Stanford defeats defending champion Nebraska in five sets
MINNEAPOLIS — Outside hitter Mikaela Foecke’s career-high 27 kills were not enough for Nebraska to out-last Stanford in the NCAA championship match.
The top-ranked Cardinal held on for a 28-26, 22-25, 25-16, 15-25, 15-12 win in front of 18,113 fans at the Target Center, ending the Huskers’ bid for back-to-back NCAA titles.
National player of the year Kathryn Plummer led Stanford (34-1) with 19 kills, while Holly Campbell added 15 and Audriana Fitzmorris had 14.
Foecke took a new career-high 71 swings and added 11 digs in her final college match. Lauren Stivrins had a career-high 19 kills, and Jazz Sweet’s 10 kills were her most since October 24.
Five Huskers reached double-digit digs led by senior libero Kenzie Maloney’s 17. Lexi Sun had seven kills and 15 digs, while freshman setter Nicklin Hames had a career-high 62 assists and 12 digs.
Stanford’s win extended its winning streak to 32 matches and gave the Cardinal their second national title in three seasons.
Game 1: Nebraska answered the first two Stanford points with a 4-0 run capped by Jazz Sweet’s out-of-system score.
NU would tack on a 5-1 run with Foecke’s ace making it 9-4 to force the Cardinal’s first timeout. The Huskers had kills on five of their first seven swings.
After the break Stanford responded with a 5-2 run to cut NU’s lead to 11-9 with kills from Plummer, Meghan McClure, and Holly Campbell and two Nebraska errors.
The Huskers pushed the lead back to 15-11 with two Foecke kills and Jazz Sweet’s block of Plummer, but Stanford stormed back from the service line. Kate Formico served back-to-back aces to tie it 18-18, and Plummer dropped a tip over the Husker block to give Stanford its first lead since 2-0.
That was part of an 8-2 run that featured another ace by McClure, Stanford’s fifth of the opener, and two more Plummer kills. Trailing 24-21, NU saved all three Stanford set points, the third when Stivrins pounded down an overpass to tie it 24-24.
Kills by Foecke and Stivrins would save two more set points, but tied 26-26 Sun sailed a shot wide, and on the next rally, Jenna Gray and Holly Campbell blocked Sun to give Stanford the opener.
NU hit .302 led by Foecke’s seven kills. Stivrins added five on six swings. Stanford hit .268 with Plummer scoring six kills.
Game 2: The teams were tied eight times through the media timeout midway through the set when Nebraska took a 15-13 lead on back-to-back Stanford errors.
Stanford tied it with kills from Campbell and Plummer on the next two rallies, but the Huskers surged ahead 19-16 when Capri Davis and Foecke scored on consecutive rallies, forcing the Cardinal’s first timeout of the set.
Foecke’s transition kill on the ensuing rally put NU up 20-16, but Stanford started to come back trailing 21-17 starting with Kenzie Maloney’s service error. McClure and Tami Alade teamed to block Sweet one play later to cut Nebraska’s lead to 21-19, but the Huskers again turned to Foecke on the next two rallies. Her 13th and 14th kills of the night put NU up 23-19.
Foecke’s eighth kill of the set gave Nebraska three set points up 24-21, and after Fitzmorris saved the first one, Stanford was whistled in the net trying to block Stivrins, giving the Huskers the 25-22 win.
Stivrins added five more kills in Game 2 as Nebraska hit .326 in the set. Stanford hit .353 led by Plummer’s six kills.
Game 3: Plummer’s kills on the set’s first two rallies put NU in an early hole, which grew to 7-2 after Fitzmorris notched her second kill of the set to force a Nebraska timeout.
Nebraska would cut it to two points when Davis scored in transition to pull the Huskers within 10-8. But Stanford picked up the defense during a 5-0 run to push its lead to 15-8. Alade, the nation’s leading blocker stuffed Sweet and blocked Schwarzenbach two rallies later to force John Cook’s second timeout.
Nebraska would get no closer than seven points, and Stanford’s fifth block of the set would seal it 25-16.
The Huskers hit just .027 in Game 3 while Stanford hit .238 led by five kills from Fitzmorris.
Game 4: Nebraska stormed to a 4-0 lead in the fourth, capped by a show-stopping rally ended by Foecke’s 20th kill.
A Stanford timeout couldn’t stop the Huskers’ momentum. Kenzie Maloney served a 5-0 run by targeting Plummer, whose tight passes led to two Stanford errors and a Stivrins kill. The Cardinal called their final timeout of the set with NU up 9-1 after a lift called on Gray.
It was 13-4 when Stanford began to eat into the lead. Two straight Sun errors followed by Sidney Wilson’s third ace of the match cut the Husker advantage to 13-7.
Sun bounced back with a kill and an ace followed by a Sweet kill to put Nebraska up 16-9, and Sweet’s 10th kill of the match made it 18-11.
Stivrins had six kills in the set while Sweet added five as the Huskers hit .412 to force a decisive Game 5.
Game 5: Two early Foecke kills helped the Huskers to a 3-1 lead in the finale, but Nebraska then got error prone as Stanford reeled off four straight points to take a 5-3 lead.
The final three of those came on Husker hitting miscues, and Cook burned a timeout.
Nebraska tied it 7-7 when Nicklin Hames dumped a tight pass, but Hayley Densberger’s serving error, NU’s second of the fifth, put Stanford up 8-7 at the changeover.
Back-to-back Sun kills tied it 9-9, but Stanford answered on its next two rallies with kills from Plummer and Campbell to lead 11-9.
Davis’ kill pulled Nebraska as close as the Huskers would get at 11-10, but Campbell and Gray answered with kills, and Stanford successfully challenged a serve that officials initially ruled was wide, but was overturned into a Kate Formico ace to put the Cardinal up 14-10.
Foecke’s 27th kill followed by a Stanford net violation extended the Huskers’ season two more points, but after a Cardinal timeout sophomore Meghan McClure ended it with a back-row kill.
The Cardinal’s eighth NCAA championship now leads all programs, breaking Stanford’s tie with Penn State.
No. 7 Nebraska (29-7)..........26 25 16 25 12
No. 1 Stanford (34-1)...........28 22 25 15 15