Cardinal Make History, Rally Past Texas into Championship
Dec. 18, 2008
Omaha, Neb. - A year ago, Stanford forced a fifth set in the NCAA title match and nearly pulled off the one of the biggest comebacks in Final Four history. Tonight, the Cardinal actually did it.
For the first time ever, a team fought back from an 0-2 deficit to win an NCAA semifinal match, as the second-seeded Stanford Cardinal raced back to defeat the third-seeded Texas Longhorns tonight, 20-25, 18-25, 25-15, 25-22, 15-13.
It took all that Stanford's three All-American hitters could muster, but in the end Alix Klineman, Cynthia Barboza and Foluke Akinradewo played one of the best matches of their careers. Klineman paced the team with 20 kills, while Akinradewo slammed 17 on .452 hitting and provided six critical blocks. It was senior Cynthia Barboza who stole the show in the improbable comeback, however, recording 15 of her 19 kills in the final three sets.
Stanford moves on to Saturday's NCAA title match, reaching the coveted match of the third year in a row. The Cardinal will face the winner of the Penn State-Nebraska match in progress.
Senior middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo ripped two quick kills to start the match, and the Cardinal took a 3-0 lead in the first set. It didn't take long for the Longhorns to get their bearings, however, as sophomore Juliann Faucette led her team on a 9-1 run that put Stanford at a five-point deficit. With Stanford down 12-7, Cynthia Barboza stepped back and served four straight, capitalizing on Longhorn hitting errors to pull back within one at 12-11. After a Texas timeout, three Destinee Hooker kills in a five-point span helped the Longhorns build back a four-point lead, 16-12. A few points later, another Texas run put the Cardinal down 21-15. Stanford managed to trim the lead to three on two occasions, with the last coming at 23-20, but could never catch up. Ashley Engle dropped a kill in for set point at 24-20 and Rachael Adams finished off the win on the next point, 25-20. Stanford hit just .179 in the first set to Texas' .286. Klineman led all players with seven kills, while Faucette had six for the Longhorns.
Stanford hung tough to start the second set, but at 5-5, the Longhorns ran off on a 7-1 run to put the Cardinal in another deep hole, 12-6. Akinradewo put up a solo block to cut the lead to four at 14-10, but the Cardinal was never able to come any closer. After a Klineman kill made it 18-14, the Longhorns took back-to-back points and plodded along to the finish. Hooker put down the kill for set point, 24-17, and Faucette finished soon after, 25-18. Stanford was outhit .319 to .125 in the second set. Faucette added six more kills, while Barboza had four for the Cardinal.
Stanford controlled set three from the start, using some early action by Akinradewo to take six of the first eight points. The Cardinal built its advantage to 9-3 on some Longhorn hitting errors, then used a pair of Barboza kills to put to push it out to 13-6. Hooker carried Texas on a 7-1 run to pull the Longhorns back in the game at 14-13, but Stanford would have none of it. Senior Erin Waller collected two kills, a block and an ace in the 9-1 Stanford run that followed, pushing Stanford in front 23-14. Akinradewo downed a ball for set point at 24-15 and Barboza slammed a kill off the block to finish, 25-15. Stanford hit .387 to Texas' .188 in the third set and was led by Barboza's five kills.
Stanford used two Akinradewo kills to take a 5-2 lead in set four, and worked ahead to 9-6 on two Barboza kills. Texas fought back to tie at nine, however, then took over the lead on a Hooker kill on the next point. A Waller kill and a Klineman kill in succession gave Stanford its lead back at 11-10, and the two each served an ace to help Stanford earn back its three-point lead, 15-12. Another four-point Texas run resulted in another Longhorn lead at 16-15, but Stanford once again fought back. Led by Barboza, a 4-0 Cardinal run made it 19-16 and at 21-18 Stanford still had its three-point lead. Texas cut the lead to one at 21-20 and again at 22-21, but Klineman and Akinradewo slammed two kills in a row to push Stanford to set point, 24-21. Texas got one point back, but Klineman drilled a kill to finish, 25-22.
Stanford fell behind 0-3 in the fifth set and once again had to stage a comeback. After an Akinradewo kill at 4-2, Barboza slammed one to send Stanford on a 5-1 run. Klineman crushed a kill to tie the set at five, and Akinradewo served an ace to give Stanford its first lead, 6-5. Hooker put down two kills to give the lead back to the Longhorns, but after Barboza tied the set at eight, Hooker sent a ball out of bounds to put Stanford back on top, 9-8. After another tie at nine, Klineman came up with a kill and critical solo block that swung the momentum strongly in Stanford's favor, 11-9. The teams exchanged points from there, with Stanford taking set point on a Lichtman kill at 14-12. Lauren Paolini picked up a kill to keep the pressure on the Cardinal, but Barboza stepped up and drilled a ball of the Longhorn block and out of bounds for the win, 15-13. Stanford hit .500 in the final set to Texas' .381 clip.
Stanford advances to its third consecutive NCAA title match, marking just the third time in NCAA history that a team has done so (UCLA 1990-92 and Penn State 1997-99 are the others).