Saturday, December 8, 2007

Women's Vball NCAA Elite 8 12/8/2007

Stanford 3 UCLA 1 (28-30, 30-28, 30-26, 30-27)This was game #50 for us. Not too shabby for a quarter! One game away from the Final 4, I was taking nothing for granted, especially after Cal's 3-0 dismantling of Nebraska. I was also not about to repeat yesterday's mistake of not going early to get the free student tickets. I got to the ticket office as it opened, and managed to persuade a couple of fellow seniors to come to the game. What better time to attend your first ever volleyball game than the last "home" game of the season?

It was unexpectedly, a rather pro Stanford crowd, but I was surprised that there were so few Bruins fans in attendance. Their band didn't show up either (maybe they were at the UCLA-Davidson basketball game). In any case, the atmosphere was great and I was excited. While I wasn't that impressed with UCLA the day before, I had this nagging feeling in my mind that we might come out flat after our great performance yesterday.

The first few points of the game assured me that we were the better team but then things started to fray in Game 1. Full credit to UCLA who played some tenacious defense and made our block look non-existent at times, but we just weren't on our A-game with service errors in Game 1, receiving errors in Games 3 and 4, mistimed sets and a lack of block for most of the match. Nonetheless we managed to gut out the victory and as people like to say, the true mark of a great team is one that manages to eke out the win when things aren't going their way. Bryn and Franci struggled early on but ultimately came through in the end. I wonder whether it was the emotion and pressure of knowing that this would be the last game they ever played in Maples.

There were many positives from the game. As Albert texted to me in Game 3, Alix played out of her mind. From the digs on defense, to the kills on offense which blended both power, finesse and her amazing court vision, it was extremely fitting that she got our match winning kill. What a performance!

video

Erin was amazing too. It seems that she always steps up her game come post-season play. Not to dismiss her solid play during the regular season, but she's like the Robert Horry of women's volleyball. Foluke was on fire as usual and it was a pretty sight whenever she and Bryn managed to connect. Cynthia was targeted incessantly by the UCLA servers and even though she struggled on her serve reception for stretches, she didn't let it affect her attacks. Franci who I thought had an extremely rough night, stepped up her blocking in the 4th and was a wall at the net. Cassidy was rock solid on serve reception. Finally, I liked Dunning's rotation adjustment coming out in the 3rd which gave us more front row balance with Franci struggling.

I'd like to go on, but finals week is upon me and the trip to Sacramento on Thursday + 6 finals and a paper does not leave me with that much spare time. All I will say is that USC is going to be a tough match up and we'll need to play some solid volleyball. It's definitely well within our capabilities and I'm ecstatic that after scheduling my classes/finals such that I'd have Thursday off, it was not all in vain. Now, we just have to win it all, one game at a time.
~ Zhihao

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