No. 11 seed Utah (24-9) and No. 6 seed and second-ranked Texas (26-2) play in the earlier regional semifinal at 6 p.m.
Stanford won a dramatic five-set match at Wisconsin last year and beat the Longhorns, who bring a 20-match winning streak into the weekend, in a spirited, competitive match in the national finals.
It's a regional worthy of a Final Four. All four teams are ranked among the top 13. The Utes were one of the teams that beat Stanford on its own court last year, Wisconsin is unseeded for the first time in 14 years and Texas has advanced to five consecutive Final Fours.
John Dunning, who coached the Cardinal to the national championship last year and then retired, didn't always know what he was going to get from a team that often had five freshmen on the court at once.
What he did know was the young group knew how to have fun together and once they figured out how good they could be, watch out.
After turning in the worst home record in school history (at 12-5), Stanford turned invincible, winning 10 straight to end the season.
Those freshmen had fifth-year senior Inky Ajanaku to rally around. As sophomores, they have fifth-year senior Merete Lutz. Junior middle Tami Alade is a bonus.
Kathryn Plummer, Jenna Gray, Audriana Fitzmorris, Morgan Hentz and twins Michaela and Caitlin Keefe came to Stanford with exceptionally high expectations. They worked like they were desperate to make the team and, in the end, delivered like veterans.
It's been a different journey this time around. The Cardinal lost to top-ranked Penn State twice within eight days, won 16 in a row before falling to Washington and have won its last seven.
The Badgers were 11-9 in the Big 10 but are 11-0 outside of the conference. They knocked off No. 14 Iowa State in straight sets to advance.
"They're a tough matchup for Iowa State," Stanford coach Kevin Hambly said. "I'm not surprised by the result. Wisconsin has a 6-8 middle. It's a team that has probably gotten better."
Hambly, who coached at Illinois last year, may know a little about about Wisconsin, one of six Big 10 teams to advance to the Sweet 16, but not enough to feel comfortable. It's a younger team and seems to be coming together at the right time.
"You have to focus on one game at a time," Gray said. "The level of play is always going to be higher and you have to focus on the game plan."
Fitzmorris and Gray are both products of St. James Academy in Kansas and with the NCAA Final Four being held in Kansas City, it adds a little extra motivation for them.
"It's in the back of our minds," Fitzmorris said. "It's a great opportunity to play at home but we can't get there unless we take care of things one match at a time."
Stanford also has a couple of freshmen in Meghan McClure and Kate Formico, who continue to push their older teammates.
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