Most Thrilling Five Set Women's NCAA Volleyball Championship Matches

Thrilling Five-Set National Championships
The high point of every NCAA Division I collegiate volleyball season is the national championship. Two teams meet at the end of a long journey with their hearts set on the same goal, earning the title of champion.

As fans, we all want a match for the record books, a battle of grit between two determined teams striving for the title. The most memorable championships are ones that aren't easily won and have to go to five sets for a winner to be crowned.

Throughout the history of NCAA volleyball, there have been some unforgettable matchups. Let's take a trip down memory lane, reliving the most thrilling five-set national championships matches, in chronological order.

1981 University of Southern California vs. UCLA

USC wins: 9-15, 15-7, 10-15, 15-13, 15-7

In the first-ever NCAA-sponsored women's volleyball national championship, USC and UCLA went to five sets, adding more fuel to the fire of one of the most heated college rivalries. The two LA-based teams traded sets, with USC coming out on top in the fifth and becoming the first NCAA champion in history.

Key Players
USC: Dana Smith, Cathy Stukel
UCLA: Patty Orozco, Linda Robertson, Jeanne Beauprey


1984 UCLA vs. Stanford

UCLA wins: 15-12, 7-15, 15-10, 9-15, 15-13

In 1984, with UCLA hosting, Stanford held an 11-2 lead over the Bruins in the fifth set of the national championship match. UCLA managed to channel home court advantage to mount one of the most epic comebacks of all time, chipping away at the deficit to take the title 15-13.

Key Players
UCLA: Michelle Boyette, Merja Connolly, Liz Masakayan
Stanford: Bobbi Broer, Susan Compton, Kim Oden


1991 UCLA vs. Long Beach State

UCLA wins: 12-15, 13-15, 15-12, 15-6, 15-11

UCLA entered the match as the defending national champions, but it was Long Beach State who took the first two sets. UCLA battled to win next three sets and earn the school's first back-to-back title.

Key Players
UCLA: Natalie Williams, Elaine Youngs
Long Beach State: Antoinette White, Sabrina Hernandez, Danielle Scott, Christine Romero


1997 Penn State vs. Stanford

Stanford wins: 15-10, 15-6, 2-15, 15-17, 15-9

Stanford won the first two sets, and Penn State won the next two. Stanford won in five after losing to Penn State twice earlier that year, The Cardinal's only losses in 1997 came at the hands of the Nittany Lions. With this victory, Stanford's senior class became the first class ever to win three titles in four seasons.

Key Players
Penn State: Terri Zemaitis, Carrie Schonveld, Lauren Cacciamani
Stanford: Kristin Folkl, Paula McNamee, Lisa Sharpley


1998 Penn State vs. Long Beach State

Long Beach State wins: 15-3, 15-10, 13-15, 14-16, 15-12

1998 was the first year the NCAA tournament was made up of 64 teams. In previous seasons, only eight teams made the national tournament. The stakes were made even higher for this championship match as both teams entered the finals undefeated. After a hard-fought battle, Long Beach State came out on top and became the first team in NCAA volleyball history to finish a season undefeated.

Key Players
Long Beach State: Misty May, Banish Dillard, Veronica Walls, Jessica Alvarado.
Penn State: Lauren Cacciamani, Bonnie Bremner.


2009 Penn State vs. Texas

PSU wins: 22-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-21, 15-13

This is the only rally-scoring era match on this list. Penn State entered the match with a 101 match win streak at stake and lost the first two sets. They kept the streak alive, however, winning 15-13 in the fifth. With the victory, Penn State became the first team in Division I women's college volleyball to win three straight titles. This match set a new record of television views with an estimated 1,999,200 watching on ESPN2. The Penn State senior class graduated holding the best winning percentage in NCAA Division I volleyball (142-5/.966).

Key Players
Destinee Hooker, Ashley Engle, Juliann Faucette
Penn State: Alisha Glass, Megan Hodge, Arielle Wilson


Have you seen the trailer for "The Program: Penn State?" Check it out here.


EIVA Notebook: Schoenfeld Leads Harvard Back From Extended Break

College basketball has hurtled into the postseason and March is officially mad, but in men’s college volleyball, regular-season action chugs along.

Q&A With Power Volley Milano's Taylor Averill

Former University of Hawaii middle blocker Taylor Averill is having a pretty solid year. He made the playoffs of Italy’s Serie A at the conclusion of the 2017-18 professional season with his Power Volley Milano team and then hit the road with the U.S. Men’s National Team for Volleyball Nations League and World Championships. 

EIVA Notebook: Gimeno Shines In Moral Victories For NJIT

With just over a month to go before the conference playoffs and a month and a half from the NCAA Tournament, men’s college volleyball is heating up. 

Krystal Rivers Is On The Rise With Allianz MTV Stuttgart

Krystal Rivers, a 24-year-old American opposite from Birmingham, Alabama, posted 29 points in Allianz MTV Stuttgart’s final Champions League pool play match, a 3-1 defeat of Martiza Plovdiv. No other player on the court at the Kolodruma Sport Hall in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, even came close to matching her tally of 21 kills and eight blocks.

Inside Samantha Middleborn's Extraordinary Journey To Chieri Glory

Here’s the short version of Samantha Middleborn’s extraordinary story.

CEV Women's Quarterfinal Preview

The field has narrowed once again in the race for the 2019 CEV Women’s Champions League title.

EIVA Notebook: Princeton Falls To Red Hot St. Francis

Just when you think you’d gotten a good grasp of the teams and talent in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, a couple of major shakeups go down.

Catching Up With Former Penn State Star Jalen Penrose

USA Volleyball recently released its updated list of international transfers. The American governing body processed a record 440 transfers as of Feb. 1, granting U.S. athletes permission to compete in overseas leagues.

Q&A With Brescia's Haleigh Washington

Almost exactly two months after the conclusion of her college volleyball career, Penn State All-American middle blocker Haleigh Washington crossed the Atlantic to begin her first professional season with Italian A2 team Olimpia Teodora Ravenna. 

Malina Terrell's Pro Volleyball Career: A Travel Log

On a trip to Slovenia in 2011, Malina Terrell decided she would someday be a professional volleyball player.