Cardinal Outlasts Cal to Seal Pac-10 Title Outright
Nov. 23, 2007
Stanford, Calif. - Senior Night couldn't have been sweeter for Franci Girard and Bryn Kehoe. Playing their final regular-season match in Maples Pavilion, the Cardinal captains led the charge in a thrilling comeback victory over No. 7 California (22-7, 12-6 Pac-10) to seal Pac-10 title outright. Kehoe recorded 67 assists, and Girard put up her season-high seventh block for the game-winning point. The 30-32, 30-19, 23-30, 30-22, 16-14 win earned Stanford (27-2, 16-2 Pac-10) its 11th Pac-10 title, and sends the Cardinal to the postseason with a 27-2 overall record.
Juniors Foluke Akinradewo and Cynthia Barboza recorded 20 kills apiece to lead Stanford, and junior opposite Erin Waller had another impressive night with 12 kills and a .436 hitting percentage. Freshman Alix Klineman added 16 kills, and libero Gabi Ailes tallied 16 digs. Barboza notched 11 digs to complete her 17th double-double of the year, and Akinradewo and Girard both turned in season highs with three service aces apiece.
The win wrapped up the regular-season for the Cardinal, putting the squad one game ahead of Washington in the Pac-10 standings. The conference title was the 14th all-time for Stanford, with an unprecedented 11 of those coming in the Pac-10. Stanford repeated as Pac-10 Champions for the first time since 1999.
Cal raced out to a 3-0 lead in game one, and maintained it at 7-4 with back-to-back kills by Ellen Orchard. Stanford's first block of the match and a pair of Golden Bear miscues led to the game's first tie at 7-7, but Cal managed to hold onto the lead. Stanford came back to tie once more at 10, it wasn't until a few points later that the Cardinal finally broke through. A Klineman kill jumpstarted a 6-0 Stanford run, and Stanford took its first lead on an ace by Franci Girard at 13-12. Two Cal errors gave Stanford a 16-12 lead and Barboza tallied two kills to push the lead to six at 23-17. A Cal service error made it 28-22 a few points later, but the Bears were about to begin an impressive comeback. Cal trimmed the lead to one after a 5-0 run and consecutive kills by Hana Cutura, but an Akinradewo kill appeared to stop the momentum and give Stanford game point at 29-28. Cutura delivered a kill and a block, however, to shift the momentum back to Cal, and give the Bears a game point opportunity of their own at 30-29. Stanford fought off the first game point, but the Bears were back at 31-30, and another Cutura kill sealed the comeback win. Stanford was outhit, .244 to .190 in the opening game.
Akinradewo recorded three kills in an early exchange of points in game two, but after a Bear lead at 4-3, Stanford strung together six straight points to take an 9-4 advantage. A Barboza kill pushed the lead to six at 11-5, but the Golden Bears recorded three points in a row to cut it to 11-8. A solo block by Kehoe gave Stanford another six point lead at 16-10, but Angie Pressey pounded three straight kills at the Cardinal to trim the lead to 16-13. Stanford had had enough, however, and allowed the Bears just six more points from there on out. Akinradewo pounded a kill to start a 5-0 Cardinal run, which ended on an ace by the junior middle blocker. Girard added two kills in the 4-1 run that followed, which gave Stanford its first double-digit lead 25-15. This time, the Cardinal followed through to the finish, as Barboza and Erin Waller answered Bear points and Klineman ripped a kill to give Stanford game point at 29-18. Cal earned one more point, but Barboza put the game to a decisive end with her eighth kill of the match, 30-19. Stanford roared back on top in hitting, .372 to .150.
Cutura and the Golden Bears came out firing in the third game, taking a 6-1 lead before Akinradewo finally got the Cardinal in sync. The junior middle blocker notched two kills to make it 6-3, but Cal had four more straight in store. At 11-4, Stanford finally began to chip away at the lead. A Waller kill trimmed it to five at 11-6, and a three-straight points capped by a Girard ace brought it down to three at 14-11, and the Cardinal brought it down to two at 15-13. Cal fought back with three straight points, and Stanford couldn't catch up. The Cardinal rallied to force a Cal timeout at 24-21, but the Bears answered with two aces and four consecutive points to take a 28-21 lead. A Cutura kill gave the Cardinal game point at 29-22, and a Stanford hitting error finished things, 30-23. Stanford was outhit .231 to .062 in the game.
It was Stanford who claimed the fast start in game four, taking the first four points to run out to a 6-1 lead. Cal answered with a string of four points to pull within one at 6-5, but a kill and a block by Klineman put Stanford back ahead 11-7. The Bears cut the lead to two on three occasions, but at 18-16, Stanford finally fought them off for good. Barboza and Akinradewo pounded back-to-back kills and two Cal hitting errors added up to a 4-0 run and a 22-16 Cardinal lead. Stanford held on, using consecutive kills by Barboza to go ahead 24-18. The Bears came within four at 25-21, but Akinradewo stepped up to finish them off. The middle blocker slammed a kill to earn the Cardinal serve back, then served two aces to give Stanford game point at 29-21. A Klineman kill sealed the win a point later, 30-22.
Cal took the first point of game five, and the teams traded points evenly until a Waller kill put Stanford ahead 5-4. A Golden Bear block swung the match back in favor of the Bears 7-6, but Girard served her third ace of the match to put Stanford back on the favored side of things, 8-7. Another Cal block gave reversed the lead again at 11-10, and a Golden Bear ace put Stanford in a 13-11 bind. After a Cardinal timeout, Barboza and Waller slammed consecutive kills to tie the game at 13, but Mindi Wiley gave Cal game point with a kill at 14-13. Klineman answered with a kill to tie at 14, and Barboza drove another one down another one to give Stanford game point at 15-14. Girard and Waller then put up a decisive block on the final point, sealing the Stanford win 16-14. Cal led the hitting .455 to .423 in the fifth game, and Akinradewo and Cutura let their teams with four kills apiece.
Stanford, the Pac-10's automatic qualifier for the NCAA Championships, now awaits the tournament seeding announcement. The NCAA selection show will air at 5 p.m. (PT) Sunday on ESPNU.