Stanford 3, Washington 1

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LONG BEACH, CA Stanford (29-6) defeated Washington (28-3) 30-25, 23-30, 30-27, 30-24 in the first national semifinal of the NCAA Division-I Womens Volleyball Championship held at the Long Beach Arena on Dec. 16. The Cardinal moved its win streak to 14 matches with the victory, while the Huskies lost their first-ever match in the NCAA semifinals.

Stanford will play for the national championship on Dec. 18 (1 p.m. PT, live on ESPN2) against the winner of tonights second semifinal between Minnesota and Southern California.

Stanford defeated Wisconsin in three games in the Green Bay region final to reach the national semifinals. Washington edged conference-rival UCLA in five games in the Seattle region final to advance to the national semifinals.

Stanford was led by AVCA All-America First-Team selection Ogonna Nnamani, who tallied 33 kills, 21 digs and five block solos in the four-game victory. She attacked at a .333 hitting percentage. Kristin Richards charted 14 kills and 22 digs, while Jennifer Hucke contributed 11 kills and 10 blocks for a double-double. Bryn Kehoe handed out 57 assists to go with 12 digs and four blocks, while Courtney Shultz recorded a team-high 21 digs. Stanford hit .257 for the match and held the Huskies to a .208 attack percentage.

Brie Hagerty led Washington with 21 kills and a .367 attack percentage, while Sanja Tomasevic pounded out 20 kills to go with 22 digs and seven blocks. Darla Myhre chipped in a match-high 13 blocks, in addition to eight kills. Kaitlin Leck was credited with 11 kills and six blocks for the Huskies, while Courtney Thompson dished out 60 assists in the match. Washington held a 15.5-13 block advantage

Stanford captured game one 30-25 thanks to a 9-0 run. Washington evened the match at one with a game two 30-23 victory as the Husky defense limited the Cardinal to successive points on only four occasions. Stanford picked up game three with a 30-27 score as it rallied back from a 23-19 deficit. Stanford hit .475 in the fourth game en route to a 30-24 victory.

Nnamani broke a 2-all tie in game one with successive kills en route to giving Stanford a 5-2 advantage. The Cardinal increased the margin to five points, 8-3, as the Huskies committed two attack errors around a ball handling error. Washington cut into the lead at 10-8 as Candace Lee tallied a kill ending a 4-1 run. Stanford effectively stopped the run with an 8-2 run that included four kills and a block solo by Nnamani forcing a Husky timeout at 18-10. The Cardinal continued its run with four additional points for nine unanswered tallies on Kehoes serve and 22-10 advantage. Washingtons defense sparked a 4-0 run for the Huskies as a kill by Veris was followed by three straight blocks cutting the deficit to 21-14. Washington closed the gap to 28-25, but could not get any closer as Stanford closed the game at 30-25 on kills by Nnamani and Suiter. Nnamani hit .429 in the first game with 11 kills and four digs. Tomasevic charted five kills and three blocks to pace the Huskies in game one. Stanford hit .250 as a team to Washingtons .163.

Washington snapped a 6-all tie in game two with a 4-0 run highlighted by two kills and block solo by Tomasevic. The two teams traded points until the Huskies scored successive points for a 15-10 lead. Washington built a 17-11 advantage via a 4-1 run. Stanford whittled the deficit to 19-15 through a kill by Girard and block solo by Nnamani. Thompson and Veris combined for a block to push the Husky advantage to 22-16 prompting a Cardinal timeout. Stanford came out of the timeout with consecutive points on a kill by Nnamani and block by Suiter. The Cardinal moved to within four on two occasions, but could not overcome a late 5-2 Husky run. Washington evened the game with a 30-23 victory in game two. Hagerty produced seven kills on 13 errorless swings in game two as the Huskies hit .244. Nnamani contributed eight kills and two block solos in the second game.

Stanford jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the early going of game three, then increased the gap to 7-3 on back-to-back kills by Nnamani prompting a Husky timeout. Washington carved the deficit to nothing using a 4-0 run tying the game at nine. Stanford gained a two-point lead at 11-9, only to see the lead change hands 12-11 on a 3-0 run as Tomasevic tallied two kills and a block solo. Stanford rebounded with a 3-0 run of its own on the strength of a kill by Richards and a block solo by Kehoe. Washington turned the tables with three straight points and a 15-14 lead as the Huskies turned in to two blocks. Washington gained its first two-point lead of game three at 17-15 with a tandem block by Darla Myhre and Tomasevic followed by a kill from Leck. Following a Stanford timeout, Leck turned in her second straight kill followed by a combined block with Myhre for a 19-15 advantage. Stanford interrupted the scoring spurt on a service error, but it was short-lived as the Huskies gained kills from Myhre and Hagerty to lift to score to 21-16. Nnamani cashed in on a kill and block while Kehoe won a joust at the net to cut the Cardinal deficit to 21-19. Hagerty stopped the bleeding with back-to-back kills giving the Huskies a 23-19 lead. Stanford gained a 26-25 lead as the Huskies committed three errors as part of a 5-0 Cardinal run that including two kills and a block by Richards. Stanford closed the game at 30-27 on a 8-2 spurt finalized by two Husky errors. Nnamani carried six kills through the third game as the Cardinal hit .105 to the Huskies .113. Hagerty charted five kills, while Myhre recorded six blocks in the frame for Washington.

Washington served early notice in game four by taking a 9-6 lead capped by an from Veris. However, Stanford quickly knotted the game at 9-all on a kill and ace from Richards. The Cardinal took the lead at 11-10 as Nnamani and Suiter smacked back-to-back kills. Stanford increased the lead to 13-11 as Suiter won a battle at the net that fell untouched over the supporting defense. Washington tied the game at the midpoint, 15-15 on kills by Hagerty and Tomasevic. The Huskies regained the lead at 16-15 on Tomasevic kill. However, the lead was short-lived as Richards pounded down successive kills leading to a 19-16 Cardinal lead. Stanford punched ahead to 23-19 as Nnamani hammered a kill while Richards scored from the back row. Washington narrowed the deficit to 23-21 on kills by Hagerty and Leck. The Cardinal responded with two kills of its own from Richards and Hucke for a 25-21 lead. Stanford marched to a 27-22 advantage on two Husky errors. Hucke produced a kill for a 28-23 lead, then followed with an ace to give Stanford its first match point. Nnamani ended the match with a kill for a 30-24 game four victory.

Washington has appeared in eight previous NCAA Tournaments, but had never reached the national semifinal round before tonights contest.

Notes: Washington and Stanford split the home-and-home conference series this season. The Huskies won the first meeting on Oct. 23 in three games. However, the Cardinal ended Washingtons undefeated season on Nov. 18 in a five-game victory.

Earlier in the day, the American Volleyball Coaches Association recognized Washington Head Coach Jim McLaughlin as its Tachik ara/AVCA Division I National Coach of the Year.

McLaughlin was striving to become the first coach to lead both a mens and womens program to a NCAA title. He led the Southern California mens team to the NCAA championship in 1990.

Washington was ranked number one in the USA Today/CSTV Top 25 Coaches Poll for seven times in 2004. The Huskies had never held the top spot in the poll prior to this season. Washington is currently ranked fifth in the poll with one of 65 first-place votes, while Stanford is ranked sixth.

Stanford is one of four schools to have participated in each of the 24 NCAA Division I Womens Volleyball Championship tournaments.

Stanford senior Ogonna Nnamani not only was named an AVCA All-American on Dec. 15, but she was selected as ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American of the Year by CoSIDA earlier in December. Washingtons Candace Lee and Courtney Thompson were both named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Third Team.

Stanford has three players on this years roster that has already been part of a national championship. Ogonna Nnamani, Jennifer Hucke and Leahi Hall all were freshmen as the Cardinal won its last NCAA title in 2001. Stanford has won five national womens volleyball championships (1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2001).

Stanford is on a 14-match win streak, something the Cardinal has not accomplished since the 2001 season. Stanford has dropped only two games in its last eight matches (total of 26 games).

Stanford has played in all four time zones in the last four weeks. The Cardinal played Arizona and Arizona State in the Mountain Time Zone, the NCAA Tournament first and second rounds in the Eastern Time Zone at Florida A&M, the region semifinal and region final in the Central Time Zone at Green Bay, Wis., and now the NCAA Division I Womens Volleyball Championship Tournament semifinals in the Pacific Time Zone in Long Beach.

Stanford is 14-6 against teams in this years NCAA Tournament.

The Washington versus Stanford match will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. PT on Dec. 16.

The Huskies claimed their first-ever Pac-10 championship in 2004 with a 16-2 record. The 16 conference victories also marked a school record.

Washington endured through six weeks without senior Sanja Tomasevic, a 2003 AVCA All-American. She broke her hand on Oct. 14 and did not return to the court until facing Stanford in a limited role on Nov. 18.

The Pac-10 dominates the NCAA Division I Womens Volleyball Championship as three teams advance to the semifinals, and based on the tournament seedings, it was not expected. 2004 is just the second time that at least two region top seeds have not advanced to the semifinal round, and the Pac-10 did not claim a single top seed in the regions this year.

-- Courtesy Long Beach State