Cardinal Women's Volleyball Season Outlook
Aug. 26, 2002
Stanford, Calif. - After winning an unprecedented fifth national championship in 2001, the 2002 edition of the Stanford women's volleyball team, led by second-year head coach John Dunning, are up to the challenge of defending their national and conference title this year.
'We're not going to approach this season as an attempt to repeat,' said Dunning. 'We're going to try our hardest to take each season separately, however, we will try to use the chemistry and confidence which developed last year to start from a higher place this season. Everyone will want to beat us more than ever this year, that in itself will provide motivation to fight off all challenges.
'We graduated five very good players,' he continued. 'We return nine very good players from last year and we have five very good players coming in. If we stay healthy and work hard we will be very dangerous.'
Although the Cardinal lost five important seniors to graduation, four of six starters return from last year's national championship team. Nine letterwinners are back from the 2001 squad that made its 21st consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. Stanford is one of only four teams to have appeared in all 21 NCAA Championships.The 2001 season was a banner year for the Cardinal as they captured their fifth NCAA Championship by defeating then-No. 1 Long Beach State, 3-0, in San Diego, Calif. Outside hitter Logan Tom picked up every major Pac-10 and national award, including Player of the Year. Freshman sensation Ogonna Nnamani also received an array of accolades including conference, region and ASICS/Volleyball Magazine Freshman of the Year. Head coach John Dunning, in only his first year at the helm, picked up Pac-10 and National Coach of the Year honors on his way to becoming the first Division I volleyball coach to win a national championship in his first season at two different schools. Stanford also won its ninth conference title - its eighth outright.
The Cardinal will once again play one of the toughest schedules in the nation, playing at least 10 teams who played in the 2001 NCAA Tournament, including Florida, Arizona, Hawaii, Pepperdine, USC, UCLA and Pacific. Stanford will be competing in the prestigious NACWAA State Farm Classic to open the season as well as a trip to Gainesville, Florida for the Gators' SunTrust Invitational. A road trip to Hawaii is also on the schedule to play the Rainbow Wahines. The always strong Pac-10 schedule will dominate the Cardinal's fall and includes six matches against three top 15 teams (USC, Arizona and UCLA). The Cardinal will play at least 13 matches against teams that finished the 2001 season ranked in the top 25 (USA Today/AVCA Coaches poll).
'It's a very difficult schedule in part due to the Pac-10 being very strong again this year,' Dunning said,' and in part to the fact that we like to play highly ranked teams on the road in our non-conference schedule. We will play at Pacific, at Florida, at Hawaii and at Minnesota. Playing that kind of schedule on the road prepares you for NCAAs.'
Following is a position-by-position breakdown of the 2002 Stanford Cardinal women's volleyball team.
Outside HitterOnce again, Stanford will have excellent depth at the outside hitter position with seniors Logan Tom, Ashley Ivy, and Lindsey Yamasaki along with junior Sara Dukes, and sophomores Ogonna Nnamani and Jen Hucke.
The Cardinal return two All-Americans at this position - senior Logan Tom (Salt Lake City, UT) and Ogonna Nnamani (Normal, IL). This one-two combination should be one of the most potent in the country this season. Tom, 2001 National Player of the Year, will anchor the left side for Stanford, after returning from her summer stint with the U.S. National Team. The 6-1 outside hitter averaged a team-leading 5.09 kills, 3.49 digs and 0.54 service aces last season . The three-time first-team All-American selection and 2001 Pac-10 Player of the Year averaged 7.83 kills, 3.50 digs and 1.67 blocks during the Final Four on her way to being named tournament MVP. Tom also became only the fourth Stanford volleyball player to be honored as the Honda Award winner for volleyball.
'As we went through the 2001 season, Logan's effect on our team grew and grew to the point of a great Final Four performance,' noted Dunning. 'Having spent three months this summer with the U.S. National team will make her more experienced and a better player for 2002. She should have a great senior season.'
Sophomore Ogonna Nnamani is back for her second year after picking up numerous conference and national accolades in her first collegiate season. Nnamani, the 2001 ASICS/Volleyball Magazine National Freshman of the Year, averaged 3.89 kills per game and was tabbed conference freshman of the year as well. A 2001 NCAA Final Four all-tournament selection, Nnamani averaged 5.33 kills per game while hitting at a .371 clip in San Diego. The 6-1 outside hitter was a second-team All-American becoming the 18th Cardinal All-American in the history of the program.
'Ogonna is very dedicated team player,' Dunning said. 'Everything she does has to do with making the team better. The ways she will help us will no doubt increase this season. She is more than an All-American and more than a physically gifted athlete. She is just one of those players who should have a '+' after her name.'
Senior Ashley Ivy (Arlington, TX), who started on the right side for the Cardinal last year, returns for her final year on the Farm, after a break-out junior season. The 6-0 Texas native, was tabbed to the Final Four all-tournament team after averaging 1.00 service ace, 3.17 digs and 2.00 kills per game. For the 2001 season, Ivy averaged 2.10 kills, 0.41 service aces and 2.34 digs per game. Ivy's name also joined the record books when she fired off six service aces in a single match against Oregon State (11/3/01) to tie for fifth in the Cardinal annals. Her 46 service aces in 2001 ties her for fourth in a single season as well.
'Ashley had a season in 2001 in which she contributed to the team in many different ways including an outstanding performance in the Final Four,' Dunning said. 'She was one of our most improved players in the spring. If she can stay healthy, she'll play a major role in our success this year.'
Dukes saw action in 18 matches last season, averaging .90 kills, .97 digs and .50 blocks per game. The 6-1 hitter notched a season-high four kills against California (9/28/01) and seven digs against Arizona State (11/16/01). She also notched a season-high three blocks versus Oregon (10/4/01).
'Sara will play in two different positions this season - both opposite hitter and as a middle blocker,' noted Dunning. 'She also had a very good spring and improved in several areas. She will see more action this year than in 2001.'
Hucke saw limited action in 2001, playing in 15 matches for the Cardinal. The 6-1 hitter averaged 1.11 kills while hitting .286 in her freshman campaign. She tallied a career-high five kills against Arizona State (11/24/01) and five digs against Radford (9/1/01).
'Jen could also play two different positions,' he said. 'She is developing quickly as an outside hitter and played a new position in the spring - the libero. She's trained and improved for both positions in preparation for the fall.'
Lindsey Yamasaki (Oregon City, OR) returns to the squad after a three-year absence. A talented two-sport player, Yamasaki decided to play basketball only, after her freshman year on The Farm. With one year of eligibility remaining, she will compete with the volleyball team in 2002. She was a 1999 All-Pac-10 honorable mention as well as All-Pac-10 Freshman selection. She averaged 2.54 kills and 2.04 digs as a starter that year.
Middle BlockerAlthough the Cardinal lost senior middle blocker Tara Conrad to graduation, junior starting middle blocker Sara McGee (Davis, CA) returns to anchor the net for Stanford. Joining McGee will be junior Jenn Harvey (Denver, CO) and freshman Courtney Schultz (Pacific Palisades, CA).
McGee, a 6-3 middle who earned first-team All-Pacific Region and All-Pac-10 honors in 2001, led the league and was 10th nationally averaging 1.55 blocks per game. In addition, the California native, chipped in 2.14 kills per game while hitting at a team-high .366 clip. McGee was also outstanding in the classroom, as she was named a third-team Verizon District VIII All-Academic pick. McGee's 141 block assists during the 2001 season led the team while her 158 total blocks ranked second.
'The 2001 season was interesting for Sara,' Dunning noted. 'She had a slow start due to injury but the further we went into the season - the better she got. The spring was a continuation of her progress and we are expecting her to have a great season.'
Harvey, an imposing 6-5 middle, played in 23 matches last season, averaging 1.60 kills and 1.06 blocks per game. The Colorado native tallied a season-high nine kills at Washington State (9/20/01) and contributed season-high seven blocks at Washington (9/21/01). Against conference opponents, Harvey averaged 1.53 kills and 1.00 blocks per game.
'Jenn had a great spring as well,' Dunning said. 'She focused on her attacking and serving and improved in both. Those skills, along with the fact she's a very good blocker, give her an opportunity to help the team in a very big way.'
Schultz, a 6-1 freshman hailing from Southern California, was tabbed the L.A. Times Player of the Year in both 1999 and 2000 as well as the Daily News Player of the Year in '00. Schultz was a two-time CIF first-team pick and was honored as the Mission League MVP last season.
'Courtney is an explosive and aggressive attacker,' said Dunning. 'As a freshman, she could step right up to the college level of play.'
SetterWith the loss of senior setter Robin Lewis, the starting job for the Cardinal is up for grabs. Challenging for the position will be junior Anna Robinson (Tampa, FL) and freshman Katie Goldhahn (Lodi, CA).
Robinson, a 6-2 lefty, saw action in 16 matches in 2001, tallying 514 assists on the season (11.42 apg). In addition, Robinson contributed 1.40 digs per game. The junior set a career high with 56 assists at Oregon (11/2/01) and six kills at Virginia (8/31/01).
'Anna got great experience last year,' Dunning noted. 'When we were behind against Arizona and at UCLA, Anna came in and we won. She showed how she can compete. She had a good spring and showed improvement in all areas of her game.'
Goldhahn, a 5-11 setter, comes to Stanford with plenty of credentials and will provide stiff competition for the starting job. She played on the USA Youth National Team for three years (1998-'00) and the USA Junior National Team in 2001. She was tabbed a Junior National All-American this year and was named the Student Sport Fab 50 High School Player of the Year in 1997-98.
'Katie is an unusual freshman in the sense that she comes in with such a wealth of experience,' said Dunning. 'She has played for club teams that have won at the national level and has played with the U.S. Junior National team every summer. Her decision-making and composure should make her ready to handle the college game now.'
Defensive SpecialistWith the addition of the libero ('LEE-bah-ro') position in 2002, the role of the defensive specialist becomes increasingly important. The libero is a designated back-row player, intended to be used as a ball-control specialist. Sophomore Leahi Hall (Haiku, HI) and sophomore Jamie Brownell (Newport Beach, CA) will challenge for time on the court with the graduation of DS Emily Lawrence.
Hall, who got her feet wet with the Cardinal last year, played in six matches averaging 0.44 digs per game. She recorded her first collegiate service ace against California (10/26/01) and had a career-high three digs against Radford (9/1/01).
'Leahi is an extraordinarily hard worker who is dedicated to working to improve every day and finding ways to help the team,' Dunning said. 'I'm sure in some way, shape or form, her role will grow while she's here.'
Brownell, who rejoins the Stanford volleyball team after taking a year off, competed in 10 games in 2000, averaging 0.40 digs per game. She notched a career-high two digs at BYU (9/8/00) and two assists versus Drake (9/1/00).
'Jamie played with the team in the 2000 season and then decided to concentrate on school work,' Dunning said. 'As she watched her teammates in 2001, she missed volleyball. After working out in the spring, she decided she wanted to join the program again and we're happy she has.'