Cardinal needed rallies in 2nd, 3rd games to win
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Ogonna Nnamani had 29 kills to lead Stanford to the NCAA women's volleyball championship with a 30-23, 30-27, 30-21 victory over Minnesota on Saturday at the Long Beach Arena.
The 11th-seeded Cardinal needed rallies in the second and third games to win. The victory marked the 15th consecutive win and sixth NCAA title for Stanford (30-6).
Nnamani, the national player of the year, was voted the tournament's most outstanding player after setting an NCAA record with 62 kills in the semifinal and final matches.
Danielle Scott of Long Beach State, the previous record holder, had 55 in 1991.
"Ogonna was spectacular," said Minnesota coach Mike Hebert, whose fourth-seeded team was making its first title game appearance. "She just wears you down. There are very few people who can attack the ball with the height that she can attack it and play such a smooth, even game in terms of demeanor."
Nnamani, a member of the United States' 2004 Olympic team that tied for fifth place in Athens, used that disappointing finish as motivation.
"Athens was an incredible experience and a very sad ending," Nnamani said. "I never forgot how that felt and I wanted to try to do whatever I possibly could not to lose again."
The win raised Stanford's record to 30-6 while the Golden Gophers fell to 33-5.
"Once in a while, you get rewarded by being the last team standing," Stanford coach John Dunning said. "We're just lucky that it's us."
Freshman setter Bryn Kehoe added 48 assists for Stanford and Courtney Schultz made 14 digs.
Erin Martin and Trisha Bradford each had 13 kills for the fourth-seeded Golden Gophers (33-5), playing in their first NCAA final.
Minnesota's Paula Gentil, the NCAA single-season record holder with 924 digs, left the match in the third game. Hebert said she injured her neck diving for a ball.
The Golden Gophers held a 27-25 lead before the Cardinal scored five consecutive points to take the second game. Nnamani scored three points on two kills and a block.
In the third game, the teams were tied at 18 when Nnamani made three kills and Kehoe scored a service ace to put Stanford ahead 22-18. Martin's kill narrowed the margin to 22-19, but Minnesota committed four successive attacking errors and the Cardinal built a 26-19 lead.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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