BERKELEY -- It's starting to appear Stanford has a Michigan problem when it comes to women's volleyball.
The unseeded Wolverines shocked the second-seeded Cardinal 3-1 on Saturday night to bounce Stanford out of the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.
While last year's second-round defeat at Maples Pavilion wasn't that surprising, what happened at Haas Pavilion in the Elite Eight was downright confounding.
The Wolverines (27-11) advanced to play Texas on Thursday in the Final Four in Louisville, Ky. Penn State and Oregon will meet in the other match.
Stanford (30-4) came undone at the most inopportune time. It passed poorly against a strong-serving team and never recovered in falling 20-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-20.
"It was a fight out there," said junior All-American Carly Wopat, who had 13 kills and six blocks. "It just got away from us. We haven't had a match like that until now. Kind of bad timing."
Stanford coach John Dunning knew it wouldn't be easy although the Wolverines were the only unseeded team playing in the Elite Eight. Michigan had five returners from last year's team that won 3-1 after also dropping the first set against Stanford.
"They're here. They're really good," he said. "One thing we know about Michigan is we have a little bit of history with them. We know they are fighters."
After having one of its best passing performances this season Friday night, the Cardinal came out flat against the Wolverines.
"Their confidence grew throughout the game," said freshman Inky Ajanaku, who added 11 kills and seven blocks. "We didn't put pressure on them."
The lack of pressure led to a game-high 23 kills for Lexi Erwin as four Michigan players scored in double figures in hitting. Setter Lexi Dannemiller added 59 assists.
"We don't have all these all-stars or all these big names in the media," junior middle blocker Jennifer Cross said. "We don't need our names in the news because no matter what teams throw at us 14 people are coming at them."
By the time Michigan built a 2-1 lead it seemed it was headed to Kentucky The Wolverines hit off the Stanford block to score point after point while never allowing the Cardinal to find a rhythm on offense or in blocking.
"This team really has come together in the past month and a half and been one of the best teams I've been part of," coach Mark Rosen said.
Michigan reached its first Final Four and denied Stanford its record 19th appearance.
The Cardinal won the first set but not without some tense moments after building a 17-11 lead. The Wolverines scored three consecutive points to make it 14-17. Then it became a tug-of-war with the Cardinal making a mini-run only to see Michigan respond.
Although they lost, the way the Wolverines reacted to being down seemed to calm them down and allowed them to play within Rosen's system.
"We knew they were tough," Dunning said. "And we knew they are going to do it through serving and passing. We needed to make them feel pressure and we didn't do that after game one.
"It looked like we went to off speed. We started to feel it a little bit."
The Cardinal just couldn't recover despite a season in which it had battled back often and played in five five-set matches.
After Michigan tied the score 1-1 in sets it kept employing the same system that Stanford couldn't solve. The Cardinal never made a serious challenge after that.
"It's just kind of hard to handle," Ajanaku said.
That pretty much summed up the way the Stanford players felt after walking off the court.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.