UCLA sweeps into title match
Kidder notches 21 kills to help power Bruins past Florida State
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Junior outside hitter Rachael Kidder had 21 kills and UCLA advanced to its first national championship match since 1994 with a sweep of Florida State in NCAA semifinal action on Thursday night.
Tabi Love added 12 kills for the Bruins in the 25-16, 25-17, 25-21 victory.
The Seminoles (28-7) never led in the first two sets during their first semifinals appearance in school history. Jekaterina Stepanova had 11 kills for Florida State.
The Bruins (29-6), who last won the title in 1991, will play in Saturday’s championship match against Illinois.
There will be a new NCAA champion for the first time since 2006 regardless of who wins. Four-time defending champion Penn State was eliminated by the Bruins last week.
Kidder picked up where she left off against the Nittany Lions. The 6-foot-3 star of UCLA’s front line, who helped finished off Penn State with 15 kills in the regional semis, put together her eighth match this season with at least 20 kills. She hit .462 on the night, her best performance of the tournament.
“Everything we did is starting to pay off, so it feels great,” Kidder said.
Visnja Djurdjevic had eight kills for the Seminoles. Florida State looked nervous at times in a historic debut for the Seminoles, hitting just .173 on the evening.
Florida State was the first ACC team to advance this deep in the tournament. Throw in the Illini, whose last run this far was 1988, and it’s made for one of the freshest-looking semifinals in recent years.
But the biggest factor is the absence of Penn State. The Bruins swept the Nittany Lions to end Penn State’s record 26-game postseason winning streak and the most dominant run in NCAA women’s volleyball history.
The Nittany Lions don’t seem missed in the Alamodome. UCLA coach Michael Sealy said it was probably good for the NCAA that a new champion will finally emerge, and Florida State senior Rachael Morgan spoke both in awe of the Penn State era and with relief to see other teams get a shot.
That leaves USC and UCLA as the remaining familiar powerhouses. The schools have won a combined six national championships since 1981 -- three apiece -- but none since the Trojans’ back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003.