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Stanford prevails over Nebraska to win epic 5-set national championship

Stanford prevails over Nebraska to win epic 5-set national championship

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Stanford prevails over Nebraska to win epic 5-set national championship

Stanford players celebrate the game winning kill against Nebraska in the fifth set of the championship match of the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championships on Saturday in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Top-seeded Stanford won an NCAA-record eighth national volleyball championship, with Kathryn Plummer finishing with 19 kills and 10 digs and Holly Campbell adding 15 kills for the Cardinal in a five-set victory over Nebraska on Saturday night.

Audriana Fitzmorris had 14 kills and Morgan Hentz had 32 digs for Stanford, which won 28-26, 22-25, 25-16, 15-25, 15-12 despite hitting only .250 against a Huskers team that pushed hard for a second consecutive title.

Mikaela Foecke had 27 kills and a game-high 29 points for seventh-seeded Nebraska, which kept the two-time national player of the year Plummer from taking over but couldn’t pull away from a towering Stanford team that finished the season on a 32-match winning streak.

The Cardinal (34-1) had a much tougher time than in their three-set victory over BYU in the semifinals against the seasoned Huskers (29-7), who were champions in 2015 and 2017. They beat Florida for the title last year, after the Gators beat Stanford in the semifinals.

Nebraska led the final set 3-1, but the Cardinal proved they were much more than the power and precision of the junior Plummer.

Jenna Gray used a quick flip over the net to give Stanford a 13-10 lead, the largest of the set. Sidney Wilson’s serve was initially ruled wide, but second-year Cardinal coach Kevin Hambly challenged the call and a replay review reversal put Stanford in set point mode.

Foecke responded with a kill to cut the lead to 14-11, and the Huskers took the next point on a net violation. Foecke’s kill attempt on the ensuing play was thwarted by Morgan Hentz, who was consistently able to get exceptional height and control on her digs. That allowed Gray to set up Megan McClure for the winner, sending Stanford into celebration mode. The party paused for a few seconds during an unsuccessful challenge by Nebraska on an attack line fault, but the looks on the faces of the Huskers revealed a team beginning to come to grips with a runner-up finish.

The Huskers flexed their muscle in the fourth set, with the sophomore Strivins taking her turn as the dominant force at the net while scoring three of their last seven points. Foecke, naturally, had the winner.

The "Go Big Red" chant began as soon as the national anthem ended, the NBA arena filled with a capacity crowd of 18,113 that was tilted hard toward the Huskers with the Nebraska campus about a six-hour drive away. Some of the local ticket-buyers snagged them months ago with the hope of cheering on host Minnesota in the final, but the second-seeded Gophers were felled in five sets by Oregon in the round of 16 and the Huskers emerged instead from that region to reach the NCAA semifinals for the fourth straight year.

The first set was a missed opportunity for Nebraska, which never trailed by more than three and staved off five set points for Stanford until a double block by Campbell and Gray denied Lexi Sun’s kill attempt for the winner. The Huskers were the sharper team for most of that set, with Plummer hitting only .111.

Foecke helped them snap back with eight kills in the second set. A windup and smash by Fitzmorris, the other half of the 6-foot-6 outside hitter tandem with Plummer, brought the Cardinal within 24-22 after Nebraska’s first set point. But a net violation by Stanford during a kill by Strivins on the next point evened the match.

Fitzmorris had five kills in the third set, as Stanford used a 10-1 run to build a 20-9 lead in the least-competitive set of the night.

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