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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | December 21, 2019

Stanford vs. Wisconsin: NCAA volleyball championship, previewed

Kerri Walsh Jennings, Stanford alumni and decorated Olympian, discusses what she sees in the championship teams

The 2019 NCAA DI women's volleyball national championship match is set, and it will be No. 3 Stanford taking on No. 4 Wisconsin in the big dance. The national championship between Stanford and Wisconsin is at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, Dec. 21. The match will be on ESPN2. 

This championship match will have everything you could possibly want. Star outside hitter Kathryn Plummer for Stanford, who has had a glamorous tournament. Star middle blocker Dana Rettke for Wisconsin, and some really great volleyball. 

Coach Kevin Hambly for Stanford said that Plummer's game is "as close to unstoppable as she could possibly be at this point." But, he also said she is still looking to improve, and isn't just cruising into this national championship match. "She wants to be better for tomorrow." 

In regards to Rettke, Coach Kelly Sheffield said, "The height isn’t her thing. It certainly helps her, but she would be an All-American if she was four inches shorter." He also said that she is an incredible athlete and an unbelievable learner. 

Wisconsin will be looking for its first ever national championship, and Stanford will be looking to defend its title. 

How Wisconsin and Stanford fared in the national semifinals

No. 4 Wisconsin beat No. 1 Baylor in four sets. Wisconsin continued its blocking dominance against the Bears with 14 blocks to Baylor's 10. They also were able to hold Baylor to a .183 hitting percentage, and they ended with a .267 hitting percentage. Rettke led all hitters with 19 kills on .484 hitting efficiency, and Molly Haggerty tallied 15 kills on .414 hitting efficiency. They dropped the first set after a long battle 27-25, and then won the next three. Here is a set by set recap of the match.  >> Watch Rettke highlights and post-match interview with Danielle Hart.

No. 3 Stanford swept No. 7 Minnesota on Thursday night. The Cardinal were absolutely dominating in the national semifinal. Plummer was phenomenal with 26 kills on .353 hitting. Her teammates were stellar as well. Jenna Gray showed off her attacking talents as a setter, and Meghan McClure was a solid option for Gray. Morgan Hentz had 23 digs. Despite falling behind 8-3 in the third set, the Cardinal remained calm and came out on top to head to the national championship to look to defend its title. Here is a set by set recap of the match.  >>Watch Plummer highlights and post-match interview with Jenna Gray.

The championship matchup

Wisconsin has out-blocked every opponent in the NCAA tournament. They are averaging 3.53 blocks per set in NCAA play with three players averaging one or more blocks per set. Rettke leads the team with two blocks per set. In Thursday's semifinal matchup, Wisconsin matched up against National Player of the Year Yossiana Pressley. This time, it will be Plummer. 

The Cardinal, though, have many options, and great defense as well. So, you can expect a really great matchup with some really long rallies, if Hentz and Tiffany Clark have anything to say about it. The thing about the Cardinal though, is that they really have the experience. This Stanford senior class has already won two national championships, competed in three of them, and have been to the national semifinals all four years. 

Here is how they matchup, statistically: 

Tale of the table
  ATTACK  
0.300 Percentage 0.293
14.8 Kills/set 14.5
  SET  
14 Assists/set 13.8
  SERVE  
1.4 Aces/set 1.6
249 Errors 234
  RECEPTIONS  
0.7 Errors/set 0.8
  DEFENSE  
15.2 Digs/set 14.9
  BLOCKING  
2.9 Blocks/set 2.6

Slightly scary similarities from all season long. 

History

The Badgers are 0-4 all-time against Stanford. Their last meeting was on Dec. 8, 2017, and the Cardinal beat Wisconsin 3-1 in the NCAA regional semifinal in Palo Alto. Wisconsin also faced Stanford in the regional final in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2016, and lost 3-2. 

Wisconsin history: 
The Badgers are 0-2 in national championships matches. They lost to No. 1 Nebraska in five sets in 2000, and lost to No. 2 Penn State 3-1 in 2013, Sheffield's first season as head coach. 

Stanford history: 
The Cardinal have a glamorous history, with eight national championships, 16 national championship match appearances, and two titles in the last four years. They are looking to two-peat this season, in Plummer's last year as a Cardinal. 

Players to watch:

Wisconsin: 

  • Dana Rettke: You won't miss her. The 6-8 star middle blocker had 19 kills on .484 hitting efficiency to go with her eight blocks in the national semifinal matchup.
  • Molly Haggerty: Haggerty also had a great match on Thursday with 15 kills on .414 hitting efficiency. 
  • Grace Loberg: Loberg, the third threat on this balanced offense, was quiet in Thursday's match, but she has been a dominant force all season long. 
  • Sydney Hilley, first-team All-American setter, has been vital for this Badgers offense. And, libero Tiffany Clark is always important for their defense and will be especially important with Plummer on the other side of the net. 

Stanford: 

  • Kathryn Plummer: The two-time National Player of the Year tallied 26 kills on .353 hitting in the national semifinal. She is a dominating force and very hard to stop. 
  • Meghan McClure: McClure was a really vital aspect of the Cardinal defense against Minnesota and another option on the other side of the net. 
  • Audriana Fitzmorris: Fitzmorris was also a little quiet on Thursday, but she can have a good night on any given occasion. 
  • The Cardinal also have a great setter-libero combo. Jenna Gray is even a threat offensively as a setter, and Morgan Hentz had 23 kills on Thursday night. 

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