Stanford ends Volleyball's season in Sweet 16
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The No. 10 Texas volleyball team's remarkable 2004 season came to an end on Friday evening and it took a remarkable player to stop the Longhorns' dream season. Stanford's national player of the year candidate and 2004 U.S. Olympian, Ogonna Nnamani, recorded 28 kills to propel the Cardinal to the Elite Eight with a 3-0 (30-28, 30-26, 30-27) victory over Texas at the Resch Center.
The Longhorns' dynamic seniors - Mira Topic (Kastela Kambelovac, Croatia) and Bethany Howden (Austin, Texas) - combined for 35 kills, but their storied careers came to an end as Texas (26-5) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1998.
Topic recorded a double-double in the match, also adding 12 digs, while Howden added three blocks and a .448 attack percentage in the loss. Sophomore Dariam Acevedo (Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico) added 10 kills and freshman Alyson Jennings (Costa Mesa, Calif.) had 14 digs.
For Stanford (27-6), Kristen Richards backed up Nnamani's efforts with 14 kills of her own and a .452 attack percentage from the outside and also had a match-high 17 digs.
"I'm really proud of our team," Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott said. "They fought really hard and had a tremendous season. We made a huge turnaround and to only have two seniors and then freshmen and sophomores, I thought this was valuable experience to advance this far, and I thought we were in the match the whole time.
"Ball control-wise, and offensively, I really liked our rhythm, but we weren't big enough in the rally scoring game to contain Ogonna and Kristen. They both played phenomenally. And we couldn't score points in transition, which really hurt us."
"Ogonna showed why she's a candidate for National Player of the Year. What's you've seen tonight is one of the most gifted athletes that our sport has seen in quite some time," the Big 12 and AVCA Central Region Coach of the Year said.
"I'm excited about our team and our players and the direction we think we're headed and where this program is," Elliott concluded.
While Texas and Stanford both swung for 56 kills each, the difference came in attack efficiency, where Stanford hit .333 and Texas connected for a .205 mark. Both teams had 55 assists, and Stanford narrowly led UT in both digs (58-55) and blocks (8.0 to 7.0), while Texas had four aces to the Cardinals' zero.
Texas and Stanford played evenly in the first game until 7-7 when the Cardinal used a 5-0 run to jump out for good. While the Longhorns collected 25 kills in the game, they also committed 10 errors to allow Stanford to maintain control of the stanza. Topic collected nine kills in the game.
In the second game, UT went out ahead by as many as three points, but at 15-13 Texas, Stanford used a 3-0 run, capitalizing on two UT errors, to pull ahead. Texas came back to tie it at 16-16 with a Topic swing, but then Stanford moved ahead with another mini 3-1 run to go ahead. The Longhorns pulled no closer than one point - at 25-24 Stanford - as the Cardinal went to Nnamani for three kills in the closing points and went into the intermission with a 2-0 lead.
In what turned out to be the final game, Stanford pulled out to a 5-1 lead quickly, using four UT errors, but then Texas mounted an 8-2 run to take the lead at 9-7 and then built it to four points, at 13-9. However, Stanford mustered a 4-0 rally and tied the match at 13-13 with three-straight Nnamani kills. At 15-15, Texas scored three straight points, book-ended by a pair of Howden kills, but again Stanford came back with a 4-0 run to tie the game at 18-18 and the two teams continued to battle back and fourth. At 26-26, Richards connected for a kill and then Stanford got a crucial two-point lead when UT had an attack error. The Horns got within one point with another Topic kill, but yet another Richards kill and then a game-ending UT error closed the match and ended Texas' season.
Nnamani's 28 kills were the most Texas surrendered to an individual player this season and Stanford was just the third team to hit above .250 against the Horns this year.
Texas, which earned its first top-10 national ranking since 1999 this year, saw the careers of two of it's best-ever players end on Friday night. Topic ended her four-year run in burnt orange and white as the Texas career kills leader (2,116), the career aces leader (185) and in fourth place on the career digs list with 1,267. Howden finished third on the Longhorns' career kills list (1,802) and in eighth place on the career block assists list (319).