Gators, Cardinal to meet across a volleyball net this time

Kathryn Plummer was named Regional MVP after Stanford beat Wisconsin and Texas over the weekend. Photo by Mike Rasay/

The fourth-ranked Stanford women's volleyball team (30-3) continues its quest for a record eighth national title this week, traveling to Kansas City, Missouri for the Final Four. The tournament's No. 3 overall seed, the Cardinal will face No. 2 seed Florida (29-1) in the second national semifinal on Thursday at 6 p.m. on ESPN.

The Cardinal has advanced to its 21st national semifinal in program history - the most in the nation. Stanford is making its third appearance in the past four seasons, and back-to-back trips since going to three straight in 2006-08.

Morgan Hentz/Stanford Athletics
When it comes to Final Fours, usually you'd expect Florida and Stanford to meet in women's tennis. This fall, Florida has something special going on in volleyball.

The Gators defeated UCLA, 3-1, in the Gainesville regional semifinals and outlasted USC, 3-2, in the regional final to make it back to the national semifinals for the first time in 14 years.

Florida is riding a 15-match winning streak and is seeking its first national title. The Gators have reached one championship final, losing to USC in four sets in 2003.

"Florida is going to be a very physical, very good blocking team, a very good defensive team," Cardinal coach Kevin Hambly said. "From a match-up standpoint, there are not a lot of teams that can match us, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out and how the matches play out."

This marks Stanford's 37th consecutive NCAA postseason appearance. The Cardinal is one of only two programs in the nation, with Penn State, to have appeared in every NCAA Tournament since the NCAA Championship began in 1981.

Stanford has won more NCAA Tournament matches (119), made more Final Four appearances (21) and been in the national championship match (15) more times than any other program in the nation. Its seventh NCAA title also tied Penn State for the most by a Division I team.

Stanford defeated 11th-ranked Wisconsin in the regional semifinals, 3-1, before sweeping No. 6 seed Texas in the finals. Kathryn Plummer was named the Stanford Regional Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the all-tournament team by Jenna Gray and Morgan Hentz.

"We played players that went on to be Olympians and be named some of the best players in the history of NCAA volleyball," Florida coach Mary Wise said. "We see Kathryn Plummer as being that type of player."

Plummer hit .360 and tallied 5.86 kills, 2.00 digs and 1.00 blocks per set in the two matches. Gray dished out 13.14 assists per set as the Cardinal hit .368 as a team, while Hentz collected 4.71 digs per set.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford Athletics

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