Stanford joins elite company in NCAA volleyball tournament

Stanford fell behind late in the third set, prompting a timeout. Whatever was said, worked. The Cardinal won the next four points and a berth in the Elite Eight.

Inky Ajanaku had 12 kills, Carly Wopat and Brittany Howard each added 11 and the No. 3 Stanford women's volleyball team downed No. 10 Minnesota, 28-26, 25-23, 25-22, in the Lexington regional semifinal Friday.

"We knew coming in it was going to be a tough match and Minnesota has a different style of play then we're used to," said Wopat. "They are very good at seeing the court and making shots, so we had to prepare ourselves for that and I think we did a really good job."

The Cardinal (27-5) seemed to be in control of the third set after taking an 18-14 advantage, the largest lead by either team.

Minnesota eventually tied it at 20, and then inched ahead, 22-21, when Stanford coach John Dunning called the timeout.

Ajanaku tied the set at 21 with her 11th kill and ended it with her 12th kill. Rachel Williams served the final four points, including a service ace.

"I'm very proud of our team for how we hung together at the end of each set," Dunning said. "It's one of the things we've been trying to fight through and become good at. We're getting better at it."

The result being the Cardinal has another date with Penn State, this time with a berth in the Final Four on the line.

The Final Four is slated for Seattle's Key Arena beginning Thursday.

The Nittany Lions (31-2) advanced by downing Michigan State in four sets. The Spartans won the first set.

Stanford and Penn State have split 14 previous meetings, with the Nittany Lions winning the latest meeting in five sets in early 2012 at State College.

Stanford (6) and Penn State (5) own more national titles than any other school, and are the only programs to qualify for every NCAA tournament.

The Cardinal brings a season-best 12-match winning streak into Saturday's match. Penn State has won its last 22 matches.

Kyle Gilbert led the defense with 20 digs, while Jordan Burgess added 17 to go with nine kills. Williams had 12 digs.

Wopat hit at a .429 clip while Ajanaku hit .348 as the Cardinal hit .303 for the match. Madi Bugg had 46 assists.

Women's swimming

Stanford's Felicia Lee was named Pac-12 Women's Swimmer of the Month, the conference office announced Friday.

Lee was key in helping Stanford win all five relay events at the Art Adamson Invitational on Nov. 21-23. She produced two individual A-qualifying marks as she broke her own school record in the 100 backstroke with a time of 51.46 and won the 200 backstroke in 1:53.36. The Wayne, N.J., native turned in two B-standard efforts in the 50 free and 100 fly as well.

Earlier in the month Lee won two individual events and contributed on two winning relay squads as Stanford took down No. 24 Wisconsin, 201-85.

Her efforts helped raise the Cardinal to No. 3 in the latest CSCAA rankings.

This is the first-career Swimmer of the Month honor for Lee and the 10th overall for Stanford.

UCLA freshman Annika Lenz was named Pac-12 Women's Diver of the Month.

Stanford resumes its schedule Jan. 4 against Texas in Austin, Texas. The Cardinal is back at Avery Aquatics Center Jan. 24-25 for dual meets against Arizona and Arizona State.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford Athletics


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