Bryn Kehoe was never more scared, when, as a freshman setter she was approached by Ogonna Nnamani during a timeout during Stanford's second round match against host Florida.
"She's the sweetest person, very funny and not a mean person at all," Kehoe said. "She came up and put her face in my face and yelled, 'Give me the ball!' I got the message."
Nnamani got the ball 89 times in the match, recording 30 kills, in helping the Cardinal beat the Gators in five sets en route to its last national championship in 2004. Kehoe had 59 assists in that match.
Kehoe, now an assistant coach at Alabama, was back at Stanford on Thursday night for just the second time since graduating. The Tide dropped a four-set decision to Oklahoma in their first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2007.
Stanford beat Hampton, 25-10, 25-10, 25-11, in another first round match and will face Oklahoma on Friday at 7 p.m.
"This was a successful year for Alabama," Kehoe said afterward. "The crowds have tripled since Ed Allen got here."
Kehoe had never been to Alabama and had never met Allen in person before she arrived on campus to begin her coaching duties in March. She learned of the opening through her good friend, Purdue coach Dave Shondell.
"He thought I would be a good fit so I gave him a call," Kehoe said. "We talked for two hours and I thought we really hit it off. When I got there, I found he talks a lot all the time. We did connect on a personal basis and discovered we shared the same Midwest values."
Kehoe spent four years playing professional volleyball in Switzerland following a decorated career at Stanford and a couple of years with the United States senior national team program before deciding it was time to return to school for a Master's Degree in Sports Business Management.
"I knew I didn't want to play forever and I was looking for schools so I sent out e-mails to everybody I ever met hoping for a foot in the door," Kehoe said. "I had a couple of Skype interviews and was hired. It's taken a lot of hard work to turn the program around and I'm proud to have been a small part of it."
Kehoe worked with Alabama sophomore setter Sierra Wilson, who had 52 assists in the loss and played with poise and energy.
"I looked at her and told her to go with her gut," Kehoe said. "If anything goes wrong, I'll have your back."
Getting to the NCAA tournament was a source of happiness itself. Finding out she was going to Stanford made it even more special.
"I cried I was so happy," she said. "I've only been back once since and that was to watch my brother (Steven) play in the Final Four (2010)."
Kehoe agreed to coach at Alabama for at least three years. She'll take things as they come after that.
"My worst nightmare was being 30 without any real life job experience," said the 27-year-old Kehoe. "I enjoy coaching and I feel like I have a lot of knowledge to give. It's been easy to connect with the kids."
Kehoe, who expected to join several of her former teammates for an informal reunion, has always made the right connections, both as a player and person.
She briefly visited the Cardinal locker room, meeting setter Madi Bugg for the first time. Kehoe is one of Bugg's role models and had followed her career.
"It's neat to meet alumni," Stanford coach John Dunning said. "You realize you're not just playing for yourself but for everyone who came before you. Bryn is proud of what she did here."
Kehoe was the school's all-time assist leader when she left.
Carly Wopat recorded 11 kills, had six blocks and a hitting percentage of .733 for the Cardinal (25-5), which has never lost an opening match in the NCAA tournament.
"We did a good job of working together," Dunning said. "If you have more aces than errors you know you are doing a good job."
Stanford hit .452 as a team, with Inky Ajanaku adding 10 kills and hitting at a .714 clip.
Senior Rachel Williams added nine kills on 13 attacks and hit .538.
Oklahoma beat Alabama, 20-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-23, in the earlier match.