December 13, 1997
Stanford Drops UCSB, Heads To Final Four
Cardinal Sweep Gauchos 3-0 to Earn Fourth Consecutive Final Four
STANFORD, Calif.- The defending national champion and third-ranked Stanford women's volleyball team defeated UC Santa Barbara in straight games, 3-0 (15-12, 15-12, 15-3), before 3,005 in Maples Pavilion to earn its fourth consecutive trip to the Final Four. The Cardinal senior class, which now boasts a Final Four appearance in each of its four years on The Farm, will look to become the first class in NCAA women's volleyball history to win three national championships in four years. The Cardinal won it all in 1994 and 1996. The Final Four will be held in Spokane, Wash., December 18-20. The Cardinal (31-2) will face the winner of the Long Beach State-Nebraska contest in the semifinals.
UCSB (32-5) proved to be a tough foe early on, keeping Stanford's powerful offense - and its top threat, senior outside hitter Kristin Folkl - in check. The Gauchos limited the Cardinal attack to a .163 clip in game one and Folkl to just three kills in 13 attempts. Stanford, in what proved to be the early difference however, did an even better job of shutting down the opposing attack, holding the Gauchos .092 in the first stanza en route to 15-12 opening game win.
In the second game, both offenses began to click. An upscale attack saw Cardinal sophomore Kerri Walsh, who finished with 16 kills and was named the NCAA Mountain Regional Tournament MVP, record nine kills to carry Stanford to another 15-12 win.
Folkl, who began to warm up in the second game, caught fire in the third game. She posted 10 kills in the third game - the sixth kill of the flurry making her Stanford all-time single-season kill leader with 564 - to lead Stanford to an easy 15-3 win. She finished with a match-high 19 kills. In becoming the Cardinal's all-time single-season kill leader, she passed Teresa Smith, who tallied 563 kills in 1986. Folkl's performance helped earn her a spot on the Mountain Regional All-Tournament team. In the third game, Stanford completely stopped the UCSB attack, limiting the Gauchos to .000 hitting percentage (8-8-41). The Cardinal meanwhile posted a match-high .366 hitting percentage.
"When you take away their outside hitters, you can be successful," said Stanford head coach Don Shaw. "We didn't do a great job on (Heather) Bown, but a good enough job. Neither of their outside hitters we're able to carry the load. I thought UCSB served tough, but we hung in there tough and were able to sideout most of the time."
"I thought that we did a great job, especially the unsung players on our team, like Jaimi Gregory and Barbara Ifejika. It was a typical Ifejika - who doesn't get enough credit - performance tonight. Her leadership and competitive spirit is invaluable."
"We are going to be there (the Final Four) and we are going to be battling, and making our fans proud of how we're going to play."
"I couldn't be more proud of the effort and performance we put forth tonight, " said UCSB head coach Kathy Gregory. "I don't think I've seen a Stanford team play such good defense. It was a great team effort and looking back on the season, I can only think positive."
In addition to Walsh and Folkl, senior setter Lisa Sharpley, who registered 55 assists in the win, also made the all-tournament team.