Final Four Bound! Stanford Routs Hawai'i To Secure Trip To Omaha
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - With its third straight trip to the Final Four on the line, the No. 2 Stanford women's volleyball team didn't even blink. The Cardinal made easy work of No. 6 Hawai'i tonight at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo., posting a 25-19, 25-9, 25-18 sweep in the Fort Collins Regional Final.
The Cardinal (30-3) heads to Omaha, Neb. to compete in its 18th Final Four next week. Second-seeded Stanford will play third-seeded Texas at 6 p.m. (CT) Thursday night in the first national semifinal at the Qwest Center Omaha.
Hawai'i, which won the Western Athletic Conference title this year, ends its season at 31-4.
Stanford was led by seniors Erin Waller and Foluke Akinradewo, who each tallied eight kills. Akinradewo, who was named the Fort Collins Regional MVP, also had five blocks to finish with a team-high 11 points. Waller, who stepped up in last year's regional final as well, pounded her eight kills on just nine swings (.889).
Sophomore setter Cassidy Lichtman dished out 30 assists and posted a career-high seven blocks. Fellow sophomore Alix Klineman notched six kills and led the team defensively with 11 digs. Both Klineman and Lichtman earned spots on the regional all-tournament team.
With her five blocks on the night, Akinradewo reached a major career milestone. In the third set, she stuffed a ball with Lichtman to join the Pac-10 all-time top-10 career leaders with 567 blocks over her four years.
Fellow senior Cynthia Barboza, who recorded seven kills and five digs, picked up enough digs to move herself into eighth place on the school's career dig chart (1,210).
Hawai'i was led by senior outside hitter Jamie Houston, who led all players with 13 kills. Stanford outhit Hawai'i .363 to .053, marking the 23rd time this season that an opponent has hit below .200 against the Cardinal and the ninth time that one has come in under .100.
The Cardinal now has 23 sweeps on the year, including four in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford has not swept its first four postseason opponents since 1994, and not reached the Final Four without losing a set since 1997.
Nabbing its 30th win of the year, Stanford secured its 15th 30-win season and sixth under head coach John Dunning.
A pair of Stanford misfires gave Hawai'i the first two points of the match, but the Cardinal took over at 3-2 and never looked back. Rainbow Wahine hitting errors gave Stanford most of its early points, and their sixth of the set finally put Stanford up 11-7. A long series of sideouts ensued, but another Hawai'i error finally broke up the exchange at 17-12. A kill by Klineman followed by yet another Hawai'i error pushed the Cardinal lead to six at 21-15, and the teams traded points from there. Lichtman stuffed Houston when she looked to capitalize on a Stanford overpass, giving the Cardinal set point and a momentum boost at 24-18. The Cardinal setter then dumped the ball to the edge of the Hawai'i court for the winner, 25-19. Stanford hit a match-low .226, but far outhit the Rainbow Wahine, who committed 11 errors and hit .067.
Hawai'i took the first point of the second set, but with the Cardinal down 2-1, Klineman stepped back and served seven consecutive points and put the Rainbow Wahine in a deep hole. Akinradewo had three blocks in the 7-0 run, pairing with Lichtman for two of them, and (with the blocks included) the Rainbow Wahine committed six more errors. Stanford finally missed a serve, but led by junior middle blocker Janet Okogbaa, the team ran off five more points after that. Okogbaa picked up two blocks and a kill in the run, and by the end the Cardinal had a double-digit lead, 13-3. Hawai'i picked up its second of just seven kills on the next point, but the Cardinal answered with seven more points in a row. With a commanding 20-4 lead, Stanford finally stopped the rout and was content to trade points. The Cardinal took set point on a cross-court Klineman kill at 24-8, and finished on one by Akinradewo, 25-9. Stanford hit .333, and Hawai'i, which committed another 12 errors, posted a negative percentage.
After once again giving up a 2-1 lead, the Cardinal charged ahead with a 5-0 run in set three. The Rainbow Wahine battled back to tie twice, with the last coming at 8-8, but an ace by Barboza followed by an Okogbaa kill spurred a 5-1 run that put the Cardinal in front for good, 13-9. At the media break, Stanford held a 15-11 advantage and soon after, Barboza, Lichtman and Okogaa railed off a series of kills to widen the gap to 18-12. Stanford then cruised along to the finish, methodically siding out to inch closer to the win. The Cardinal took set point on an Akinradewo kill at 24-17, and Barboza drilled home the winner, 25-18. Stanford hit a match-high .472 in the final set to a Hawai'i match-best .281 clip.
Stanford heads back to the Final Four for the third straight year. The Cardinal will play Texas on Thursday at 6 p.m. (CT) for a spot in the 2008 national title match.
Article courtesy of Stanford athletics.