St. James graduates and Stanford freshman Audriana Fitzmorris and Jenna Gray will play for an NCAA women’s volleyball championship on Saturday.
Gray recorded 49 assists and Fitzmorris had 10 kills in the Cardinal’s 26-24, 25-19, 22-25, 25-22 victory over Minnesota on Thursday night in Columbus, Ohio.
Truman graduate Alex Hart had 11 kills for Minnesota, which also has Aquinas graduate Regan Pittman on its roster. Hart’s kill total the most of any Gopher except for Big Ten Player of the Year Sarah Wilhite, who led the Gophers with 25 kills on 70 attempts.
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Fitzmorris and Gray are part of an impressive freshmen quartet for Stanforad that proved vital in leading the Cardinal (26-7) to its first national final since 2008.
"People have been talking about our freshmen all week, about whether they're going to play like freshmen or not," Stanford coach John Dunning said. "And what I say is, yeah, they played like freshmen. They're really good. They're poised for freshmen, and they can handle it and they're continuing to learn and handle it better."
Down 20-17 in the fourth set, Minnesota's Samantha Seliger-Swenson blocked Stanford's Ivana Vanjak to tie the set at 21. Ajanaku, then, ripped a kill down the middle on the next play to put Stanford ahead for good. At 24-22, Fitzmorris killed an overpass at the net to send the Gophers home.
Following a tight first set, the Cardinal defense took over. Plummer, Ajanaku and Fitzmorris assisted on eight blocks in the second set. Gray had three kills on four attempts for Stanford. Kelsey Humphries had eight of her 17 digs in the set.
"Stanford is a great blocking team," Wilhite said. "They played great out there. They played hard. I just think as hitters we really had to mix up our offense and our shots to kind of combat the tall block."
No. 4 Texas, which features Oak Park graduate Orie Agbaji on its roster, beat top-ranked Nebraska in three sets in the other semifinal. Agabji, the Big 12 preseason freshman of the year, did not play in the 25-18, 25-23, 25-21 victory.