Third-seeded Stanford rallied from a 2-0 deficit but could not complete the comeback, falling to No. 2 Florida, 25-22, 25-21, 18-25, 18-25, 15-10, in the national semifinals of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championships at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Thursday night in front of a record crowd of 18,374.
The Gators (30-1) went on a 7-2 run in the pivotal fifth set to pull away and will play Nebraska (31-4) for the national title on Saturday night.
The Huskes beat Penn State (33-2) during the regular season and they did so again Thursday, 25-18, 23-25, 24-26, 28-26, 15-11, in an instant classic.
Nebraska is going for its fifth national title and its first since 2015. Florida has yet to win a national title and last appeared in the championship in 2003.
Stanford (30-4) has seven national titles and appeared in eight previous championships. The Cardinal was playing in its 21st Final Four. The Nittany Lions had won six titles between 2007-14 and seven overall.
In her final game as a Cardinal, the team's only senior Merete Lutz had one of her finest games. She recorded a match-high 19 kills on .447 hitting.
Kathryn Plummer added 16 kills, freshman Meghan McClure pitched in with 11 kills and 12 digs and Audriana Fitzmorris added eight kills to go with the lone solo block of the match. Morgan Hentz contributed 25 digs and Kate Formico added 12.
Florida was led by All-American Rhamat Alhassan with 17 kills on .517 hitting. Carli Snyder added 16.
Stanford (30-4) did not record a service ace and committed 11 service errors. Florida had six aces and 10 errors.
It all came down to a difference of 1 1/2 points (Florida outscored Stanford a total of 73-71 1/2).
Stanford was within 11-9 in the fifth set but it was all Florida afterward. The Cardinal hit a minus-.040 in the last set after hitting .307 through the first four.
Plummer gave Stanford an 8-7 edge in the first set before the Gators scored five straight points, three on Cardinal hitting errors.
Lutz brought the Cardinal within 20-18 with a kill and Fitzmorris made it 21-19 before Florida went to 24-20 and finished it at 25-22.
Stanford also fell behind, 14-10, before going on an 8-2 run in the second set. Lutz and freshman Meghan McClure each recorded a pair of kills in that stretch. The Gators regained the momentum and won the next six points to take control and go on to win, 25-21.
Plummer and Lutz combined for 11 kills in the third set as the Cardinal hit .452 to Florida's .179. The Gators hit .278 through the first two sets while Stanford hit .234. Fitzmorris and McClure each added three kills.
Stanford scored the first four points and never trailed in the fourth set.