Inky Ajanaku weighed in on Stanford's chances to reach the NCAA women's volleyball Final Four with an emphatic statement, recording a season-high 17 kills on a .538 hitting percentage to help the ninth-ranked Cardinal beat No. 16 Florida State, 25-27, 25-20, 25-9, 25-23, on Friday afternoon at UW Fieldhouse in Madison.
The redshirt senior helped Stanford reach the regional final after missing out last season. The Cardinal (24-7) meets host No. 3 Wisconsin (28-4) on Saturday at 3 p.m. (ESPNU).
Ajanaku also recorded four blocks and is one shy of reaching 600. She will have the chance to become the fourth player in program history to reach the milestone against the Badgers, who needed five sets to sneak past Ohio State.
Wisconsin has won 13 of its last 14 matches, with a five-set loss to Minnesota on the final day of the regular-season marring that streak. The Badgers are 14-1 on their home court while Stanford is 10-2 on the road.
Freshman Kathryn Plummer added 15 kills and redshirt junior Merete Lutz had 10 for the Cardinal, which has also won 13 of 14 with a five-set loss against UCLA the lone setback in the streak.
Freshman Jenna Gray recorded 45 assists to go with 11 digs and a season-best five kills. Stanford hit .247 for the match.
Freshman Audriana Fitzmorris had seven blocks. Freshman libero Morgan Hentz matched her season-high with 27 digs for the third time this season and put down a career-high five aces. Stanford held Florida State to a .115 attack percentage and out blocked the Seminoles, 11-3.
Florida State (26-6) gained an early advantage, capturing a hard-fought first set at 27-25. It was the first time Stanford dropped a set since a 3-2 loss to the Bruins a month ago.
After countering with a 25-20 victory in the second set, Stanford seized momentum with a convincing 25-9 triumph in the third set. In that pivotal frame, the Cardinal raced to a 14-6 lead, tallied the next five points and closed it out on a kill from Lutz from the middle.
How dominant was Stanford in the third set? Florida State's nine points were the fewest allowed by Stanford in NCAA tournament competition since Dec. 5, 2008, when the Cardinal dominated Albany by the same score in the first set of a sweep.
The competitive fourth set featured 15 ties and seven lead changes. Trailing 22-20 and 23-22, the Cardinal won the final three points of the set, including the game-winner on an attack error by the Seminoles.