OMAHA – Sarah Pavan and Jordan Larson combined for 41 kills as No. 1 Nebraska (33-1) rallied to defeat No. 2 Stanford (30-4) 27-30, 30-26, 30-28, 30-27 for its third NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship in front of a record-crowd of 17,209 fans at the Qwest Center Omaha Saturday evening.
Nebraska, competing in the finals for the sixth time, also captured NCAA women’s volleyball championships in 1995 and 2000 with Husker coach John Cook leading the team during the past two title seasons. Only Stanford has won more women’s volleyball titles with six. The Huskers are the first team since 1991 to win a national title as the host institution.
Stanford was playing in its 12th championship match in the 26-year history of the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal finished second for the sixth team in NCAA Tournament history.
Pavan, who was named the AVCA National Player of the Year earlier in the week, was selected as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the all-tournament by Larson, Nebraska’s Tracy Stalls and Rachel Holloway. Stanford’s Kristen Richards, Foluke Akinradewo and Cynthia Barboza were also named to the all-tournament team.
The top two seeds in the NCAA Tournament met for only the second time in an NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship title match. In 2002, top-seeded USC defeated No. 2 Stanford in four games. The NCAA Selection Committee began seeding the 64-team tournament field in 2000.
The championship match attendance of 17,209 was an all-time collegiate volleyball record, surpassing Thursday’s semifinal attendance of 17,013. The all-session attendance at the Qwest Center was 34,222, a new NCAA Championship record.
Stanford overcame a 23-21 deficit in the opening game with five unanswered points, with three kills from Kristin Richards, en route to a 30-27 victory. Despite Nebraska going up 7-2 in the second game, the game became nip-and-tuck with six lead changes and eight ties.
The Huskers overcame a 22-21 deficit by scoring nine of the last 14 points as Stalls and Dani Mancuso each turned in two kills. Nebraska overcame a 26-22 deficit in the third game by outscoring Stanford 8-2 down the stretch as Holloway notched a kill and two blocks with Amanda Gates. Nebraska controlled most of the fourth game, but it was a 6-1 run after leading 18-17 that separated the Huskers from Stanford for a 30-27 victory.
Pavan netted a match-high 22 kills with a .378 attack percentage, 13 digs and three block assists in leading the Huskers. Larson, who had eight kills in nine previous games within the NCAA Championships (semifinals and finals) the past years, scored 19 kills on 45 swings for a .378 attack percentage. She added a double-double with 15 digs and three blocks.
Mancuso chipped in 12 kills for the Huskers, while Stalls added 10 kills and seven block assists. Holloway provided 58 assists, five blocks and two kills in leading the Husker offense. Dani Busboom provided a match-high 21 digs. Kori Cooper tallied two kills and a block solo, while Gates tallied three blocks and a kill.
Erin Waller paced Stanford with 18 kills on .394 hitting, while Akinradewo added 15 kills and eight blocks. Richards contributed 14 kills and 12 digs, while Barboza charted 12 kills and three blocks. Franci Girard provided 10 kills and four blocks in the loss, while Bryn Kehoe totaled 61 assists, three aces, 14 digs and three blocks.
Nebraska hit .240 for the match while limiting Stanford to a .197 attack percentage. The Huskers out-dug the Cardinal 70-63, while both teams totaled 13 team blocks. Nebraska held a 5-4 ace advantage, and both teams had eight service errors.
*-Tonight’s attendance of 17,209 was an all-time collegiate volleyball record, surpassing Thursday’s semifinal attendance of 17,013. The all-session attendance at the Qwest Center was 34,222, a new NCAA Championship record. The previous record was 23,978, set during the 1998 NCAA Championships in Madison, Wis. The attendance also broke the NCAA postseason all-session attendance mark of 29,608, set at the 2005 NCAA Omaha Regional, also held at the Qwest Center.
*-Tonight’s national championship match marked only the second time that the No. 1 and 2 seeds have met in the NCAA Final. The only previous occurrence was in 2002, when No. 1 USC defeated No. 2 Stanford, 3-1. With Nebraska’s win tonight, the No. 1 seed is now 4-2 in the title match.
*-With tonight’s victory, Nebraska captured its third NCAA women’s volleyball championship and first since 2000. The win also moved Nebraska into a five-way tie for second place on the list of the most all-time NCAA Volleyball Championships among all schools. The title was the second for the Huskers under head coach John Cook, who led Nebraska to the 2000 title in his first season at the helm of the Husker program.
*-The Huskers are now 3-3 all-time in the national championship match, including a 2-1 mark under head coach John Cook. Stanford fell to 6-6 all-time in the national title match, including a 2-2 mark under head coach John Dunning, who boasts a career NCAA Final match record of 4-3 after winning a pair of national titles and adding a runner-up finish with Pacific.
*-Nebraska’s victory also snapped a string of five consecutive titles captured by the Pac-10 Conference. Since 2000, Nebraska is the only team outside of the Pac-10 Conference to win a national title in women’s volleyball.
*-After finishing runner-up year last year, Nebraska became just the third team ever to win the national championship one season after losing in the NCAA Final. Penn State and UCLA are the only other schools to accomplish the feat, as the Nittany Lions finished runner-up in 1998 before winning the title the following season and UCLA was runner-up in 1983 before being crowned the national champion in 1984.
*-Rachel Holloway became just the second freshman setter in a 5-1 offense to lead her team to a national title. The only other freshman setter to lead her team to a national title was also on the court, as Stanford’s Bryn Kehoe led the Cardinal to the national championship in 2004.
*-Nebraska became only the fourth host institution to win the NCAA Championship. UCLA was the last school to accomplish the feat, when it won the 1991 title. UCLA also accomplished the feat in 1984, while current Stanford head coach John Dunning led host Pacific to the national title in 1986.
*-Nebraska became the first No. 1 seed to win the NCAA title since USC won it all as the top-seeded team in the field in 2003. The Huskers were the No. 1 seed in each of the last three seasons, losing to USC in the 2004 regional finals and falling to Washington in the 2005 national title match, before defeating Stanford tonight. The 2003 USC squad was also the last team to go wire-to-wire as the top-ranked team in the AVCA top 25 poll, as Nebraska will become only the third team ever to go wire-to-wire since the poll’s inception in 1982.
*-The Huskers have now won their last 58 matches in the state of Nebraska, including wins in Lincoln, Omaha and North Platte. Nebraska is now 7-0 all-time at the Qwest Center, including a 4-0 record in the NCAA Tournament.
*-With tonight’s win, Nebraska ended the season with a 33-1 record and winners of 10 straight. The Huskers’ .971 winning percentage led the nation and was the second-best mark in school history, trailing on the 2000 national championship team’s perfect 34-0 record.
*-Nebraska rallied to win after dropping the first game for the third consecutive match. The Huskers are now 7-0 this season when dropping the first game. Conversely, Stanford fell to 30-2 on the season when winning game one. Nebraska’s comeback also marked the eighth time in finals history that a team came back from an 0-1 deficit to win the match.
*-Nebraska’s Rachel Holloway recorded 58 assists, her second-highest total of the 2006 season, as she had a career-high 65 assists in the regional final against Minnesota.
*-Nebraska’s Rachel Schwartz tied a career high with three aces in the match.
*-Nebraska’s Jordan Larson went 39 swings without an error before committing her first hitting error on her 40th swing in game four. Larson finished the night with her 22nd double double of the season, totaling 19 kills on 45 swings. Larson committed just two errors to finish with a .378 attack percentage. Sarah Pavan matched her attack percentage with a match-high 22 kills.
*-Nebraska’s Sarah Pavan finished with a match-high 22 kills on just 45 swings. Pavan also tallied 22 kills to go along with four aces in the Huskers’ semifinal win over UCLA. With 44 kills in two matches and a kills-per-game average of 5.50, Pavan was named the NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player. Pavan also became the fourth Husker in school history to record 1,500 kills and finished second on the Nebraska single-season kills chart with 586. She has 1,510 kills for her career.
*-Nebraska’s Sarah Pavan finished with a double-double with 22 kills and 13 digs. Her 13 digs were a season-high and were just two shy of her career high.
*-Nebraska’s Amanda Gates recorded her first kill of the match early in game four. Gates, who first entered the match in game three, recorded her first kill since totaling one kill on one swing against Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Dec. 2.
*-Stanford’s Erin Waller finished the night with a career-high 18 kills. Waller’s previous career high had been 13 kills against UCLA on Nov. 11, 2006.
*-Stanford had a season-high five players with double-figure kills, led by Erin Waller’s career-high 18. The Cardinal’s previous season high was four players. Nebraska tied its season-high with four players tallying at least 10 kills, as the two teams combined to produce nine players in double-figure kills.