OMAHA, Neb. - In the end, it's Penn State vs. Stanford for the women's volleyball national championship tonight.
So what else is new?
Despite being involved in nail-biting, five-set semifinals Thursday night, the defending champion Nittany Lions and last year's runner-up Cardinal prevailed to set up what almost seems to be an annual showdown for the national title.
Last year, Penn State topped Stanford in five sets. The Lions beat the Cardinal for the title in 1999, too, while the teams have split 10 matches since their first meeting in 1992
Stanford is in the title match for a record 14th time, and is looking for its seventh championship while trying to avoid losing in the final for the third year in a row.
Stanford (31-3) lost as the favorite last year and is the underdog this time against undefeated Penn State (37-0), which lost its first two sets of the year in its semifinal win over Nebraska on Thursday night.
"No one expects us to win, and that's a lot of pressure off us," Stanford star Foluke Akinradewo said yesterday.
Stanford also is the last team to defeat Penn State, winning a five-setter in September 2007.
The semifinals Thursday night drew a pro-Cornhusker, NCAA-record crowd of 17,430.
Penn State (37-0) withstood the challenge despite losing a set for the first time this season - ending its NCAA-record streak at 111 - but took over with a 7-1 run to close out the fifth set and won its NCAA-record 63d straight match.
"[Thursday] was a pretty amazing day for our program, as it was for the other three teams that are here," Stanford coach John Dunning said. "It might have been one of the biggest days in the history of our sport."