Sunday, December 16, 2007

Women's Vball NCAA Championship Game 12/15/2007

Stanford 2 Penn State 3 (25-30, 26-30, 30-23, 30-19, 8-15) With my long week of finals finally ending early Saturday morning (with a paper), all that was left was volleyball. We were kicked out of the dorms for break and so I had to pack all the stuff that I would lug around during my travels. Needless to say, there was a lot of red. I traveled separately from Albert and Alex today due to car space constraints (maybe that's why we lost) and arrived in Sacramento early. I ended up going to a sports bar to kill some time and saw a couple of Nebraska fans enjoying their basketball victory over Oregon.

When we arrived at Arco, I was pleased to see lots of cardinal. Seeing as I only had uppers, I asked a scalper the going rate for a lower ticket. It was $40 - substantially more than the $15 that someone had received for his ticket on Thursday. I declined. I guess there's a reason why scalpers are in business. As we entered Arco, there was a line to get autographs from some of the AVCA All Americans who had shown up. Since we had time to kill, we figured why not. When they were later introduced during the break between games 2 and 3, Nebraska's players received some of the loudest cheers. Oh those Nebraskan fans!

As the clock ticked down to the first serve, it struck me. This was it. The whole season came down to 1 game. Coming into the game, I felt that Penn State had the edge. They hadn't dropped a single game in the tournament and looked spectacular against Cal. But at the same time, we'd shown that we were tough as nails, and wouldn't back down from a fight. The match that ensued captured just that.

While the first game was sloppy with lots of nerve induced service errors, we seemed tighter and let Penn State pull away. In Game 2, Penn State seemed unstoppable. Their defense was breathtakingly amazing and the variety of offensive weapons they had made our block redundant. It wasn't that we were playing badly. They were just at a whole other level.

Even though things looked bleak, I wasn't about to concede defeat, not with these girls on the floor. I knew that there was no way that any of them would give up, especially Bryn. At the same time, I felt that Penn State was the better team and if they didn't let up, we might not be able to beat them. Thankfully, they stepped down their level of play and we went on some nice runs. Bryn targeted their libero who had lots of difficult handling her serve. We'll miss her next year. The Stanford fans really started getting into the game and Bryn's setting was impeccable. She was setting it in all the right spots and our hitters were mowing down kills. The momentum carried over to the 4th where Franci played incredibly. Tonight was definitely one of her finest games. Our defense also got it together and confidence was high.

Going into Game 5, we had all the momentum. But as has been the case many a time in volleyball, it can turn at the drop of a hat. We played by far one of our worst offensive games in Game 5. Penn State's defense was good but we just ran out of gas. Even down 7-11, I still dared to dream that Bryn's serve which had been troubling them all night, would help us go on a run. We had the Penn State overpass but Alix was stymied as she tried to put it away and Cynthia's kill sailed a fraction long. In my mind, that was the ball game.

Wow, it's been a great journey. After last season's runners-up finishing and a great incoming class, expectations were high. We met them all and showed true grit and determination in many a game. I'm really happy that we didn't fold after being in a 0-2 hole. That would have been disappointing and totally out of character of this team. While it might sting slightly more that we came so close, the girls can be proud that they gave it their all. Penn State was definitely a formidable and worthy opponent. Full credit to them. They are going to be scary next year.

And so it ends. It was not quite the ending that we had hoped for. But you can't win them and all. All you can ask is that you give it your all. We did and the girls should hold their heads up high. Thank you fellow seniors for your contributions, and thank you women's volleyball team for a stupendous season.
~ Zhihao

No comments: