Coaching legends and Oklahoma natives bring familiarity to semifinals
Might the numbers be aligned for Stanford in 2014?
The Cardinal lost a five-set thriller to Pac-12 rival UCLA in the 1984 NCAA Championship. Ten years later, in 1994, Stanford finished a 32-1 campaign with a victory against UCLA in the NCAA title match. Marnie Triefenbach and Kristin Folkl combined for 48 kills in the four-set win. A decade later, in 2004, it was the Cardinal beating Minnesota in straight sets to claim the national crown. Oganna Nnamani buried the Gophers with 29 kills.
Stanford also won NCAA titles in 1992, 1996, 1997, and 2001. Stanford has lost in the championship match eight times.
Might 2014 be Stanford’s seventh overall and continue an every-10-year trend?
With the victory against Wisconsin in last weekend’s quarterfinals, Penn State’s Russ Rose moved passed UCLA’s Andy Banachowski for the top spot on the NCAA’s all-time semifinal appearances list.
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|Brackets: Interactive | Printable|
Stanford’s John Dunning, in his 30th season as a Division I coach, brings his 11th team to the NCAA semifinals. Dunning took four Pacific teams to the final four; 2014 marks the seventh time he has lead the Cardinal to this stage and twice, 2004 and 1996, Stanford has won the national title. Rose, with six, and Dunning, with four, rank 1-2 on the NCAA championships list. Both PSU and Stanford own an NCAA-leading six national titles.
Texas’ Jerritt Elliott is quickly climbing the ladder. The Longhorns -- 2012 national champions -- are making their third consecutive and sixth semifinal appearance under Elliott, who also brought Southern California to the final four in the bracket.
Crashing the party
Since the NCAA’s first women’s volleyball championship in 1981, only two unseeded teams had advanced to the semifinals prior to this season. Brigham Young has brought that number to three after knocking off Nebraska in last weekend’s quarterfinals.
The Cougars (29-4), under fourth-year head coach Shawn Olmstead, opened their 2014 tournament run with wins against Seton Hall and No. 11 Arizona. Last weekend, BYU, making its first final four appearance in twenty one years, beat No. 8 Florida State and No. 8 Nebraska on their home floor.
Olmstead’s lineup includes 6-foot-7 Jennifer Hamson (428 kills), 6-foot-2 Alexa Gray (396), and 6-foot Tambre Nobles (211) who combined for 30 kills against the Huskers; Hamson singlehandedly hammered FSU with 30 kills in the Round of 16.
BYU also was in the 1993 NCAA semifinals. The Cougars’ Thursday opponent, Texas, is playing in a sixth semifinal in seven years. For Penn State, its seven semifinals in eight years; Stanford is making its first semifinal appearance since 2008 and an NCAA-leading nineteenth overall.
Penn State senior Micha Hancock knows a thing or two about Oklahoma City.
The nation’s leader in aces thanks in part to a thunderous left-handed fireball of a serve led her high-school Edmond Memorial, less than a half-hour from downtown Oklahoma City, to Class 6A championships in 2007, 2009, and 2010. Her older sister, Kelsey, played volleyball at Tulsa while her mother, Kelly, played basketball at Oklahoma State. During the Nittany Lions’ 2013 run to the title, Hancock was named the tournament’s outstanding player.
“I’m not going to exactly know how it feels until I step foot on Oklahoma soil again,” Hancock told the Centre Daily Times on Monday. “That will be the real test; I’ll see how I can keep my emotions in check, kind of relax.”
Hancock is not the only native Oklahoman to suit up this week. Stanford junior Inky Ajanaku attended Bishop Kelley High School in Tulsa. The 6-foot-3 middle blocker, a two-time All-American, led Kelley to four state high school championships.
Not that McCoy
No, Texas freshman Cat McCoy is not related to Colt or Case McCoy, former quarterbacks for the Longhorn football program, although she does lead UT in digs with 368.
“She wears that jersey with pride,” said UT head coach Jerritt Elliott. “She gets after it and loves to compete, loves to go after balls and get bruised a little bit. She is the epitome of what a libero is supposed to be.”
So, what is a libero? It’s easy to determine: the player wearing a contrasting jersey from teammates and considered a defensive specialist. The position includes diving, rolling, getting floor burns, along with being on the receiving end of blasts from opposing spikers. It is not a position for the timid.
Next in line
In dispatching Wisconsin in the 2013 NCAA Championship final, the Penn State senior trio of Ariel Scott, Katie Slay, and Deja McClendon combined for 46 kills.
In 2014, it's been a pair of freshmen to be a big part of the hitting charge. Haleigh Washington was named this season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year after leading the league in hitting percentage (.492) with 199 kills and 89 blocks. Against UCLA in the Round of 16 Washington recorded 12 kills and added another 10 kills against the Badgers.
Fellow rookie and outside hitter Ali Frantti has been equally impressive this season. Her 369 kills lead the Lions.
Choices … choices
BYU’s 6-foot-7 Jennifer Hamson is in the conversation for best female athlete -- ever -- in school history. Hamson led the BYU women’s basketball team to the Sweet 16 in 2013, a year after leading the volleyball squad to the Sweet 16 in 2012 where she was an AVCA All-American.
In 2013, while taking a redshirt in volleyball, Hamson played basketball and was named the West Coast Conference player of the year and an honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press. Her 1.437 career points rank ninth in school history. Last April she was drafted by the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.
Hamson’s senior volleyball campaign includes a team-leading 428 kills, 154 blocks, and 166 digs. The highlight of the season, so far, might be the 30 kills against No. 8 Arizona in the Round of 16.
So the question around Provo, Utah remains, will she enter women’s professional basketball or make a run at the 2015 U.S. women’s national volleyball team?