Dec. 3, 2006
Stanford, Calif. -
Second-seeded Stanford University survived a tough challenge from visiting Missouri in five games tonight to advance to the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal (27-3) continues on due in part to sophomore middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo's career-high 26 kills on a .568 hitting percentage, while outside hitters Kristin Richards and Cynthia Barboza chipped in 22 and 18 kills, respectively. Junior setter Bryn Kehoe masterminded the offense, dishing out 67 assists. Kehoe also paced the defensive effort with 21 digs, while Barboza and Richards combined for 32 digs. Libero Jessica Fishburn and defensive specialist Nji Nnamani added 15 and 12 digs, respectively, in the winning effort.
For the Tigers (18-13), opposite Jessica Vander Kooi had a team-high 18 kills, while outside hitter Yang Na and middle blocker Nicole Wilson each had 15 kills. Libero Tatum Ailes played tough defense in the back row, digging up a match-high 29 Cardinal attacks, while Wilson collected seven blocks on the night to lead her team.
"We played with poise tonight," said head coach John Dunning. "Missouri played a terrific match. This was only our second five-game match of the season, but now we know we are good in game fives."
The first point of the match went in favor of Stanford, as Kehoe dumped the ball inside the Missouri block. Barboza followed with a solo block after a spirited rally to give the home team the early 2-0 lead. A Kehoe ace made the score 5-1, but the Tigers worked hard to get themselves back into the match, coming within two points after a Wilson kill out of the middle made it 7-5. Stanford maintained a two-point lead until back-to-back Akinradewo kills pushed her team's advantage to four at 16-12. Three-straight Cardinal points later, punctuated by a Nnamani ace, forced the Tigers into a timeout. Nnamani's tough jump floater and excellent back-row defense enabled Stanford to surge ahead comfortably, as another ace by Nnamani extended the lead to nine at 21-12. The visitor's determination and gritty defense enabled them to cut the deficit to just six points, after a Megan Wilson ace brought them to within 24-18. Coming out of a break, two-straight kills from Girard out of the middle squelched any hopes of a Missouri comeback and Stanford closed out game one after Richards' attack went down, 30-20.
The second game also began in Stanford's favor, as Akinradewo collected a block for the first point and Kehoe made it 2-0 with a well-disguised tip. The Tigers were able to tie it up at 2-2 after a Vander Kooi kill and the two teams were even for the first half of the second game. After playing to a 7-7 standstill, the visitors rolled off three straight points to take the 10-7 lead. The Cardinal's offense, led by the duo of Akinradewo and Richards, enabled them to knot things up again at 11-11, though the strong hitting of Vander Kooi slowly allowed her team to take charge of the game. A kill from the senior leader made it 24-18. Barboza came out firing after the short break with two straight kills, but the Tigers continued to hold its lead, taking a 27-22 advantage after a kill from Wilson. A late rally by the Cardinal brought them to within one at 27-26 after a kill from Richards, but the Tigers were able to hold on, taking game two on a ball-handling error, 30-27.
After the 10-minute intermission, the two squads came out firing. Consecutive kills from Richards gave the Cardinal a slim 9-6 advantage and they held it until back-to-back Missouri attacking errors made it 13-8, forcing a timeout. Stanford continued to build upon its lead, using scrappy back-row defense to frustrate the opposing hitters. Three straight kills from Richards gave her team its biggest lead of the game at 20-13. Kehoe continued to run a smooth offense, dishing out to Akinradewo, Richards, and Waller for multiple kills. The home team took the hard-earned 30-25 victory on a Waller kill from the right side.
The fourth game started off with a bang, as a long rally was put to an end on an Akinradewo kill and her domination in the middle accounted for the Cardinal's first five points. Missouri stayed with Stanford for much of the first half of the fourth stanza, thanks to some hard-nosed defense, but the home team slowly pulled away after a Barboza kill made it 11-8. Two points later, a Kehoe joust at the net energized her teammates and they built a 16-10 advantage after an Akinradewo ace. The determined and tireless Tigers did not give up despite the late surge, rallying to win the next four points and forced Stanford to call a timeout. Four plays later, an Abbie Boothe ace tied things up at 17-17 and Missouri pushed on to take a slim two-point advantage thanks to consecutive blocks on Stanford attacks. The lead increased to five after a Vander Kooi kill made it 25-20 and the Tigers held on for the 30-25 game four victory after a Wilson kill out of the middle.
The fifth and deciding game opened up in Stanford's favor on a 7-2 run as Akinradewo put down four balls and Barboza and Richards collected a kill each. Barboza continued to terminate from the sides and two straight kills from the outside hitter made it 11-5. Missouri would not back down and cut the lead to 11-8 after a kill from Klein. Waller and Girard teamed up on a block for the 13-8 lead. Two plays later, a kill from Richards went down the line untouched to set up match point and a block from Akinradewo and Waller gave the Cardinal the 15-9 game five victory.
Stanford continues its postseason run on Friday, December 8 with a meeting with Pac-10 rival California in the NCAA Regional Semifinals. Game time is set for 5 p.m. CT in Gregory Gymnasium on the campus of the University of Texas-Austin.
GAME SCORES 1 2 3 4 5 TEAM RECORDS
Missouri (2) 20 30 24 30 9 (18-13)
Stanford (3) 30 27 30 25 15 (27-3)