaststroke in 1:02.86 to lead Sterling. Austin also had a runner-up finish in the 100 backstroke (56.74 seconds), and Braeden Ruiz finished right behind Garland in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.51).
The Warriors also took second in all three relays. Austin, Ruiz, Michael Garland and Mason Adams swam a 1:42.90 in the 200 medley relay; Adams, Peter Garland, Michael Garland and Austin went 1:32.17 in the 200 freestyle relay; and Luke Clark, Peter Garland, Conner Porter and Ruiz finished in 3:34.16 in the 400 free relay. Sterling’s second team in the 200 medley relay (Clark, Connor Pham, Porter, Samuel Richards) finished fifth in 1:55.78.
Adams was third in the 200 freestyle (1:57.58), Ruiz took third in the 200 IM (2:12.05), and Clark placed third in the 500 freestyle (5:18.56) and fourth in the 200 free (1:59.00). Michael Garland finished fourth in the 100 butterfly (58.63), Peter Garland was fourth in the 100 free (53.37), and Richards took fourth in the 500 free (5:31.45). Pham (50 free, 24.46) and Adams (100 backstroke, 59.15) both finished fifth for the Warriors.
Sterling 10th in Freeport: The Golden Warriors rolled a 4,668 six-game total to take 10th place at the 19-team Freeport Sport Shot tournament.
The host Pretzels won the event with a 5,484, with Hononegah placing second (5,146) and Harlem taking third (5,119).
Ethan Melcher led Sterling with a 1,067 six-game series, good for 13th place overall. Mason Near rolled the 11th-highest single game with a 218; he finished with a 909 series.
Mikah Hernandez (969), Andrew Doughty (938) and Connor Jaglisch (785) also bowled for the Warriors.