PITTSBURGH — When defending-champion Stanford plays Wisconsin on Saturday night for the NCAA volleyball title, one team in particular will know what it was like to take on both the finalists.
A little perspective on that, plus another Division I coaching change as we await the 8 p.m. Eastern final that will be shown on ESPN2.
Minnesota ended Stanford’s 37-match winning streak at Penn State in mid-September, lost twice to Wisconsin during the Big Ten season, and then lost to the Pac-12’s Stanford in Thursday’s second national semifinal.
“They (Wisconsin) have a pretty balanced offense,” Minnesota senior Alexis Hart offered. “Obviously Dana Rettke’s a really good hitter, but they have other hitters, so they’re just another great team from the Big Ten that has a good defense, as well.”
While Stanford is going for its ninth NCAA volleyball title, Wisconsin is hoping to win its first.
“Both teams have a lot of talent and lot of different skills,” Minnesota junior Stephanie Samedy said.
“I think it should be a good match.”
Stanford (29-4) beat Minnesota 25-19, 25-22, 25-22 here after losing to the Cardinal in four in their first meeting.
Thursday, Kathryn Plummer led Stanford with 26 kills, hitting .353, and she had an ace, five blocks, and nine digs.
“Kathryn, she’s a really great hitter and the others are crazy-good hitters, too. Overall, both teams are really good and are very varied in their offenses.”
Hart played club volleyball with Stanford’s Audriana Fitzmorris and Jenna Gray.
So who’s she rooting for?
“Maybe Stanford,” she said with a smile.
Wisconsin (27-6) advanced by knocking out top-seeded Baylor 25-27, 25-21, 25-17, 25-19 as Rettke had 19 kills, hit .484, and had three aces, two digs, and eight blocks, one solo.
The Badgers swept visiting Minnesota on October 13 and then beat the Gophers in four on November 14 in Minneapolis.
“They’re similar to Stanford,” Samedy said. “Just solid all around in all aspects, pins, middle, so I think it should be a good game.”
Samedy played for the USA in Italy with Fitzmorris and Stanford teammate Madeleine Gates and has played with Rettke, too.
So who’s she rooting for?
“I’m just watching volleyball,” Samedy said and laughed.
Coaching carousel: NC State has an opening for a head coach. The Raleigh, North Carolina, school announced on its website Friday that Linda Hampton-Keith will not be back for a fourth season.
Hampton-Keith was 67-56 in her time with the Wolfpack, 43-33 in the ACC.
There are now five openings at power-five schools, including Ole Miss and Auburn in the SEC and Rutgers and Ohio State in the Big Ten.
Worth pointing out that Nebraska also played the two teams in the championship four times in total. Both certainly deserve to be where they are!