Dec. 6, 2009

STANFORD, Calif. -- The fourth-seeded Stanford women's volleyball team edged Saint Mary's, 21-25, 25-21, 25-22, 24-26, 15-13 in the second round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament, Saturday, at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal (23-7) advances to its fourth straight NCAA Regional, while the Gaels end their season with a 23-5 overall record.

Junior Alix Klineman led the team with 28 kills and 17 digs for her 10th double-double of the season. Junior Cassidy Lichtman turned in her 10th triple-double of the season with 11 kills, 19 assists and a career-high 19 digs, while Gabi Ailes finished with 29 digs and three aces for the Cardinal. Stanford out hit Saint Mary's .247 to .235.

Stanford opened the first set with a 7-3 run, which included a kill and a solo block by Klineman. Saint Mary's came back with a 7-3 run of its own to tie the set at 10 all before taking a two-point advantage. Sophomore Stephanie Browne registered her first kill to cut the Gaels' lead to 13-12, but Saint Mary's went on a 6-0 run to put the Cardinal in a seven-point deficit. An attack error by the Gaels finally ended their run and shifted the momentum to the Cardinal. Janet Okogbaa sparked the run with a kill and block for Stanford. Klineman pitched in with two more kills, while freshman Jessica Walker tallied a solo block and Ailes put down an ace. The Cardinal tied the set, 21-21, on a block by Walker and senior Alex Fisher. However, Saint Mary's ripped off four straight points to capture the opening set, 25-21.

The teams traded points to start the second set until Stanford recorded four consecutive points to take a 9-5 lead. Klineman tallied three straight kills during the stretch for the Cardinal. Saint Mary's was able to tie the set at 12 and stay within a point of Stanford until a kill and a block by Okogbaa gave the Cardinal a 17-15 edge. The Gaels kept up their intensity, fighting back once again to tie the score at 20 all, but the Cardinal used a 5-1 run to close out the set 25-21. As a team, Stanford hit .297 in the set and registered three blocks.

Browne moved to the middle to start the third set and freshman outside hitter Hayley Spelman entered the match for the first time. The Cardinal took a 10-7 lead as Browne picked up another kill and Klineman added four more for Stanford. Okogbaa drilled two kills to put the Cardinal up 14-9, its largest lead of the match. The Gaels stormed back, posting a 7-1 run to take the lead, 16-15. A kill by Okogbaa and a ball-handling error by Saint Mary's tied the score at 19-19. The score changed back and forth until Okogbaa and Klineman recorded back-to-back kills and then Okgobaa recorded her second career ace for the 25-22 win.

The Cardinal took advantage of errors by the Gaels to open the fourth set with a 7-5 advantage. Saint Mary's tied the set at nine, but Klineman's 20th kill of the match gave the Cardinal a one-point edge. The Gaels captured the lead, 14-13, but the Cardinal scored four consecutive points for a 17-14 lead. Lichtman recorded an ace and Okogbaa put down her 13th kill of the match during that stretch. After Saint Mary's took the lead 20-18, Klineman and Browne registered kills to put Stanford back on top, but not for long. Trailing 23-21, Stanford received kills from Klineman and Browne once again to tie the score at 23. The teams traded points until Saint Mary's finally came out on top, 26-24.

Stanford fell behind early in the final set, 3-1, but a kill and block by Okogbaa tied the score at three. Saint Mary's regained the lead, but kills by Okogbaa and Klineman kept the Cardinal within one. The score changed back-and-forth until Klineman and Browne scored back-to-back kills for a 15-13 victory and keep the Cardinal's season alive.

The Cardinal will move on to the Stanford Regional next weekend, Dec. 11-12. Stanford will face 10th-seeded Michigan at 7 p.m. PT Friday. The first match will feature the No. 5 seed Illinois versus 12th-seeded Hawai'I at 5 p.m. PT. The winners of Friday's contests will meet in the Regional Final, Saturday, at 8:30 p.m. PT at Maples Pavilion.