No. 2 Stanford Opens 2008 Season At Runza/AVCA Showcase

Aug. 25, 2008

UP NEXT: The No. 2 Cardinal women's volleyball team opens the 2008 season on Friday, taking on No. 7 Nebraska as part of the Runza/AVCA Showcase at the Qwest Center in Omaha. On Sunday, Stanford meets No. 3 Texas in its second match of the prestigious event. First serve against the Cornhuskers is set for 7 p.m. (CT) Friday night, while the match with the Longhorns is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. (CT) on Sunday.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stanford continues its marathon road trip on Tuesday, Sept. 2, heading to the home of its two Floridians - Foluke Akinradewo and Janet Okogbaa - to take on the Central Florida Knights. From there, the team will travel to the hometown of senior Erin Waller to compete in the Saint Louis Invitational, Sept. 5-6.

CATCH THE CARDINAL: Both matches this weekend will be televised live by CBS College Sports Network. Fans can also catch the two matches on KZSU radio (90.1 FM) or online at kzsulive.stanford.edu.

NEBRASKA HOMECOMING: Sophomore Gabi Ailes will be making a return to her roots this week. Hailing from Bellevue West High School just south of Omaha, Ailes was the 2006 Gatorade State Player of the Year in Nebraska and led her team to four consecutive state titles. In her first collegiate season, Ailes quickly earned Stanford's starting libero job. By the end of the year, she had shattered the school's single-season (533) and single-match (31) dig records. Friday will mark the first time the Bellevue native will be suiting up in Nebraska since her prep days.

SWINGING FOR THE RECORD: Entering her senior season, Foluke Akinradewo has already rewritten the hitting percentage column in the NCAA, Pac-10 and Stanford record books. Last year, she posted the second highest hitting percentage in NCAA history (.499) and shattered both the Pac-10 and Stanford single-season records by more than 50 points. At the start of her final collegiate season, Akinradewo is hitting .443 and on pace to finish with the best career hitting percentage ever recorded by an NCAA Division I player.

QUEEN OF THE COURT: Stanford's Foluke Akinradewo begins her senior season as the reigning AVCA National Player of the Year. Akinradewo tallied 4.11 kpg last season, while leading the nation with a .499 hitting percentage. She is the eighth AVCA National Player of the Year from Stanford, and the fourth that Head Coach John Dunning has produced since coming to The Farm seven seasons ago.

ALL-AMERICAN FIREPOWER: Stanford returns an arsenal of All-American hitters for 2008 - Foluke Akinradewo, Cynthia Barboza and Alix Klineman. Together, the trio boasts six career All-America honors, including four first-team selections, along with a National Player of the Year award and a National Freshman of the Year award. The threesome brings back a combined 12.22 kills per game while hitting at a clip well above .300. All told, the trio's accomplishments amount to more returning firepower than the Cardinal program has ever seen.

OFFSEASON OF CHAMPIONS: Stanford's three returning All-Americans all spent the offseason training with the U.S. Women's National Team in Colorado Springs. Cynthia Barboza and Foluke Akinradewo competed in the FIVB World Grand Prix and were both alternates for the 2008 Olympic Team. Akinradewo and Barboza were the only two players with collegiate eligibiliy remaining named to the 19-player Olympic preliminary roster. Alix Klineman, the youngest player in Colorado Springs at just age 18, trained with the team from January to June, toured China with the squad in March and, along with Barboza, competed in the Pan Am Cup in June.

VETERANS ALL AROUND: The Cardinal boasts 11 players who have been to a national championship match, including seven who have taken the team to the coveted match twice. Six members of the starting rotation return from last year, including all four primary passers. Between the 11 veterans, the 2008 Cardinal boasts 12 years in the starting lineup and more than 3,500 kills. The veterans have already contributed to 88 Cardinal wins, two conference titles and a pair of Final Four appearances. Ten members of the Stanford roster have postseason court experience.

NATIONAL POLL: Stanford came in at No. 2 when the American Volleyball Coaches Association released its annual preseason poll earlier this month. The Cardinal began last season at No. 2 in the poll as well, and finished the year with a trip to the NCAA title match. Stanford has started the season among the top five teams in the nation six of the last seven years. Defending national champion Penn State took the top spot in the poll, while Texas, USC and California rounded out the top-five. Five Pac-10 squads made the top-10.

PICKED TO THREE-PEAT: The Stanford women's volleyball team was unanimously chosen by the league's coaches to win the Pac-10 volleyball title for the third consecutive season. Stanford claimed the maximum 90 points in the preseason poll, 15 more than second-place UCLA, including the first-place votes of each of the league's nine opponent head coaches. Once again, the Pac-10 sent three teams to the Final Four in 2007 (Stanford, USC and California). It marked the third time in four seasons that the Pac-10 made up three-fourths of the Final Four field. The conference has taken home five of the last seven NCAA titles. The coaches have correctly picked the Pac-10 champion in 12 of the previous 19 polls.

2007 IN REVIEW: In 2007, Stanford posted a 32-3 record and won an unprecedented 11th Pac-10 title. The team finished the year with a postseason run to its 13th NCAA title match, where it fell to Penn State in a five-set thriller. On the year, Stanford bested 18 ranked opponents, outhit 33 of the 35 teams it faced and won 21 matches by 3-0 margins. Four players - Foluke Akinradewo, Alix Klineman, Bryn Kehoe and Cynthia Barboza - were named All-Americans, matching the highest total in program history, and, for the eighth time, Stanford produced the AVCA National Player of the Year.

TAKING ON THE BEST: Once again, Head Coach John Dunning has lined up one of the most challenging schedules in the nation for the Cardinal. Stanford is scheduled to play 14 regular-season matches against teams ranked in the preseason poll, and 15 against teams that made the 2007 NCAA Tournament. Half of the teams that made the preseason top 10 hail from the Pac-10 Conference.

HEAD COACH John Dunning: Beginning his eighth season at the helm of the Cardinal, Head Coach John Dunning is one of the most accomplished coaches in the collegiate volleyball world. Dunning has four national championships under his belt, has taken his teams to eight Final Fours and carried five of his seven teams at Stanford to the national championship match. In 23 years as a head coach, Dunning is 645-135 (.827), giving him a winning percentage that ranks among the top five all-time Division I coaches. Dunning is 208-33 in his seven seasons on The Farm.

SCOUTING NEBRASKA: Under the guidance of Head Coach John Cook, No. 7 Nebraska is coming off a 30-2 season, a Big 12 Co-Championship and an NCAA regional appearance. The Huskers lost four of their five All-Americans, however, including the 2005 and 2006 AVCA National Players of the Year. Senior outside hitter Jordan Larson is the lone returning All-American, having averaged 3.45 kpg and delivered a team-best 53 aces last year. The Huskers also return senior libero Rachel Schwartz (3.66 dpg) and junior middle blocker Kori Cooper (2.31 kpg/1.02 bpg) to the starting lineup.

THE SERIES WITH THE HUSKERS: Stanford and Nebraska have met 10 times prior to this weekend, and four of those meetings have come in the NCAA Tournament. The teams have split the ten contests, five apiece, with Nebraska winning the two most recent showdowns. The teams last met in the 2006 NCAA championship match at the Qwest Center, where Nebraska topped Stanford, 3-1, to claim its second NCAA title. Stanford last defeated Nebraska in the 2001 national semifinal in San Diego, where the Cardinal went on to win its fifth national title.

SCOUTING TEXAS: Texas returns five starters and ten letterwinners to its roster this season, including All-Americans Lauren Paolini, Destinee Hooker and Juliann Faucette. Last season, the Longhorns went 27-4, captured a share of the Big 12 title and advanced to an NCAA regional final. Hooker led the team last season with 4.52 kpg and Faucette was close behind at 4.49 kpg. Paolini chipped in 2.92 kpg and a team-high 1.26 bpg.

THE SERIES WITH THE LONGHORNS: Stanford has won 13 of the 19 matches it has played against Texas all-time. Most recently, the teams met in Austin to play for a regional title and a trip to the 2006 Final Four. Stanford claimed a 3-1 victory in that match in front of the Longhorns' home crowd, marking the third consecutive Cardinal victory in the series. Texas last topped Stanford early in the 1999 season, claiming a 3-1 victory in Austin.

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