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.