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Lions Sweep No. 6 Stanford; Advance to Sweet-16

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PALO ALTO, Calif. – The LMU volleyball team (24-8) swept #6 Stanford (23-7) on the road by scores of 28-26, 25-16, 25-23 on Friday night to advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Sarah Sponcil led the way for the Lions, collecting 15 kills on 27 swings with just three errors to hit .444. Sponcil added two aces, two block assists and 10 digs for a double-double.

With the victory, LMU advances to the San Diego regional, and will play #9 Kansas on December 11. LMU has now posted road sweeps at #6 Stanford, UCLA and San Diego - all three NCAA Tournament qualifiers.

The Lions hit .337 as a team, with Rachelle Suaava adding 13 kills while hitting .308, and Jamie Lea contributing 12 kills and hitting .375. Senior setter Hannah Tedrow set the attack to the solid percentage, dishing out 43 assists and adding six digs and two block assists. The Lions were impressive from the service area, posting seven aces, including the two from Sponcil and two more from Kristen Castellanos. Playing tough at the net, the Lions managed 7.5 blocks, led by four block assists from Amber Mirabello. 

LMU limited Stanford to just .212 hitting in the sweep. The sweep by a non-conference opponent at Maples Pavilion was the first over Stanford since Florida swept the Cardinal on September 6, 2003. Merete Lutz led the Stanford attack with 10 kills, while LMU did well in shutting down Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Hayley Hodson, limiting her to just seven kills and a .148 attack percentage.

LMU withstood a late rally from Stanford, holding on to earn the 28-26 victory in the first set. The two teams played to eight tie scores and four lead changes, with LMU controlling much of the middle of the set. LMU had forced Stanford into burning both of its timeouts by 16-11, but the Cardinal cut the deficit to three at 21-18. Things still looked to be under control for LMU even after a Lion timeout at 23-21, but Stanford continued to push forward, evening the tally at 23 on a kill from Brittany Howard. Stanford would go on to have three set-point chances, but LMU managed to escape the loss each step of the way, ultimately pushing the match even at 26-26 on a Sponcil kill. Castellanos followed with her second ace of the set before Suaava found the floor for the fourth time in the opener to hand LMU the crucial victory. Sponcil and Lea each had five kills in the first for LMU, while Sponcil added two block assists to help LMU to three team blocks.

Carrying momentum from set one, LMU kept the foot on the accelerator in the second, hitting a blistering .571 behind four kills from Suaava to take a 25-16 victory and a 2-0 lead in the match score. LMU's serving game proved effective in the second, as the Lions served up four aces, including a pair from Sponcil. After playing even to nine, LMU took control of the set, winning five of the next six points, including the final on a triple block, to take a 14-10 lead. The lead stretched to seven at 19-12 following a Kekai Whitford ace and a kill fromSara Kovac, and the Lions earned a set point chance at 24-15 on Sponcil's final ace of the set. Although the Cardinal erased that first opportunity, LMU closed the set one play later as setter Madi Bugg erred on an attack to hand LMU the set. LMU was tremendous in side-out opportunities, converting on the side out 87% of the time.

The Lions had to come from behind to record the sweep in the third set, trailing 16-11 following a Hodson kill. LMU managed to cut the deficit to two at 16-14 following a Lea block, but Stanford won the next two points to pull ahead by four once again at 18-14. LMU elected to call its final timeout at that point, and the break served its purpose. The Lions clawed back even at 20-20 on a kill from Suaava, and took its first lead of the third on one of Sponcil's seven kills in the set. Another Suaava kill made it 22-20 before Bush served up an ace to push to 23-20. The Cardinal hung around and made it a one-point set once more at 23-22, but Tedrow contributed her lone kill of the night to move to match point and Lea secured the sweep two plays later with a kill that sent LMU to the Sweet Sixteen.

The victory over Stanford was the first in program history, as LMU is now 1-3 all-time against the Cardinal. The match was the first against Stanford since being swept on November 30, 2000 in the NCAA Tournament.