In volleyball, the women were No. 3 in the coaches’ poll but No. 7 in the tournament seeding, and thus sent to NCAA Siberia – Lexington, Ky. Plus, three Big Ten teams joined the women in their regional pod with, teams whose fan bases could all drive down. But the Cardinal held off Minnesota in straight sets two days ago (despite the lopsided 3-0 final, each set was decided by no more than three points), and they won the first set against No. 2 Penn State, 25-22.
A win today would be even bigger than the stage of a regional final would suggest:
- Penn State (No. 1 in the RPI) and Texas (No. 1 in the coaches’ poll) have a combined 59 of 60 first-place votes in the coaches’ poll, and only two losses apiece. Those two teams are the clear cream of the crop, and so the Cardinal (24-5) knocking out one of their two biggest threats to a national championship would be huge.
- Stanford volleyball has not played in a Final Four since 2008, so this would be a first after five disappointing postseasons.
- Speaking of, the Cardinal played against Penn State in the NCAA Championship in both 2007 and 2008. Both times, the Nittany Lions prevailed, kicking off a streak of four straight national titles. For Stanford to exact some revenge today would be a nice twist as well.
We’re about halfway through the second set, which Penn State leads 17-14. Neither team is hitting well – Stanford has a .190 hitting percentage to Penn State’s .141, and the teams have combined for 31 errors already. Rachel Williams, a senior outside hitter from Los Gatos, leads the Cardinal with seven kills on a .417 percentage (with six digs for good measure), while Madi Bugg, the sophomore setter from North Carolina, has 19 assists. We’ll keep the updates coming in regularly…
….All of this comes as we blog from the top row of Roscoe Maples, however. Right in front of our eyes is another defensive struggle, with women’s basketball up 33-19 on Gonzaga at the half. Gonzaga has only one free throw, is 0-of-9 deep, and is shooting just 28 percent overall. The Bulldogs enter this one 8-1 overall and (just barely) in the top 25, so bad shooting day or not, that’s a very impressive defensive effort for the Cardinal against a quality opponent.
A postgame ceremony will honor Tara VanDerveer for 900 wins, in front of an arena that has mostly filled the lower bowl. Meanwhile, Amber Orrange has 10, Chiney Ogwumike has eight and Kailee Johnson has seven, as both teams have opened the second half hot to push the score to 38-25. Sara James also has seven after nailing a three, but just picked up her third foul. VanDerveer elects to leave her in.
Back to volleyball, where Penn State equaled Stanford’s first set with a 25-22 victory of their own in the second. We’re knotted at one set apiece as we head into intermission, though the PA announcer is lagging and just announced a 1-0 Stanford lead here at Maples, to the fans' applause. The Lions now have the better stats in the aggregate after a monster second set saw 19 kills. Overall, Penn State has 31 kills and 37 digs to Stanford’s 24 and 31, but the Cardinal have made fewer errors. But hey, this match was bound to go the full distance, right? Stay tuned!
Back to basketball, where an offensive explosion has all but iced this contest away, with the Cardinal now up 49-33 with 13 minutes and change. Make that 52-33 after Johnson nails a three. The Cardinal are 5-of-10 deep to Gonzaga’s 0-of-10, and that very nearly explains the difference on the scoreboard and the 10 percent difference in shooting percentage. Stanford is also plus-six on the boards and the free throw line alike, so it’s looking pretty no matter how you slice it.
[As we edited the article before posting, basketball pushed their lead to 59-35 with just over eight to play. Perhaps they can spare some points to the volleyball team, which now trails 10-8 in set three. More coming!]
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