It was a very close and hard-fought match for both teams, but the tournament's top-seeded team came out of Saturday as the champions, defeating Nebraska in a five-set thriller.
Nebraska jumped out to an early lead in Saturday's NCAA Championship match, but Stanford roared back and held on to take Set 1, 28-26.
The Huskers defense started off great, and held down 2-time National Player of the Year Kathryn Plummer early, but she eventually started to roll in the middle of the set, powering Stanford to the lead and Set 1 win.
Mikaela Foecke started red hot for Nebraska, while Lexi Sun struggled in the opening frame.
Set 2 started much the same way the first set ended, back-and-forth.
But by the middle of the set, the Huskers started to inch in front, and held on to win the second set, 25-22.
Foecke was unstoppable through the first two sets, and despite Sun's struggles, the Huskers evened things up after two sets.
Unlike the first two sets, though, Set 3 wasn't very close. Stanford jumped out to a 7-2 lead and never looked back in the third frame, winning 25-16 to move within one set of the title.
Needing to win Set 4, Nebraska jumped out to a 5-0 lead and pushed it up to 9-1.
Stanford showed some fight in the middle of the set, but the Huskers held strong and won Set 4, 25-15.
It forced the first 5-set championship game since 2009.
Nebraska jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the fifth set, but Stanford quickly tied and took the lead and held on to win, 15-12.
Afterward, Mikaela Foecke, Lauren Stivrins and head coach John Cook talked about the match and the season. You can see those clips by clicking the links above.
Nebraska was playing for its sixth national title and second in a row, while Stanford, the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament, was going for its eighth.
Nebraska Post-Match Notes
The loss snapped Nebraska’s 13-match winning streak, as the Huskers (29-7) finished as the NCAA runner-up for the fourth time in school history (1986, 1989, 2005, 2018).
Nebraska fell to 5-4 all-time in the NCAA Final, including a 4-2 record under John Cook. The Huskers had been victorious in their last three NCAA Final appearances (2006, 2015, 2017) before Saturday’s loss.
The Huskers’ school-record postseason winning streak was snapped at 11 straight victories, as Nebraska suffered its first postseason loss since a 2016 NCAA Semifinal defeat to Texas.
Nebraska dropped to 113-32 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers’ 113 postseason victories and .779 winning percentage both rank second in NCAA history behind Stanford (125 wins, .801 winning percentage).
John Cook fell to 72-15 in the NCAA Tournament at Nebraska. Including his seven seasons at Wisconsin, Cook is 80-19 in his NCAA Tournament career.
Nebraska lost to the No. 1-ranked team for the first time since a 3-1 loss to top-ranked Texas in the 2013 NCAA Regional Final. The Huskers had won their last three matches against the No. 1 team, including postseason wins in two of the past three seasons (Washington in the 2015 Regional Final and Penn State in the 2017 NCAA Semifinal).
Nebraska defeated Stanford 25-15 in the fourth set, holding the Cardinal to its lowest-scoring set of the season.
Nebraska’s two seniors who were with the program each of the last four years – Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney – finished with a 21-2 record in their NCAA Tournament careers. Foecke and Maloney played in more postseason sets and matches and won more NCAA Tournament matches than other players in Husker history.
Foecke and Maloney finished with a 52-3 combined record in the months of November and December.
Foecke had a career-high 27 kills in the match on a career-high 71 swings. The 27 kills tied for the second-highest total by a player in a five-set NCAA Final. Foecke also had 11 digs, posting her fourth straight double-double.
In her three career NCAA Finals, Foecke totaled 66 kills on .301 hitting. She had at least 19 kills in all three of her NCAA Finals matches.
Foecke has 129 kills in her career in NCAA Semifinals/Finals matches. That total ties for third in NCAA history.
Foecke served up nine aces in her career in NCAA Semifinals/Finals matches. That total ranks in a tie for eighth in NCAA history.
In her overall NCAA Tournament career, Foecke totaled 309 kills and 26 aces. Her 282 postseason kills and 25 aces both rank second in Nebraska postseason history.
Foecke finished her outstanding career with 1,684 career kills. Foecke ranks third all-time at Nebraska in kills, including second in the rally-scoring era (since 2001).
Foecke also totaled 135 service aces in her career, the seventh-most in Nebraska history and the fourth-highest total in the rally-scoring era.
Foecke finished her senior season with 514 kills, tied for the eighth-highest total in Nebraska history and third during the rally-scoring era. Foecke joined Sarah Pavan (2006) and Kelsey Robinson (2013) as the only Huskers to have 500 kills in a season during the rally-scoring era (since 2001).
Foecke also had 46 services aces in 2018, the fifth-highest total by a Husker in the rally-scoring era.
Maloney finished with 86 digs in her career in NCAA Semifinals/Finals matches. That total ranks in a tie for fourth in NCAA history and is the most in the rally-scoring era.
Maloney finished her career with 229 digs in the NCAA Tournament digs to rank third on Nebraska’s postseason career digs list.
Maloney had 84 digs in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the fourth-highest total in Husker postseason history.
Maloney finished her career with 1,406 digs. That total ranks fifth all-time at Nebraska.
Maloney had 536 digs in her senior season, the fourth-highest total in Nebraska history. Maloney averaged 4.03 digs per set – the eighth-highest total in school history – to become the fifth Husker to average 4.0 digs per set in a season.
Lauren Stivrins hit .615 in the match. That ranks as second-highest total in NCAA Finals history (minimum 20 attempts) behind Pacific’s Elaina Oden, who hit .690 in the 1986 NCAA Final.
Stivrins hit .421 in 2018 to become the fifth Husker to hit over .400 in a season and the first since Brooke Delano in 2010. Stivrins’ .421 attack percentage was the third-highest mark in school history and ranked second during the rally-scoring era.
Jazz Sweet had 10 kills, her first match with double-figure kills since Oct. 24 at Ohio State.
Nicklin Hames had a career-high 62 assists against Stanford. She finished her freshman season with 1,395 assists, which ranks as Nebraska’s third-highest season total during the rally-scoring era.
Callie Schwarzenbach finished the season with 177 blocks, a Nebraska freshman record and the eighth-highest total by a Husker in the rally-scoring era.
Mikaela Foecke and Lauren Stivrins were both named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament team. Foecke made the team for the third time in her career.