along with his masterful ability to motivate and a sharp of

in Fotos 18.02.2019 03:51
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Three repeat visitors from last season -- Nebraska, Minnesota and Texas -- and one very, very familiar presence -- Stanford -- make up the volleyball final four this year. Heres a look at whos headed to Columbus, Ohio, and what well see this week from the best of the best.1. Stanford: Doing Stanford stuff againTheres no debate which school has had its hand prints on the NCAA tournament the most throughout the events history: Stanford is in the final four for the 20th time. The sixth-seeded Cardinal upset No. 3 Wisconsin on the Badgers home court in the Madison Regional final.Stanfords first final four was in 1982, the second year of the NCAA tournament, and the Cardinals first national championship was in 1992. But its been 12 years since the last of the Cardinals six NCAA titles. And in that time, Penn State passed Stanford for the most with seven, with six of them coming between 2007-2014.In the past decade, in fact, Stanford has dealt more with big disappointments in the NCAA tournament than big celebrations:Three consecutive NCAA final losses from 2006-08.One national semifinal loss.Two down-to-the wire fifth-set losses in the elite eight.Three losses in the second round, including last year to Loyola Marymount.The Cardinal were without 2014 first-team All-American Inky Ajanaku last year because of a knee injury, and despite still having a strong senior presence, fell short of repeating their 14 final four trip.This season, Ajanaku was back as the den mother to a team loaded with freshman talent.The Cardinal were the highest-seeded Pac-12 team in the NCAA field, despite not winning the league title. Yet it looked like another tough ending for Stanford when it fell into a two-set hole at UW Fieldhouse, where Wisconsin had lost just once (to Minnesota) all season. Somehow, though, when their backs were really up against the wall, the Cardinal just started playing freely. They climbed all the way back to stun the Badgers 15-9 in the fifth set, and in doing so, brought the West Coast back into the final four. Last year, all four teams were from the Central time zone for the first time, and the same would have been true this year if Wisconsin had won.Now, Ajanaku, who had 20 kills and 11 blocks against Wisconsin, gets her second trip to the final four with lots of help from youngsters like Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Kathryn Plummer.The Cardinal face Minnesota in the semifinals, a rematch of the teams early-season meeting at Stanford on Aug. 28. Stanford won that one 3-1.2. Minnesota: Gophers on the prowlNo. 2 seed Minnesota is the only final four team that has not won an NCAA title; this is the Gophers fifth time making it this far. The closest theyve come to the pinnacle was a 3-0 loss to Stanford in the 2004 final.But if you were going to pick a favorite just based on the four teams regional performances, it might well be the Gophers. They beat No. 15 seed Missouri, the SEC co-champion, 3-1. Then the Gophers faced No. 10 UCLA, which tied for second in the Pac-12 with Stanford.Minnesota started the first set slowly, trailing the Bruins 6-0, and then took off. They prevailed in a sweep and now have won 14 matches in a row, the longest current winning streak of any of the final four teams.The Gophers had five different players who had double-digit kills against Missouri, led by Big Ten Player of the Year Sarah Wilhite, and the attack was also pretty spread out against UCLA. With the Big Ten Setter of the Year, Samantha Seliger-Swenson, Minnesota is a really difficult team to defend because there are so many options.Last year, the Gophers won the Big Ten title and then fell in the national semifinals to Texas, 3-1. That was a growth experience for Minnesota under coach Hugh McCutcheon, who is in his fifth season in Minneapolis and has built up quite a powerhouse.I was extremely proud of our athletes for the way they responded to the different style of play we got to see from UCLA, McCutcheon said. A lot of defensive discipline on their part.For what its worth, the Gophers national semifinal opponent, Stanford, lost both of its Pac-12 matches this season to the Bruins, 3-1 at UCLA and 3-2 at Stanford. Those are the Cardinals only losses since mid-October.3. Texas: Longhorns here againThe bully of the Big 12, Texas finally got knocked of its conference perch for the first time since Nebraska left the league in 2011. Kansas won the league, with Texas second. A new sheriff in town?Well, not exactly. Nothing can take the league title from the Jayhawks, of course. But in the NCAA tournament, its the same old story: Fourth-seeded Texas is in the final four. The Longhorns advanced there for the fifth season in a row and for the eighth time in the past nine years. (Kansas went to the final four as well last year, but was upset in the second round this season by Creighton, the same team that Texas swept in the regional final.)The problem for Texas, though, has been finishing the job once it gets this far -- which perhaps isnt a fair way to look at it.Yes, Texas has just one title in recent years -- in 2012 -- to add to the one the Longhorns won way back in 1988. But this current streak of success means theyve reached the final four both in years where theyve been a truly great team and in years when they overachieved.Such was the case last year, in fact, when injuries left them a bit less talented -- but even more determined. Texas got to the 2015 NCAA final, but at that point was overpowered by Nebraska, 3-0.This season, they faced the Huskers in August on a neutral court in Eugene, Oregon, and were swept again. In Big 12 play, Texas fell to Kansas and to Iowa State.And the Longhorns almost stumbled in the regional semifinals, losing a 2-0 lead and facing two match points in the fifth set before a dramatic rally to beat BYU. That close call was followed up by the exact opposite kind of match: a 3-0 statement over Creighton.So if youre not sure exactly what well see from the Longhorns in Columbus, the truth is that they might not be sure, either. But these things are certain: They have an extremely experienced setter in senior Chloe Collins, and three hitters with great ability to put the ball down: Paulina Prieto Cerame, Ebony Nwanebu and Micaya White.This team has been up and down this entire year, Collins said. To go and achieve [the final four] is something special for us, because we know all the obstacles weve been through this whole season.4. Nebraska: Seeking a repeatThe Huskers saw their season flash before their eyes Friday afternoon, facing two match points against Penn State. But such is the nature of volleyball that momentum can turn on the proverbial dime -- and when it does, it can be breathtaking to behold.So close to elimination -- and the end of their dream of repeating as NCAA champions -- the Huskers scored four consecutive points to win the third set. With a new life, they didnt squander it: Nebraska beat Penn State in five sets, and then looked like a favorite to win it all after dominating Pac-12 champion Washington in the final.There are no doubts about Nebraskas strengths: experience and chemistry. Kadie and Amber Rolfzen are both playing at a high level, and fellow seniors Justine Wong-Orantes and Andie Malloy have also been key contributors. Briana Holman, a transfer from LSU, has helped solidify Nebraskas block, and pulling it all together is setter Kelly Hunter.The pressure on the Huskers last year to win the title in Omaha, Nebraska, was extreme, and accomplishing that no doubt helped steel them for their tougher moments this year.However, there werent a lot of those. The Huskers let a 2-0 lead get away at Minnesota in late November and found themselves in a five-set match they lost to the Gophers. They fell short in that test but didnt in their five-setter Friday with Penn State.The Huskers and Longhorns have a very long history -- the Big Red leads the series 32-21 -- and theyve maintained their rivalry even after Nebraska leaving the Big 12.They are two programs -- and two coaches in Nebraskas John Cook and Texas Jerritt Elliott -- that have carried the torch for collegiate volleyball for a long time. And the fact that they keep running into each other in big moments is a testament to both. 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Note: The Calgary Flames announced Tuesday that Sean Monahan would not be made available to Canadas World Junior team. COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The warning shot was delivered in person.It wasnt subtle, less of a tap on Alabamas shoulder and more of a punch right in the mouth.Ohio State announced not only that it was back as a legitimate powerhouse by knocking off Nick Sabans Crimson Tide on the first day of 2015 in the first College Football Playoff, it made it clear that it had every intention of becoming the No. 1 contender to dethrone the Saban dynasty and stake its claim as the nations preeminent powerhouse.And while dynasties obviously arent built on a single game, and the Crimson Tide responded immediately by winning the national championship again one year later, that Sugar Bowl still stands as a pivotal turning point in what has suddenly become a legitimate argument.In the span of a little more than four years, Urban Meyer has taken over a program that had a losing record in the season before he arrived and built the Buckeyes into a behemoth capable of standing toe to toe with the Crimson Tide -- and potentially elbowing them off the top of the mountain as the countrys top program.?Just look at before and after with Urban and what hes done, Todd McShay, ESPN Scouts Inc., director of college football scouting, said. If you look at the previous couple of years and what he inherited -- Ohio State has obviously been a big NFL pipeline traditionally -- but what kind of happened to the talent level in those previous couple years was very obvious.Lets put it this way, two years ago I thought there was a massive, massive gap between Alabamas roster and Ohio States. And now, I can honestly sit here and say I dont see any difference.Chances to measure them head to head are few and far between, of course. But the Buckeyes and Tide once again have positioned themselves for another chance to settle the debate in the College Football Playoff. The current polls have them at No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation nearing the midway point of the season, spots that have become familiar for both since Saban and Meyer got their programs up to speed and positions theyre every bit as likely to hold in the coming years.And it was obviously no secret to Meyer what he was chasing nationally when he took over the Buckeyes -- or as he prepared for the Crimson Tide in the 2014 playoff.Ive used Alabama [as a motivator], Meyer said in the buildup up to that game. Ive used any team at the top of the mountain, Ive used them.?Ive respectfully used them because they played very well.?Every year theyre in a championship hunt and Ive used them.I knew at some point, if youre going to reach for the top, that you have to go through the top. And the last several years Alabama has certainly been at the top of college football.The key for Meyer on Ohio States ascent has been his staggering success as a recruiter. His tireless work ethic and affinity for searching for talent has always been a significant part of his success, right along with his masterful ability to motivate and a sharp offensive mind.Taken individually, the Buckeyes haave become even more of a national brand under Meyer on the recruiting trail and appear to be even taking their approach to a higher level with a potentially historic 2017 class that is No.dddddddddddd 1 in the ESPN RecruitingNation rankings -- naturally one spot ahead of Alabama.He has pushed all the right buttons to get the best out of his team in the biggest moments, with his perfect 19-0 record in true road games particularly useful in showing his skills in getting his message across to the Buckeyes. When the roster is pared down for travel and the environment is hostile, Meyer comes up each week with a slogan or mission statement to rally his team, keeping things fresh by continually providing new challenges.And simply by bringing his power-spread offense to Ohio State, the program seemingly jumped light years ahead of where it was during a previous regime that was never accused of being overly innovative with the football.Combined with the resources provided by one of the countrys largest athletic departments, home-run coaching hires to fill out his staff and maybe even a little luck that the Big Ten was in the middle of a lull that may have helped him win an extra game or two when he arrived, Meyer has effectively provided the renovation on a historic powerhouse that simply needed a few upgrades.That Block O opens all the doors you need, co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said on signing day. National championship and all those things help, but the reality is that that Block O and the history -- what its done not just over a short period of time but a long period of time in my 14 years of recruiting, 20 years I say of being here -- you know, its always going to open the doors for you.And then the job that [Meyer] does and the way he motivates us and obviously the emphasis he puts on recruiting and him doing it himself, thats what really sells.And clearly the top prospects are buying it, which has provided the real indicator of Ohio States staying power.The truest test of it wasnt on Jan. 1, 2015. Its the way the Buckeyes have steamrollered through their first five games this season after losing a record-setting draft class -- one that included 12 overall selections with nine players leaving school early -- that strongly suggests they have reached that Alabama level of reloading instead of rebuilding.Being able to land the whatever-star prospects is one thing, but also its identifying players that fit what you do but also that you can develop, McShay said. Whatever their formula is, however they go about that, however Nick Saban goes about that or Urban Meyer goes about it -- they dont miss on a ton of guys they wind up recruiting and bring in. And then they develop them well.Thats a compliment to what Ohio State has done. They have come so far, so fast.And the Buckeyes no longer need to come from behind to tap on Alabamas shoulder. 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