A jinx died here Sunday night. University of the Pacific, unsuccessful in five previous visits to the NCAA Division I Final Four, pounded its way to the women's volleyball national championship in a four-game victory over Stanford. The scores were 15-17, 15-7, 15-12, 15-13.
In addition to losing, Stanford also inherited its own psychological burden for the future. Behind four-time All-American Kim Oden, Stanford has been to the Final Four four straight years. But the Cardinal has lost every time, including a "come-from-ahead" loss to UCLA last year.
In the consolation match for third place, which the NCAA has abolished starting next year, USC defeated UCLA, 15-7, 15-12, 8-15, 11-15, 15-3.
The Pacific-Stanford match was a dazzling show. UOP lead early in the first game, 4-1, fell behind, 8-14, and stormed back to take a 15-14 lead when Elaina Oden aced Teresa Smith. But Stanford tied it up on Barbara Fontana's kill off the block. The tremendous rally that led to Fontana's kill brought the NCAA championship record crowd of 7,876 to its feet for a thunderous and prolonged ovation.
The fourth, and ultimately final, game was pure deja vu --of the worst kind--for Stanford. In last year's fifth game against UCLA, Stanford led, 11-2, and let the championship slip away.
Sunday night, history repeated itself as Stanford built another 11-2 lead, then watched it disappear under a relentless assault generated by Pacific reserves Brooke Harrington and Mary Miller.
Pacific tied it at 11 on Harrington's tip but Stanford eventually regrouped to knot the score at 13-all. Pacific's two-time All-American, Julie Maginot, who had been given a breather by Harrington, came back in to put down two quick kills and give Pacific its first national title.