Volleyball falls to Stanford in NCAA Regional, 3-1
AUSTIN, Texas -- The eighth-ranked Texas Volleyball team battled back from a 2-0 deficit to win game three, but No. 2 Stanford proved to be too much for the Longhorns, as it topped UT, 3-1 (30-28, 34-32, 31-33, 30-24), Saturday night in the NCAA Regional Final at Gregory Gym. Junior outside hitter Jen Christian came off the bench to lead Texas with 19 kills, while Ashley Engle, Destinee Hooker, Jennifer Todd and Lauren Paolini added double figure kill totals.
Texas (29-3) played Stanford (24-7) close in the first three games, dropping the first and second games by two points and winning the third frame by two.
Christian came on strong for the Horns in game three hammering out seven kills on 13 swings to lift UT to a 33-31 victory. Texas trailed early in the game, but a 4-0 rally highlighted by three freshman opposite hitter Engle kills erased a 16-13 Stanford lead and gave the Horns a 17-16 advantage. Christian helped extend the UT edge with three kills as part of a 4-1 Texas run that moved the Horns ahead, 21-18.
The Longhorns widened the lead to three on a Christian solo block at the 26-23 mark, however, the Cardinal fought back to knot the game at 29-29 on a service ace by Jessica Fishburn. Texas traded points with Stanford down the stretch until freshman outside hitter Hooker connected for a kill and junior setter Michelle Moriarty tallied an ace on consecutive points to lift UT to a game three victory.
In the first game Texas fell behind in the early going, as Stanford went on a 6-1 run to push its lead to 10-5. The Horns trailed all the way until a Hooker ace moved the tally to 21-21. Stanford and Texas battled back-and-forth down the stretch before the Horns claimed their first lead of the game at the 27-26 mark on a Christian kill. The Cardinal answered the point with three straight points, two of them on UT miscues to set up game point at 29-27. Senior middle blocker Todd pulled Texas within one at 29-28, but a Texas service error ended the game 30-28.
Texas leapt out to a 5-0 lead to start the second game, using two Paolini blocks and a pair of Engle kills to grab the early advantage. The Horns stretched their lead to six at the 8-2 mark when Todd connected for one of her three game-two kills. UT extended its lead to 15-5 behind a 7-2 run paced by kills from Christian, Hooker and Todd. The Cardinal answered the run with a 5-1 run capped by a Foluke Akinradewo kill.
The Horns pushed their lead back to eight on a Christian kill at the 19-11 mark , but Stanford quickly put together an 8-2 run to narrow the margin to 22-20. Stanford tied the game at 26-26 on an Akinradewo, Cynthia Barboza block assist and claimed its first lead of the game at 31-30. The teams then traded points until back-to-back kills by Barboza and Bryn Kehoe sealed the game 34-32 for the Cardinal.
In the final stanza Texas again claimed an early edge, claiming a 6-2 lead on an Engle kill and holding the lead until two Erin Waller kills and a Barboza block gave the Cardinal an 8-7 lead. Stanford held the lead from that point on, blowing the game open at the 17-16 mark and tallying four straight points to take a 21-16 lead. The Cardinal widened the gap to as many as seven, but Christian closed the margin to four with a kill at the 27-23 mark. Stanford responded with consecutive points and after committing an error on match point, Franci Girard put down her sixth kill of the night to clinch the match and a trip to the NCAA round of four in Omaha, Neb.
Christian came off the bench to lead the Horns with 19 kills on .308 hitting, while Engle tallied 18 kills and 16 digs in the loss. Hooker posted 16 kills and Todd and Paolini joined her in double digits with 13 and 10 kills apiece. Paolini added seven total blocks on the night and Moriarty posted 68 assists and 13 digs. Moriarty, Engle and Hooker were named to the NCAA All-Austin Regional team along with Akiradewo, Barboza, Kristin Richards and Cal's Morgan Beck.
Texas concludes the season with a 24-7 record, marking its first trip to the NCAA Regional finals since 1998.
NCAA All-Austin Regional Team
TEXAS POSTGAME QUOTES
On competing against Stanford: They're physical, and they're bigger than we've ever seen in terms of speed. Wisconsin was big but our serve receive was better against them than it was tonight. They made some good blocks, and we've been working on how to challenge high and make some different adjustments. We also have some young players out there who have learned so much while playing against such an experience team like Stanford. I thought overall, Jen Christian did a tremendous job for us on the left side. Destinee Hooker and Ashley Engle both had great night and learned a lot from this.
On the future of the Texas Volleyball program: The seniors came here believing in this program, and I told them that they left this program in the healthiest state it's been in since 1998. We have a wonderful core returning next year that's very dedicated and loyal to one another and the No. 2 recruiting class in the country coming in. That's exciting, and the expectations are at a higher level than ever before.
Michelle Moriarty, Setter
Jen Christian, Outside Hitter
STANFORD POSTGAME QUOTES
On Texas's returning talent and future: They're amazing. I hadn't ever seen Destinee play in person before. It's pretty fun to watch. I think she might get better too as she's got room to improve. I think the team they have here is a young team as well, and who knows how good they're going to be. With Brandy here and a good recruiting class coming in, they're going to be a great team for a while.