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Friday, December 15, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Volleyball | Stanford sweeps UW

Special to The Seattle Times

OMAHA, Neb. — There will be no repeat.

The Washington volleyball team, bidding for a second straight national title, was steamrolled Thursday night by Stanford in the NCAA semifinals. The Cardinal dominated throughout, winning 30-12, 30-25, 30-15.

"We didn't do the things we are capable of doing," said UW coach Jim McLaughlin. "It was a tough match."

Stanford began the match with four kills from middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo, who found holes in Washington's blocking schemes all night. The Huskies' passing and serve receive were uncharacteristically poor, allowing Stanford to close out the first game on a 15-2 run. Washington had only six kills in the first game while committing 10 errors.

"We were way below our standard," McLaughlin said. "Passing is the key to good volleyball. Stanford served tough, and we just weren't in a good rhythm passing. And when that happens, it's just tough to run our offense."

Game 2 was closer, but the Cardinal continued tough jump-serving, particularly All-American Cynthia Barboza. The Huskies committed five service errors in the second game. In last year's national-championship win against Nebraska, the Huskies had just one service error the entire match.

The wheels came off in Game 3 as Stanford grew more confident with each Washington mistake. For the match, the Huskies had 24 kills and 24 errors, a hitting percentage of zero. The Cardinal ended with 51 kills and only 12 errors. Akinradewo led the way with 15 kills.

"Foluke Akinradewo has the ability to dominate, and I think she did so tonight," said Stanford coach John Dunning.

While kills and blocks get much of the attention in volleyball, the team that consistently gets the ball cleanly to the setter usually wins. Freshman libero Tamari Miyashiro was stellar when digging Stanford attacks, but she and several teammates struggled mightily with Stanford's serves. Setter Courtney Thompson, usually a master at disguising whom she plans to set, was forced to telegraph her plays, allowing Stanford to set up for 13 blocks.

This was the final match for Thompson, a three-time first-team All-American and the most decorated volleyball player in UW history. As tears flowed after the crushing loss, Thompson gathered her teammates in the locker room. The senior captain reminded them that UW had been in the same position two years ago, when the Huskies lost to eventual champion Stanford in the NCAA semifinals.

"You guys remember this every day when you're in the weight room, every day in practice," Thompson told them. "And there's no reason — no reason — you shouldn't be back here next year."

Later, Thompson said: "This is an awesome program. We lost five players from last year's team, and we're still back in the Final Four, so I think this program is a lot bigger than one person."

Said McLaughlin: "Court, we recruited her, and she changed this program. At some point, I told Court she'd look back and these will be some of the greatest years of her life, considering what she accomplished.

"For me, it was a blast to coach her every day."

The match was played in Qwest Center, where an NCAA-record 17,013 fans cheered the Nebraska Cornhuskers to a 3-1 victory over UCLA in the first semifinal. Roughly 80 percent of the ticket holders stayed to watch the first two games of the Washington-Stanford match.

"As low as you feel after a loss like this, playing volleyball gives you the opportunity to have the high, too," Thompson said. "It sucks right now, of course, but the time we spent together is something we'll never forget."

Note

Robin Filamaua of Seattle served as one of two line judges for the UCLA-Nebraska match.

 

Stanford beat Washington 30-12, 30-25, 30-15 (UW highlights — Thompson, 21 assists, 8 digs; Miyashiro, 20 digs; Morrison, 6 kills, 9 digs; Swarbrick, 6 kills. Stanford highlights — Kehoe, 44 assists, 4 aces, 7 digs; Girard, 6 kills; Richards, 9 kills, 13 digs; Fishburn, 14 digs; Waller, 9 kills; Barboza, 3 aces, 10 kills; Akinradewo, 15 kills).

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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