Cardinal Comeback Falls Short in NCAA Championship Match

Dec. 15, 2007

Sacramento, Calif. - The Cardinal women's volleyball team fought back from a 0-2 deficit and nearly pulled out one of the greatest comebacks in NCAA history, but, in the end, the Penn State Nittany Lions came out on top of a 30-25, 30-26, 23-30, 30-19, 15-8 battle to claim the 2007 NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship.

Freshman outside hitter Alix Klineman and junior middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo recorded 18 kills apiece, and junior outside hitter Cynthia Barboza turned in 16 kills along with her 20th double-double (16 kills, 12 digs). Senior middle blocker Franci Girard had ten kills and three blocks in her final match in a Cardinal uniform and senior setter Bryn Kehoe had 62 assists.

Penn State was led by Megan Hodge's 26 kills Nicole Fawcett's 19 kills. The Cardinal was outhit for just the second time all season (.317 to .291), and the Nittany Lions became the first Cardinal opponent of 2007 to hit above .300 against the squad.

The Nittany Lions took the first two points of the match, but Stanford quickly caught up. The Cardinal took over the lead at 6-5 with an Akinradewo kill that was part of a 5-0 Cardinal stretch. A block by Akinradewo and Klineman stretched the lead to 8-5, and another Akinradewo kill pushed it to 11-7. By the media break Penn State had sliced the margin to two, 15-13, and the Lions produced five straight points when they came back on the floor to retake the lead, 18-15. Akinradewo returned to the front row and added two kills to tie the game at 20, but a 7-2 Penn State run led by Christa Harmotto followed and put the Lions back in front, 29-24. Fawcett put the final point away with her fourth kill, 30-25. Arielle Wilson led the Nittany Lions with five kills in the first game, a figure matched by Stanford's Klineman and Akinradewo. Stanford hit just .159 in the opening game to Penn State's .263.

Once again Penn State was out of the gates first, but Stanford reversed an early 3-0 disadvantage and took the lead on an Akinradewo ace at 6-5. Girard and Barboza teamed up for back-to-back kills to increase it to 8-6, but three consecutive Penn State kills turned the tide again at 10-9. The Nittany Lions slowly stretched the lead, going ahead by as much as four on a double block at 19-15. Stanford managed to trim the deficit to two on seven occasions, but couldn't break through. Fawcett gave Penn State game point at 29-25, and the squad sealed the win with a block, 30-26. Stanford hit .357 in the second game, but couldn't overcome Penn State's .525 clip. Barboza had seven kills, but so did Fawcett and Stanford went to the locker room facing its first 0-2 deficit of the season.

For the third straight game, Penn State took the lead first, and, for the third straight game, the Cardinal battled back and took its first lead at 6-5. This time, the Cardinal kept its grip, pushing the margin to 13-10 on a block by Kehoe and Akinradewo and 14-11 on a kill by Akinradewo. At the media break, the Cardinal held a 15-13 advantage, and Kehoe stepped up and aced the Nittany Lions three times in a row to make it 19-13. At the end of Kehoe's serving run, Stanford held a 20-13 advantage, but Penn State answered with three straight points to settle the Cardinal momentum. The teams matched each other point-for-point from there, and a Penn State error finally broke the even rhythm to put Stanford up 26-20. Kehoe added her fourth ace of the game for Stanford's 28th point, and Barboza watched a Nittany Lion attack go out of bounds for game point, 29-21. Penn State served into the net to end the game, 30-23. Klineman's four kills led the Cardinal, and Stanford finally outhit Penn State, .324 to .140.

For the first time all night, Stanford took the first point and, despite two kills by Hodge, the squad raced ahead. Akinradewo recorded two kills and two blocks in a 6-1 Stanford run that made it 7-3, but Penn State's hitters fought back and tied the score at seven. Girard then stepped up big for the Cardinal tipping down an overpass to make it 10-8, and then contributing three kills and an ace in a 6-1 Stanford run that pushed the lead to 16-11. The lead wavered between four and five until Girard went back to serve again, when the squad strung together four straight points to go ahead 26-18. A point later, Klineman started another 4-0 run that sealed the win. A Nittany Lion ball-handling error gave Stanford game point and Akinradewo blasted a kill to finish things, 30-19. Stanford outhit Penn State .535 to .368 behind six kills from both Akinradewo and Barboza.

Penn State took the first two points of game five, but by 3-3 the Cardinal had caught up. A Nittany Lion error gave Stanford a lead at 4-3, but seven Penn State points in a row put the Cardinal in a six-point hole. Klineman put up a block to curb the Nittany Lion momentum, but Stanford couldn't catch up. The Nittany Lions scored five of the next eight points, and Wilson and Blair Brown put up a block to seal the 2007 NCAA Championship, 15-8.