Cook: ‘I’m very proud of our team and how hard they fought’
MINNEAPOLIS — The first five-set NCAA championship match in nearly a decade was a fitting stage for two of volleyball’s dominant programs.
Stanford and Nebraska slugged it out for 2½ hours late into Saturday night. Kathryn Plummer vs. Mikaela Foecke. Seven championships vs. five championships. A sellout crowd of 18,113 soaking it all in.
But trying to win its second straight national championship by taking down a pair of higher-ranked teams at the Final Four, the No. 6 Huskers ultimately fell short, beaten 28-26, 22-25, 25-16, 15-25, 15-12 by the top-ranked Cardinal at the Target Center.
It marked the 32nd victory in a row for 34-1 Stanford, the longest such streak in the program’s storied history.
For Nebraska (29-7), it marked an end to a 13-match winning streak, but more significantly was the finale for seniors Kenzie Maloney and Mikaela Foecke. In their four seasons, the Huskers played in four Final Fours, made three finals appearances, won two titles and notched an NCAA Tournament win-loss record of 21-2.
“I’m very proud of our team and how hard they fought,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “Not many people gave us a chance, and when you get to the fifth game, anything can happen.”
Nebraska no doubt will look back on every rally of the fifth set, but will also regret losing a first set in which the Huskers built a 9-4 lead and led 18-15 before a serving error, followed by back-to-back Stanford aces, prompted a dramatic turn.
The Huskers, true to form, recovered quickly to take a tightly contested second set. Set 3 was all Stanford, before the Huskers dominated set 4.
The deciding set was tied 9-9 before Stanford pulled away, getting big kills from Holly Campbell and a service ace from Sidney Wilson.
Meghan McClure’s clinching kill sparked a Stanford celebration postponed only momentarily by a video review. The call stood, and confetti officially signaled Stanford’s title.
Stanford, which plays only one senior, lost only eight sets in its 20-0 run through the Pacific-10 Conference season. But it needed each of national player of the year Kathryn Plummer’s 19 kills to outlast Nebraska on Saturday.
Foecke capped her time in a Husker jersey with a career-high 27 kills. Sophomore Lauren Stivrins added 19 kills for the Huskers.