No. 1 Nebraska Shows Depth in Sweep of Michigan

Behind strong performances from Dani Mancuso and Sarah Pavan, top-ranked Nebraska remained undefeated with a 30-22, 30-19, 30-21 sweep of Michigan in the Sports Imports Classic Saturday afternoon at St. John Arena.

Dani Mancuso, making her first appearance of the year, shined with 10 kills, a career-high six blocks and eight digs, while Pavan totaled a match-high 14 kills on .591 hitting, as the Huskers improved to 4-0 on the year.

NU Head Coach John Cook said the contributions of Mancuso and sophomore Meghan Smith, who had two kills and four blocks in game three, were important for a team in the midst of a stretch of three matches in four days.

"We have been saying that we have a lot of depth, and that showed tonight," Cook said. "Dani got the start tonight and hit and block at a very high level and brought a lot of energy to the court. Meghan played only one game, but put up big numbers for us. Those two established themselves as contributors."

Cook said that it was equally important to get Pavan into the offensive flow of the match.

"Our game plan was to get the ball behind the setter as much as we could, and we felt like Pavan could have a big night and she did," Cook said. "It was good to see her crank it up attack wise."

The title marked Nebraska's (4-0) second tournament crown in as many week, as the Huskers won the AVCA/NACWAA College Volleyball Showcase last week in Omaha. Melissa Elmer was selected as tournament MVP, as she eight kills and seven blocks in Saturday's win. Elmer totaled 16 kills and 19 blocks in Nebraska's two wins.

The Huskers found themselves in a battle in the opener before pulling away with a 30-22 victory. The game saw 15 ties before Nebraska outscored the Wolverines, 12-4, down the stretch. With the score tied at 18, the Huskers took advantage of a trio of Michigan miscues before Elmer's kill's gave Nebraska a four-point lead and force a Wolverine timeout. Mancuso had six kills on eight swings in game one, while Pavan added five kills on.500 hitting, while also serving four straight points helping turn a four-point lead into a 28-20 cushion.

"It took us a while to get going," Cook said. "Michigan played really hard and served us tough."

The Huskers came out firing in game two, jumping out to a quick lead and rolling to a 30-19 win. The Huskers scored 10 of the first 13 points, as consecutive kills by Jennifer Saleaumua gave NU a 10-3 lead and forced a Wolverine timeout. The Huskers eventually extended the lead to 23-11 after one of Saleaumua's five kills in game two before Michigan rallied. The Wolverines responded with a 5-0 run, closing to within 23-16 after Katie Bruzdzinski's ace. UM would not get any closer, as consecutive kills by Elmer and Pavan pushed the margin back to eight points.

Nebraska used its deep bench in game three, receiving contributions from several reserves in a 30-19 victory. Mancuso, who had four kills in the finale, and sophomore Meghan Smith both keyed the Huskers, as NU hit .429 in building an early lead. The Huskers eventually pushed the margin to 18-8, only to see Michigan respond with a 6-2 run to close to within 20-14 and force a Husker timeout. Michigan eventually cut the lead to 25-20, but kills by Mancuso and Elmer quickly ended the Wolverines' hopes for game four.

Danielle Pflum's 12 kills led Michigan, which dropped to 0-3 on the season.

The Huskers will wrap up their three-match swing through Big Ten country on Monday, Sept. 5, when they travel to Minneapolis, Minn., to take on the sixth-ranked Gophers. First serve is set for 1p.m. and the match will be available on the Pinnacle Sports Network, including B107.3 FM in Lincoln and on the Internet at Huskers.com.

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