Stanford volleyball in NCAA Final Four finale

Cardinal blanks defending champion Washington to reach Saturday's national title match

Stanford junior setter Bryn Kehoe gave the women’s volleyball world something to consider with her performance on Thursday.

Kehoe had a hand in just about everything the Cardinal accomplished in its 30-12, 30-25, 30-15 victory over defending national champion Washington in a national semifinal match at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb.

The second-ranked Cardinal (30-3) meets top-ranked Nebraska (32-1) for the title on Saturday at 6 p.m. (PT) at the Qwest Center.

The Huskers beat No. 4 UCLA, 23-30, 30-28, 30-23, 30-28, in the earlier national semifinal.

Kehoe clearly outplayed Washington’s All-American setter Courtney Thompson in nearly every phase of the game as she helped Stanford hit at a .315 clip for the match, including .447 in the third game, in addition to her highly successful serving game throughout.

“I think Bryn is a really special player, very competitive, she likes to spread it around,” Stanford coach John Dunning said. “She really likes deceiving the other side of the net and that makes openings for us.”

Sophomore middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo had a game-high 15 kills and hit .444 for the match, while Erin Waller (9 kills) hit .333 and Franci Girard (6 kills, 6 blocks) hit .312.

No one had more than six kills for the defending national champion Huskies, who hit .000 as a team for the match. The Huskies (29-5) hit negatively in games 1 and 3. It was their lowest hitting percentage of the season.

Stanford faces host Nebraska in an arena where the Huskers have won all six matches they’ve played there. The Huskers have won 57 straight in their home state.

Only UCLA (twice) and Pacific, in 1986 when current Stanford coach John Dunning was leading the Tigers, have won national titles on the home court or local area of the host school.

The Cardinal showed early against Washington that it was on a mission. After 10 points in the first game Stanford held a 6-4 edge. When the dust cleared eight points later the Cardinal were up 13-5. Cynthia Barboza (10 kills, five blocks) had a kill and a pair of service aces during the streak.

Stanford also won the final 10 points, with Kehoe recording aces on three of her first four serves during that time.

The 18-point loss was Washington’s worst of the season.

Washington held a 16-15 lead midway through Game 2 before the Cardinal scored on a Girard kill, a Barboza and Girard block and a Huskies attack error to go up 18-16.

Stanford held the lead the rest of the game, but Washington drew within 23-22 before consecutive kills from Akinradewo put the game out of reach.

Stanford did not commit an attack error in its first 25 attempts in the third game, building leads of 5-1, 13-3 and 22-9 en route to the winning the match. The crucial stretch was a six-point rally by the Cardinal to turn a 7-3 advantage into a 13-3 margin. Girard, Barboza and Waller each had key points in the span.

Through it all Kehoe was the common link, turning the match into a no contest with her athletic display.

Kristin Richards added nine kills and 13 digs, while Jessica Fishburn had 14 digs.

“The atmosphere is a little intimidating, but very, very exciting,” Richards said. “Nebraska has done a lot for the sport of volleyball, and we’re very excited to be playing here. Playing in Nebraska last season was a crazy experience.”


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