OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) It would be difficult to find two schools with more differing pedigrees heading into a championship match than Penn State and Brigham Young.
Penn State earned a chance to repeat with a 25-16, 23-25, 25-22, 25-21 win over top-seeded Stanford on Thursday night. The Nittany Lions (35-3) will seek their seventh title, and their sixth in eight years, on Saturday.
BYU beat Texas 25-23, 25-16, 17-25, 26-24 in the early match Thursday to become just the third unseeded team to reach the finals since the first tournament in 1981. The Cougars (30-4) hadn’t been to the semifinals since 1993, and they advanced to the final for the first time.
BYU expected to beat Texas, even though the Longhorns were playing in the national semifinals for the sixth time in seven years.
”I don’t think it’s an upset,” BYU’s Alexa Gray said. ”Only the numbers in front of the names say it’s an upset. We know we’re a good team, so I think we have confidence that we can come in play our hardest. We think we can beat anybody here in the tournament.”
Penn State coach Russ Rose is impressed with BYU’s path to the final.
”To go back to back, beat Nebraska and then Texas – for sure, they have our attention,” he said.
In the late match, Megan Courtney had 23 kills, Micha Hancock had 55 set assists and Ali Frantti had 16 kills for the Nittany Lions.
Rose got the best of Stanford coach John Dunning again. He defeated Dunning in the national finals in 2007 and 2008.
”I would like to congratulate Penn State,” Dunning said. ”And I would like to say I’ve said that too many times. I’m actually tired of it. But no one should feel sorry for us.”
Brittany Howard had 13 kills, and Merete Lutz and Jordan Burgess each had 10 for Stanford (33-2).
Penn State rolled through the first set on Friday to win 25-16. The Nittany Lions hit .471 and had just one attack error. Stanford bounced back to win the second 25-23. Lutz had five kills with no errors in the set.
Penn State won the third set 25-22, as Courtney and Frantti both had five kills. Stanford led 11-7 early in the fourth set, but Penn State rallied to win its 19th consecutive match.
Now, the Nittany Lions will play BYU, which is on a 12-match winning streak.
Jennifer Hamson had 22 kills and Gray had 19 for BYU against the Longhorns. The Cougars won the first two sets against Texas, but the Longhorns won the third 25-17. With the score tied at 24 in the fourth set, Hamson delivered a hit that was called out at first. The call was quickly reversed because it was ruled that Texas touched the ball on the way out. The Texas bench was issued a yellow card for disagreeing with the call. After a Texas timeout, Hamson put the match away with a kill.
Wisconsin upset Texas in last year’s semifinals, and the Longhorns had said they were focused on avoiding another surprise result this year.
”I think they learned their lesson last year,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. ”I think it was a valuable lesson. But they gave a tremendous amount of respect to BYU.”