Top-Five Test: No. 2 Cardinal Hosts No. 4 USC and No. 5 UCLA

Sept. 25, 2007

Stanford, Calif. -

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THIS WEEK: Stanford will look to defend its pristine record this week against two of the nation's top women's volleyball squads. The No. 2 Cardinal begins the weekend against No. 4 USC Thursday night. Just 24 hours later, on Friday night, the Cardinal will meet No. 5 UCLA. Both matches are set for 7 p.m. in Maples Pavilion.

CATCH THE CARDINAL: Stanford will be playing two of its six regular-season televised games this weekend. Thursday's contest with USC will be broadcast by Fox Sports Net on a tape-delayed basis. The match will air first in the Bay Area on Saturday night at 7 p.m. (PT). Friday night's match with UCLA will be televised by CSTV, also on tape delay, and will air Sunday at 5 p.m. (PT). Fans can also catch the match live on KZSU radio (90.1 FM) or online at kzsulive.stanford.edu.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MAPLES: Fans can purchase tickets to support the Cardinal in this week's matches at the door, online at www.gostanford.com or by calling 1-800-STANFORD. Thursday night is IVL night, with 2-for-1 general admission for all IVL members and free pom poms for the first 1,000 fans. Friday marks the annual Dig for the Cure night, during which the team will be raising money to support the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Sponsors will have the opportunity to pledge money per dig earned at the match, and can also make a flat donation.

LAST TIME OUT: Stanford opened the Pac-10 season with a bang, taking out the rival California Golden Bears on their home court, 27-30, 30-26, 32-30, 30-25. After dropping game one, the Cardinal roared back and earned its 12th-straight win, 3-1. Freshman Alix Klineman led the Cardinal with a career-high 22 kills in the four games.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Cardinal hits the road again, Oct. 4-5, heading north to Oregon for another pair of Pac-10 contests. On Oct. 4, the Cardinal will battle the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis, before taking on the No. 21 Oregon Ducks in Eugene on Oct. 5.

SHOTGUN START: With an 12-0 opening record, Stanford has posted its best start in more than a decade. The Cardinal wrapped up the preseason undefeated on Sept. 15, a feat the program hasn't accomplished since 1994. That 1994 squad eventually went 32-1 and captured Stanford's second NCAA title.

TOUGHEST ROAD IN THE NATION: Stanford is one of only six top-25 teams that remain undefeated, and has accomplished that while playing the toughest schedule in the country. Seven of Stanford's wins are over current top-25 teams. No other ranked team has faced as many ranked opponents, much less beaten that many. Nebraska is close, having topped six ranked teams, but three of the other undefeated squads - Washington, Florida and Dayton - have played no more than one ranked opponent. USC, the other undefeated top-25 team, has played just two currently ranked opponents. Eleven teams on Stanford's schedule appeared in the preseason top-25, and 13 participated in the NCAA Championship last season.

ALL-AMERICAN TRIO: Stanford's three All-Americans - Cynthia Barboza, Bryn Kehoe and Foluke Akinradewo - have, not surprisingly, been the primary leaders for the Cardinal this season and have stepped up with their best perforamces when it counted. Barboza and Kehoe both have seven double-doubles this year, and have posted their best numbers against then-No. 9 BYU and No. 3 Penn State. Akinradewo is leading the team with a .478 hitting percentage and has hit above .400 in eight matches, five of which were against ranked opponents.

SETTING THE RECORD, LITERALLY: Senior setter Bryn Kehoe continues to inch closer and closer to the program's career assist record. The North Bend, Ohio native started the season fourth on the list, passed Lisa Sharpley (1994-97) for third place on Aug. 31 and Carrie Feldman (1989-92) for second on Sept. 7. The two-time All-American began her final collegiate season with 4,214 to her name. So far she has 531 in 2007, and stands just 258 shy of becoming the all-time record-holder. Wendy Rush, who collected 5,003 assists between 1984 and 1987, holds the record Kehoe is chasing.

HARD TO HANDLE: Foluke Akinradewo is one of the hardest hitters in the nation for opponents to handle, as the junior middle blocker records a kill nearly half of the times she touches the ball (.478). She has hit above .400 in eight of the Cardinal's 12 matches, with her season-high (.706) being 13 kills on 17 attempts with just one error on Sept. 2 against Ohio. Akinradewo set a school record last year, with a .431 season hitting percentage. She is currently hitting at a .423 clip for her career, a mark more than 50 points higher than Sara McGee and Jennifer Detmer, who hold the Stanford career hitting percentage record (.364). Akinradewo is currently third on the team with 3.95 kills per game and leads the team with 50 total blocks.

SUDDEN IMPACT: Stanford's freshmen didn't make their first appearances in a Stanford classroom until this week, but a few of them have already made a huge impact on the Stanford volleyball court. Not only have two freshmen earned places in the starting lineup, but both have emerged as the team's leader in their respective specialties. Alix Klineman has posted double-figure kills in eight matches, has been named the Pac-10 Player of the Week and leads the team with 4.27 kpg. Gabi Ailes, Stanford's libero, has recorded double-digit digs in the last 11 matches and currently leads the team with 4.15 dpg.

HOW SHE COMPARES: Stanford freshman Alix Klineman has been compared to some of Stanford's greatest newcomers in program history. After her first 10 collegiate matches, Klineman is averaging a team-leading 4.27 kills per game, a mark right in the mix of Stanford's National Freshman of the Year winners. Cary Wendell averaged 3.15 kpg as a freshman in 1992, while Kerri Walsh averaged 4.78 kpg as a freshman in 1996. Logan Tom averaged 4.63 in 1999, Ogonna Nnamani averaged 3.89 in 2001 and Kristin Richards averaged 3.38 in 2003. All five won the National Freshman of the Year award following those seasons.

COMEBACK KIDS: Stanford has won 36 of its 41 games, topped eight ranked teams, swept eight opponents and remains undefeated after 12 matches for the first time in over a decade. Yet, despite all that, the Cardinal has not gone untested. Stanford has dropped opening games three times, and has faced four deficits this season. Against Cal on Friday, Stanford dropped the opening game and, at one point, faced a 27-20 disadvantage in game three. The Cardinal rolled, however, and came back to win that game 32-30, nab another win in game four and take the match, 3-1.

CONFERENCE CHATTER: Stanford has ahead of itself one of the most challenging conference schedules in the nation. Why? The Pac-10 has won five of the last six NCAA titles and has sent six or more teams to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last seven years. The NCAA Final Four has included three Pac-10 teams two of the last three years and all 10 teams entered the conference season this year with winning records. Six Pac-10 teams are currently ranked in the top-25, and three are in the top-five. Overall, Pac-10 teams were 96-20 (.828) in the preseason, and 17-3 (.850) against ranked opponents. Of the 96 non-conference wins, Pac-10 teams swept 72 of them.

SCOUTING USC: Thursday's match is sure to be a battle, as both teams enter the contest undefeated (12-0) and ranked in the top-four. The Trojans went 27-5 last year and advanced to the Regional Semifinals where they were eliminated by Hawaii in five games. All but one starter returns to the Trojan line-up. The team's arsenal of talent includes All-American outside hitter Asia Kaczor and, the squad's setter, 2006 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Taylor Carico. Kaczor is leading the team with 4.45 kpg, but 2006 All-Pac-10 selection Diane Copenhagen is also hitting well with 3.63 per game. Senior middle blocker Bethany Johansen leads the team with 1.08 blocks per game and a .376 hitting percentage. Stanford and USC have not faced a common opponent. USC's biggest win so far was a 3-2 decision over No. 14 Duke on Aug. 31.

THE SERIES WITH USC: The Cardinal is 47-17 against the Trojans, but nine of USC wins have come in the last seven seasons. Last year, Stanford swept USC in the opening of the Galen Center in Los Angeles, but was swept at home a month later. That loss on Nov. 10 was the Cardinal's only one at home in 2006, and marked the first time Stanford had been swept at home in three years.

SCOUTING UCLA: UCLA is 12-1 this season, has topped four ranked opponents and has fallen only to No. 1 Nebraska in Omaha this year. The Bruins are coming off of a 33-4 season and their first Final Four appearance since 1994, where they also fell to Nebraska in Omaha. Leading the squad is All-American setter Nellie Spicer, who chips in 13.07 apg. The Bruin attack is led by junior outside hitter Ali Daley, one of four returning starters for UCLA. Daley averages 4.00 kpg, while senior middle blocker Rachell Johnson tallies 3.63 kpg and a team-leading 1.27 bpg. UCLA and Stanford have both faced San Diego this season. Stanford swept the Toreros on Aug. 31, while UCLA won in five games on Sept. 15.

THE SERIES WITH UCLA: Stanford holds a slight lead in the series with UCLA, 34-31. The Cardinal has won the last 12 meetings, however and has never lost in John Dunning's tenure. Last season, Stanford won in five games in Los Angeles, and won in four games at home. Barboza led the Cardinal in both matches against the Bruins with 21 kills and 15 kills, respectively.

WHAT THEY'VE BEEN UP TO: During the off-season, a number of Cardinal players remained in the competitive spotlight. In April, Cynthia Barboza and Bryn Kehoe took to the beach, and took second in CSTV's Powerade Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship in San Diego. In June, Barboza competed with the US National Team at the Pan Am Cup in Colima, Mexico and helped the team to a fourth place finish. In July, Barboza and Foluke Akinradewo started for the US National Team that won a bronze medal at the Pan Am Games in Brazil. Just entering their junior seasons, the Stanford players were the two youngest on the roster, and two of only three current collegiate players. Cardinal newcomers Alix Klineman and Cassidy Lichtman were also active in the off-season, as both were members of the US Junior National Team that finished fourth at the FIVB U-20 Junior World Championships in Thailand.

BRING IT HOME: Much of the collegiate volleyball excitement will be local this year, as the Cardinal will stick close to home for preseason, conference and postseason action. Still ahead, the Cardinal hosts nine conference matches at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal's own Maples Pavilion floor will also be one of four 2007 NCAA Regional sites, while the 2007 Final Four will be just up the road at ARCO Arena in Sacramento. Tickets are available at the door, at www.GoStanford.com or by calling 1-800-STANFORD.

2006 IN REVIEW: Stanford finished 2006 with a 30-4 record, won an unprecedented 10th Pac-10 title and made a postseason run to its 12th NCAA title match, before falling to Nebraska in the national final. Stanford earned 25 of its 30 wins by 3-0 margins, went 16-2 in the conference and played 22 matches against eventual NCAA Tournament participants. Four Stanford players earned All-America honors, and three of those players - Bryn Kehoe, Cynthia Barboza and Foluke Akinradewo - are back for 2007.

NATIONAL POLL: Stanford came in at No. 2 for the sixth straight week in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll and was the only school besides Nebraska to receive first place votes. Nebraska held onto the top spot for the sixth straight week, while Penn State, USC and UCLA remained the rest of the top-five. Six Pac-10 squads - Stanford, UCLA, USC, Cal, Washington and Oregon - are currently in the top-25.

PICKED TO REPEAT: For the second straight season, the Stanford women's volleyball team was predicted to win the Pac-10 title by the league's coaches. Stanford, the defending Pac-10 Champion, claimed 89 points, 12 more than second-place USC, including eight of the ten first-place votes. Last season, the Pac-10 sent three teams to the Final Four and, over the last six seasons, the conference has sent 12 teams to the Final Four and captured five national titles. During those six seasons, the league has posted an impressive 568-171 (.769) record against non-conference opponents. The coaches have correctly picked the Pac-10 champion in 11 of the previous 18 polls.

HEAD COACH John Dunning: In seventh season at the helm of the Cardinal, Head Coach John Dunning is one of the most accomplished coaches in collegiate volleyball. Dunning has four National Championships under his belt, has taken his teams to eight Final Fours and owns a 58-18 record in the NCAA Tournament. During the 2006 season, he earned his 600th career win and will be looking for his 200th win with the Stanford program this season. In his first 22 years as a head coach, Dunning was 613-132 (.823), giving him a winning percentage that ranks among the top-five active Division I coaches. Dunning accumulated a 176-30 in his first six seasons on The Farm.

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