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Missouri vs. Nebraska, 12/1

Nebraska’s Mikaela Foecke (2) attempts a kill in the first set against Missouri as teammate Kenzie Maloney looks on Saturday during am NCAA volleyball tournament second-round match at the Devaney Sports Center. 

Players on the Nebraska volleyball team earned more awards this week.

On Tuesday, the AVCA announced its all-region teams, and Nebraska’s Mikaela Foecke, Kenzie Maloney and Lauren Stivrins made the 14-player North region team.

Those players are now eligible to be chosen for the All-American teams. Those honors will be announced next week.

Freshman setter Nicklin Hames was an honorable mention selection. Foecke, Maloney and Stivrins also made the all-Big Ten first team last week.

Foecke earned her fourth straight AVCA all-region honor, becoming the third Husker in program history to earn four all-region honors, joining Sarah Pavan and Kadie Rolfzen. The outside hitter leads the Huskers with 3.74 kills per set and adds 2.63 digs per set with a team-high 42 ace serves this season. Foecke is No. 4 on Nebraska's career kills list, and is No. 8 in career aces.

Maloney, a senior libero, was selected to the AVCA all-region team for the first time. She is averaging a team-best 4.07 digs per set and has played an instrumental role in leading the Huskers to a nation-leading .132 opponent hitting percentage this season. Maloney ranks sixth in program history in digs.

Stivrins also earned her first career AVCA all-region honor. She is averaging 2.29 kills per set on a team-best .411 hitting percentage, which ranks fifth in the nation. It is Nebraska’s highest individual hitting percentage since 2007 (Tracy Stalls, .473).

Hames has a team-high 21 double-doubles (assists-digs), the second-most by a Husker in the rally-scoring era.

The individual awards in the North region each went to Minnesota, with setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson named player of the year, outside hitter Adanna Rollins freshman of the year, and Hugh McCutcheon coach of the year.

Illinois head coach Chris Tamas is the coach of the year in the Northeast region. The former Nebraska assistant led Illinois to a second-place finish in the Big Ten in his second season. Illinois’ 30 wins are the most since 2011.

Creighton’s Kirsten Bernthal Booth is the coach of the year in the East region. Three Creighton players were chosen: outside hitters Jaali Winters and Taryn Kloth and setter Madelyn Cole.

Big Ten advantage: Nebraska coach John Cook is hoping the challenging schedule Nebraska was forced to play during the Big Ten Conference season — five of the top eight ranked teams are from the Big Ten — will have the sixth-ranked Huskers well-prepared for their NCAA Sweet 16 match against No. 10 Kentucky on Friday.

Nebraska has an 8-6 record against ranked teams this season, while Kentucky is 3-3 vs. ranked teams.

Kentucky did sweep No. 12 Purdue in the second round of the tournament. Kentucky’s other ranked wins are against Florida and Missouri.

“I looked at Kentucky, since they played Texas in September they’ve literally played two ranked teams, Missouri and Florida. We played seven top-10 teams in 10 matches,” Cook said. “So I think that gives us an advantage going in that we understand the level that we’re going to have to play at, and how hard it’s going to be and how important each point is. I’m hoping that gives us an edge.

“I want the Big Ten to do really well. We have six teams in the Sweet 16, so I think that’s a big compliment to our program.”

Briefly

* Nebraska backup setter Mari Kurkova has returned to practice after missing last week’s matches due to illness.

* For fans traveling to Minneapolis, Nebraska will have a practice that is open to the public on Thursday afternoon. Nebraska is scheduled to practice from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Maturi Pavilion.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.

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