Since that long-ago night in August, when Stanford lost to Brigham Young, the Cardinal has been perfect. But a school-record streak of 30 consecutive victories wasn't enough to make Stanford coach Kevin Hambly forget that 3-2 defeat in Provo, Utah.
"We had a tough loss to them,'' Hambly said, before the teams met again in Thursday's NCAA semifinals. "I think we're looking forward to trying to make that right.''
The Cardinal did so emphatically, opening the NCAA Final Four with a 25-15, 25-15, 25-18 sweep of the Cougars at Target Center. Top-seeded Stanford subdued No. 4 seed BYU with 17 blocks, putting the brakes on the country's best-hitting offense. BYU entered the match with a .315 hitting percentage, while Stanford averaged an NCAA-best 3.39 blocks per set.
The Cardinal (33-1) held the upper hand throughout, limiting BYU to a hitting percentage of minus-.026 on 29 kills and 32 attack errors. BYU (31-2) hit minus-.132 in the first set and never got on track. Stanford hit .281 for the match, with 34 kills and only seven attack errors.
Stanford's Tami Alade led the Cardinal with 14 blocks, and Kathryn Plummer contributed 12 kills. The Cardinal advanced to the title match for the 16th time; a victory in Saturday's title match would give it an eighth national championship, breaking a tie with Penn State for the most ever.
"I've been waiting for this game all year,'' Alade said. "It was a nice redemption tour.''
BYU struggled with its passing and serving throughout the match, and it recorded its lowest hitting percentage this season.
"There were no surprises tonight,'' Cougars coach Heather Olmstead said. "We weren't serving tough enough for us to get any touches, get some blocks. As soon as our passing broke down in set one, it was super hard for us to generate any offense.''
U coach cheered loudly
Gophers coach Hugh McCutcheon wasn't where he wanted to be Thursday: sitting in a seat at the court's edge, coaching his team in the Final Four. But even though the Gophers were defeated last week by Oregon, knocking them out of the tournament, the coach received one of the evening's loudest cheers.
McCutcheon, who was inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame last month, was honored by the Hall in a brief ceremony during the Illinois-Nebraska match. George Mulry, the Hall's executive director, and retired USA Volleyball executive Doug Beal were at Target Center to make the presentation. McCutcheon and his family got a standing ovation.
The coach missed the Hall of Fame induction ceremony to guide the Gophers to a victory over Purdue.
• Attendance was announced at 17,808. Target Center's capacity for the Final Four is 18,104.
• Olmstead, named national coach of the year Thursday, was trying to become the first woman to lead a team to the Division I women's volleyball title. The Cougars' loss means the streak of male mentors will continue, with Hambly facing Nebraska's John Cook in Saturday's championship match.