MINNEAPOLIS — Now that Mikaela Foecke has played her last match, the final numbers are in on one of the best careers ever for a Nebraska volleyball player.
It will be four years remembered for her big kills, her development from a part-time player to one of the best outside hitters in the country, her excellence in most of the biggest matches of her career, and the humble way she did it all.
Foecke’s final match came Saturday when top-ranked Stanford beat No. 6 Nebraska in five sets in the national championship match. Stanford won the fifth set 15-12, with three points being the difference in Stanford winning its record eight national championship, and Nebraska winning what would have been back-to-back NCAA titles.
Nebraska (29-7) finished as the NCAA runner-up for the fourth time in school history. Nebraska had won its previous three championship match appearances, in 2006, ’15 and ’17.
In one of the closest final matches in NCAA history, only one point separated the two teams as Stanford outscored Nebraska 105-104 in the match.
Foecke had a career high 27 kills on Saturday while taking a career-high 71 attempts, with a .296 hitting percentage. She did so against the No. 1 blocking team in the country.
Here are just a few of the numbers from Foecke's career:
* She finished her career with 1,684 career kills. She ranks third all-time at Nebraska in kills, trailing Sarah Pavan (2,008) and Allison Weston (1,788).
* Foecke finished this season with 514 kills, tied for the eighth-highest total in Nebraska history. She joined Pavan (2006) and Kelsey Robinson (2013) as the only Huskers to have 500 kills in a season during the rally-scoring era (since 2001).
* She had 129 kills in her career in seven matches played in the NCAA semifinals and finals. That total ties for third in NCAA history.
* Foecke also totaled 135 ace serves in her career, the seventh-most in Nebraska history.
Foecke was disappointed to lose but will remember the season fondly.
“Looking at the season overall, I made bonds with girls that at the beginning of the season, I definitely wouldn't have thought I would have been as close to them as I was,” Foecke said. “That's why I think it's so difficult right now, is because I love them so much and want them to be so successful.”
Libero Kenzie Maloney finished her career with 1,406 digs. That total ranks fifth all-time at Nebraska.
Foecke and Maloney, Nebraska’s two seniors who played each of the last four years, finished with a 21-2 record in their NCAA Tournament careers. They finished with a 52-3 combined record in the months of November and December.
“I think they're two of the greatest players and people that have ever come through this program,” Husker middle blocker Lauren Stivrins said. “The legacy they leave behind is second to none.”
Foecke and Maloney have raised the bar for a program that not that long ago couldn’t get over the hump and get to the Final Four.
“As I told them in the locker room, Mikaela and Kenzie; Brooke (Smith) is part of that as well, they've created a legacy here over the last four years that we're all going to be chasing,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “I'm going to have to become a better coach. Our returning players are going to have to find a way to go to another level to reach what these guys have done.”
This and that: Stanford served nine aces in the match, while Nebraska had just two aces with each team committing eight service errors. ... The Huskers’ school-record postseason winning streak was snapped at 11 straight victories, as Nebraska suffered its first postseason loss since a 2016 NCAA semifinal loss against Texas. ... Stivrins hit .421 in 2018 to become the fifth Husker to hit over .400 in a season and the first since Brooke Delano in 2010. Stivrins’ .421 attack percentage was the third-highest mark in school history.