MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The defending champion Nebraska women's volleyball team took a significant step Friday night in its quest for another NCAA Division I national title. But it wasn't easy.
Nebraska, ranked second in the CSTV-American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, rallied from a two-game deficit and defeated 24th-ranked Michigan State 25-30, 28-30, 30-17, 30-28, 15-9 in a regional semifinal watched by 3,562 spectators at the University of Wisconsin Field House.
The Cornhuskers (30-1), top-seeded in the Madison Regional and seeded second nationally in the tournament, advanced to face California (25-7) in the regional final Saturday night. Sixth-ranked Cal defeated No. 18 Iowa State 30-27, 30-27, 30-24 in the other semifinal.
In the process, the Cornhuskers made sure coach John Cook enjoyed his first trip to Madison for a match in nine years -- since he coached Wisconsin from 1992-98.
The Cornhuskers raced to a 9-3 lead in the fifth game, then held off the Spartans (21-14).
Outside hitter Jordan Larson led Nebraska with 20 kills, while right-side hitter Sarah Pavan added 18 kills and middle blocker Tracy Stalls totaled 15 kills and six block assists.
Michigan State outside hitter Katie Johnson had a match-high 24 kills and outside hitter Ashley Schatzle contributed 21 kills.
Johnson had nine kills and Schatzle added five in the first game for the Spartans, who hit .326 in that game.
The Cornhuskers rallied in the second game and looked like they would even the match at one game apiece when Stall's kill put Nebraska ahead 27-24. But the Spartans scored the next five points, taking a 29-27 lead.
Schatzle had consecutive kills to give Michigan State a 28-27 lead, then Nebraska's Pavan had a hitting error to make it 29-27. Setter Rachel Holloway's kill rallied the Cornhuskers within 29-28, but Larson hit a kill attempt out, giving Michigan State the second game.
Schatzle and Johnson had seven kills each in the second game, while Pavan totaled six for Nebraska.
Nebraska regained its form in the third game, hitting .548. Larson had seven kills.
The Cornhuskers rallied from 14-10 and 17-15 deficits in the fourth game, scoring seven consecutive points to take a 22-17 advantage. But Michigan State drew even at 25 on a Johnson kill. Nebraska gained a 28-26 lead, but Pavan's service error and Johnson's ace tied the game at 28.
But Nebraska won the next two points and the fourth game on Stalls' kill and Christina Houghtelling's ace, which caromed off Johnson. The Cornhuskers, playing in their 14th consecutive regional, the longest active streak in Division I volleyball, have won 14 of their last 15 NCAA tournament matches.
In the earlier semifinal, California made sure Iowa State did not spring another upset.
Outside hitters Angie Pressey, the daughter of former NBA player Paul Pressey, and Hana Cutura had 16 kills apiece as Cal (25-7) defeated Iowa State 30-27, 30-27, 30-24.
Victoria Henson had 12 kills to lead Iowa State (19-14), which entered the national rankings for the first time in program history this week.
The Cyclones made their first trip to the round of 16 after rallying to upset then-No. 16 San Diego 3-2 and then-No. 8 Wisconsin 3-0 last weekend in Madison.