Sports

Fifth-year senior Mikaela Ruef's surprising rise helps lead Stanford back to Final Four

  • Stanford forward Mikaela Ruef (3) celebrates with guard Lili Thompson (1) and forward Bonnie Samuelson (41) during the second half of a regional final against North Carolina at the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Stanford, Calif., Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Stanford won 74-65. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

    Stanford forward Mikaela Ruef (3) celebrates with guard Lili Thompson (1) and forward Bonnie Samuelson (41) during the second half of a regional final against North Carolina at the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Stanford, Calif., Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Stanford won 74-65. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)  (The Associated Press)

  • Stanford forward Erica McCall (24), guard Lili Thompson (1), forward Chiney Ogwumike (13), guard Karlie Samuelson (44) and forward Mikaela Ruef (3) celebrate after Stanford defeated North Carolina in a regional final at the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Stanford, Calif., Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Stanford won 74-65. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

    Stanford forward Erica McCall (24), guard Lili Thompson (1), forward Chiney Ogwumike (13), guard Karlie Samuelson (44) and forward Mikaela Ruef (3) celebrate after Stanford defeated North Carolina in a regional final at the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Stanford, Calif., Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Stanford won 74-65. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)  (The Associated Press)

Mikaela Ruef found herself an engineering job on campus last spring and started sporting a hard hat and safety glasses to pay for her final two quarters at Stanford, knowing she no longer had a basketball scholarship as a fifth-year senior.

The approximate price tag: $40,000.

Injuries to a pair of teammates opened up one the program's 15 scholarships to Ruef after all, and she has gone from the end of the bench as a freshman to unlikely Stanford Regional MVP on Tuesday night to lead the Cardinal back to the Final Four.

Ruef's rise to NCAA star has been an impressive one, especially considering there were questions about whether she'd return. Stanford (33-3) looks to snap Connecticut's 44-game winning streak in the national semifinals Sunday.