Seeking No. 7: Stanford Begins Quest For Seventh NCAA Title At Home

Dec. 2, 2008

TOURNEY TIME!: The second-ranked Stanford women's volleyball team begins its quest for a seventh national title this week, hosting the NCAA First and Second Rounds at Maples Pavilion. The tournament's overall No. 2 seed, the Cardinal will meet Albany in the opening round on Friday night.

LOOKING AHEAD: Should Stanford advance, the team will head to the Dec. 12-13 Fort Collins Regional hosted by Colorado State. The Final Four will be held Dec. 18-20 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb.

LOOKING BACK: Stanford closed out the Pac-10 season in Oregon last week with wins over No. 8 Oregon and Oregon State. On Wednesday, the Cardinal clinched its third consecutive Pac-10 title outright with a four-set win over the Ducks, 25-20, 19-25, 25-22, 25-23. After a Thanksgiving feast on the road, the team put an exclamation point on another impressive regular season with a sweep of Oregon State at Gill Coliseum, 28-26, 25-18, 25-19.

CATCH THE CARDINAL: Fans can catch the matches this weekend live on KZSU radio (90.1 FM or online at http://kzsu.stanford.edu/). Gametracker, as well as a FREE live webcast of all three matches, will be available at www.GoStanford.com. Tickets for all matches can be purchased at www.GoStanford.com or by calling 1-800-STANFORD. The first 100 students to present a valid Stanford ID will be granted FREE admission. Tickets can be picked up at the Stanford Stadium ticket office between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Friday and at the Maples ticket window beginning at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: This year marks the Cardinal's 28th-straight NCAA appearance. Stanford is one of only two schools to have appeared in every NCAA Tournament since the NCAA Championships began in 1981, with Penn State being the only other program to appear in all 28 events. Stanford has won more NCAA Championships (6), made more Final Four appearances (17), appeared in more national championship matches (13) and won more NCAA Tournament matches (87) than any program in the nation.

DUNNING, AKINRADEWO RECLAIM PAC-10 AWARDS: For the second straight year, Stanford cleaned up the annual Pac-10 awards. Senior middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo repeated as the Pac-10 Player of the Year, joining UCLA's Daiva Tomkus (1988, 1989) and former Stanford standouts Kerri Walsh (1998, 1999) and Logan Tom (2001, 2002) as the only two-time recipients of the conference's highest honor. Head coach John Dunning repeated as Pac-10 Coach of the Year, just the third conference coach to ever win back-to-back awards. Akinradewo (4X honoree) joined sophomore Alix Klineman (2X) and senior Cynthia Barboza (3X) as repeat members of the 14-player All-Pac-10 Team. Sophomore Cassidy Lichtman received honorable mention.

PAC-10 THREE-PEAT!: Stanford earned its third conference championship in a row this year, establishing the most dominant title streak in nearly a decade. The Cardinal won six straight conference championships between 1994 and 1999, but other than that run, only UCLA has been able to win three straight titles (three between 1988 and 1990). Stanford has now won 12 Pac-10 titles, more than any school in the conference. The Cardinal has been either the conference champion or runner-up in 22 of the 23 seasons since the conference was organized in 1986.

PAC-10 POWER: The Pac-10 once again showed its dominance when the 2008 NCAA bracket was revealed on Sunday, picking up more bids than any league in the nation (6). The Pac-10 has won five of the last seven NCAA titles and, including 2008, has sent six or more teams to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last nine years. The Final Four has included three Pac-10 teams three of the last four years and the last seven NCAA title matches have featured a team from the Pac-10. Six Pac-10 teams are currently ranked in the top-25 and five were seeded in this year's NCAA Tournament. Stanford won an unprecedented 12th Pac-10 title this season, no easy feat considering the strength of its competition.

CONTINUING THE TRADITION: During their four seasons on The Farm, Stanford's senior class has been instrumental in maintaining the Cardinal's tradition as a women's volleyball powerhouse. The foursome has helped lead the Cardinal to 114 victories, three consecutive Pac-10 titles and two straight appearances in the national championship match. Combined, they have tallied over 3,800 kills, 2,500 digs and 900 blocks. Of the more than 300 Division I senior classes this year, the group is one of four that has been to a national championship match and one of two that has been there twice.

EXPERIENCE ON THE HIGHEST STAGE: Stanford enters the NCAA Tournament with one of the most postseason-savvy teams in the nation. The Cardinal has been to the national title match the last two years, and Stanford's seniors have played in 14 postseason contests already. Of the approximately 4,000 NCAA Division I volleyball players this year, only 20 have taken the court in a national championship match, eight of which belong to the Cardinal. Only five current Division I players have played in two national championship matches thus far - Stanford's Foluke Akinradewo, Cynthia Barboza and Erin Waller along with Nebraska's Jordan Larson and Rachel Schwartz.

STANFORD VS. THE FIELD: The Cardinal has played 17 matches against the 2008 NCAA field and gone 14-3 in those contests. Stanford is 9-3 against the seeded teams in the tournament.

HOME SWEET HOME: Stanford has done a good job of defending its home court recently, posting an 11-1 record at Maples this year and a 40-3 mark over the last three years there. The Cardinal ranks ninth nationally in home attendance and brings in more fans than any school in the Pac-10.

BARBOZA BRINGS IT WHEN IT COUNTS: Outside hitter Cynthia Barboza stepped up last weekend in Stanford's title-clinching wins in Oregon. In four sets against the Ducks, Barboza led the way with a season-high 21 kills at a .409 hitting clip. She pounded seven of her 21 kills in the clinching fourth set. In Friday's sweep of Oregon State, Barboza once again paced the Cardinal offensively, ripping 14 kills in three sets. The senior finished with a team-high 5.00 kps average for the weekend.

KLINEMAN KEEPS PRODUCING: Outside hitter Alix Klineman, who led Stanford offensively with 4.12 kpg as a freshman last year, is once again the team's top kill producer. In 95 sets, Klineman has turned in 340 kills, good for a team-leading 3.58 kps mark.

DIGGING DEEP: Stanford libero Gabi Ailes has been hot recently, turning in three 20-dig performances in the last four matches. On Nov. 21, Ailes turned in 24 digs in a win over USC and, a day later, she came back with the eighth-best defensive performance in school history (28 digs). Last Friday at Oregon State, Ailes continued the exceptional streak with 24 digs, a career high for a three-set match. The sophomore has recorded at least 10 digs in 10 of the last 11 contests.

BACK ROW RECORDS: Sophomore Gabi Ailes set a new school single-season dig record last year (533), and was also the first player in school history to turn in more than four digs per game (4.26). This year, even with the new scoring format, Ailes is turning in impressive dig numbers. Ranked fifth in the Pac-10, the sophomore is now matching her school-record pace with 4.26 dps, and is carrying a career average (4.26) better than any player in program history. For the second straight year, Ailes has climbed onto the school's single-season top 10 chart, and currently stands seventh with 417. The Bellevue, Neb. native is now within 50 digs of 1,000 for her career.

CATCHING ON QUICKLY: Sophomore Cassidy Lichtman has wasted no time transitioning into her new role as a setter. Primarily a defensive specialist and opposite hitter last year, Lichtman trained in the offseason to take on setting duties. So far, Lichtman has been named to the all-tournament team at two preseason tournaments (including the prestigious AVCA Showcase), recorded nine double-doubles and set new personal bests in every statistical category. As the exclusive setter in five recent matches, she has averaged 13.21 aps, a figure that is better than the average of any player in the Pac-10. On Nov. 22 against UCLA, Lichtman recorded a career-high 67 assists.

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. Now in the final stretch of her last collegiate season, Akinradewo is hitting .445 and on pace to finish with the best career hitting percentage ever recorded by an NCAA Division I player. The previous record (.423) was posted by Virag Domokos of George Mason in 1996.

THE TOUGH ROAD: Stanford boasts a solid 26-3 record, but the feat is even more impressive considering the road the Cardinal took to get there. Stanford has already played six of its fellow nine top-10 teams, and leads the nation with eight wins over the current top-10 (Cal and Washington are second with five apiece). Outside of the Pac-10, Penn State is the only squad with more than two wins over a top-10 team (4). Fourteen of Stanford's regular-season matches were against teams that are currently in the top-25, and 17 are against teams that made the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

THE 1,500 TWINS: Stanford seniors Cynthia Barboza and Foluke Akinradewo have both nabbed their 1,500th career kills this season, the only two active players in the Pac-10 to have reached the milestone. Only eight players in Stanford history and 35 players in Pac-10 history had accomplished the feat prior to this season. Akinradewo picked up her 1,500th against Washington on Oct. 31 and Barboza earned hers at Arizona on Nov. 8.

DOUBLE-FIGURE FIGURES: Senior Cynthia Barboza has been on a hot streak recently, posting double-figure kills in 18 of the last 19 matches, including the last 12 in a row. Fellow senior Foluke Akinradewo has also stepped up her production over the last few weeks. After hitting double digits just four times in the first 16 matches, she has had at least 10 kills in 12 of the last 13.

MILESTONES AT THE NET: Senior Foluke Akinradewo is having the best blocking year of her career (1.48 bps) and currently stands third on the Cardinal career list (541). The senior is second in the Pac-10 in blocking and third nationally in the category. The conference's active career block leader as well, she recorded one of the best single-match blocking performances in school history against Arizona State (12) on Oct. 12.

PASSING THE GREATS: Foluke Akinradewo and Cynthia Barboza, the Pac-10's two active kill leaders, each now have more kills in their four-year careers than three-time Olympian and two-time beach gold medalist Kerri Walsh. Akinradewo overtook Walsh on Nov. 14 at Cal, while Barboza passed her on Nov. 26 against Oregon.

ON THE BOARD: Cynthia Barboza jumped onto two exclusive career lists against Washington on Oct. 31, joining the school's all-time career kill and dig leaders on the same night. Already one of the ten most dangerous servers in Stanford history with 111 career aces, Barboza is one of only four players (others are Kristin Richards `07, Kristin Klein `92 and Logan Tom `03) with a spot on all three of those career lists.

IN THE CLUB: Senior Cynthia Barboza joined an elite group of Pac-10 players last month, reaching 1,000 career digs against Washington State on Oct. 3. The senior posted the 1,000th kill of her career against Washington in October 2007, and is now just the seventh Stanford player since 1986 to record both 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs. Kristin Richards `07, Kristin Klein `92, Cary Wendell `96, Kerri Walsh `00, Logan Tom `03 and Bev Oden `93 are the other Cardinal players who have accomplished the feat.

CLEAN SWEEP: Stanford, which swept 21 opponents last year, is on its way to matching that impressive feat. Entering the postseason, the Cardinal has swept 19 opponents, including 12 in Pac-10 play. The team opened the conference season with six consecutive sweeps for the first time in school history this year.

THE STREAK IS ON: Stanford is riding an 11-match win streak, matching the season-long run the team turned in earlier this season. The streak is the program's longest to end the regular season since 2001, when Stanford won its last 13 regular-season matches before racing through the NCAA Tournament and upending previously undefeated Long Beach State for the NCAA title.

HITTING THE MARK: Two of the Pac-10's top five leaders in hitting percentage, including leader Foluke Akinradewo, hail from The Farm. Akinradewo paces the conference and is fourth in the nation with a .456 clip, while fellow middle blocker Janet Okogbaa is fifth in the conference at .382. As a team, Stanford leads the Pac-10 with a .316 clip, stands third nationally and is one of only three programs hitting above .300 for the year (Penn State and Texas are the others). The Cardinal's 2008 hitting percentage is currently the best in school history, matching the record the team set last year.

OPPONENT WOES: Opponents have had a difficult time getting much going offensively against Stanford, a fact shown not only by the Cardinal's 26-3 record, but by the list of opponents' hitting percentages. Of Stanford's 29 opponents, 19 have hit below .200, with seven not even able to hit .100. Only four teams have hit more than .250 against the Cardinal this year (Saint Louis, Cal, UCLA and Oregon), and no one has been able to reach .300. By contrast, Stanford has hit above .300 21 times, above .400 four times and only three teams have held the squad below .250 (Nebraska, Cal and USC). Since falling to Saint Louis on Sept. 6, Stanford has hit over .300 in 18 of its 23 matches, and held 17 opponents below .200 hitting.

GOOD STUFF ON AND OFF THE COURT: Senior Cynthia Barboza was recognized as one of the top six players in the nation for her efforts both on the court and in the classroom last week, earning first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honors. The Long Beach, Calif. native, who was a second-team honoree last year, joined third-team honoree Jill Collymore of Washington as the only two Academic All-Americans from the Pac-10. She was one of four returning AVCA All-Americans honored, and joined Penn State's Christa Harmotto as the only players to earn a spot on the first team for both awards. Barboza is just the third player in school history to earn multiple Academic All-American honors, joining Ogonna Nnamani (2002, 2003, 2004) and Kristin Folkl (1996, 1997).

NINE EARN PAC-10 ACADEMIC AWARDS: Led by second-team selections Joanna Evans and Janet Okogbaa, nine Cardinal women's volleyball players were honored with Pac-10 academic awards this year. Seniors Cynthia Barboza, Jessica Fishburn and Erin Waller were recognized for the third straight year, bringing the school's total to 15 players honored all three years of eligibility. Fellow senior Foluke Akinradewo was selected for the second time in her career, while sophomores Gabi Ailes, Alix Klineman and Cassidy Lichtman were recognized for the first time.

QUEEN OF THE COURT: Stanford's Foluke Akinradewo continues 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 boasts an arsenal of All-American hitters this season - 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. This year, the threesome is contributing 10.26 kps 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. Between the 11 veterans, the 2008 Cardinal boasts 12 prior years in the starting lineup and more than 5,000 kills. The veterans have already contributed to 114 Cardinal wins, three conference titles and a pair of Final Four appearances. Ten members of the Stanford roster have postseason court experience.

NATIONAL POLL: Stanford remains at No. 2 this week in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, the same slot it held preseason. Defending national champion Penn State continues to hold the top spot in the poll, having been No. 1 since the start of the year. Six Pac-10 squads are in the top 25, with five making the top 10.

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-game 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.

UNFAMILIAR FOES: Last season, five of Stanford's six NCAA Tournament matches were against teams it faced in the regular season, including two against teams from the Pac-10 Conference. This year, Stanford faces a much less familiar field. Of the 16 teams in the Fort Collins Region, Stanford has seen only USC this year, and couldn't even meet the Trojans until the regional final. In the tournament as a whole, Stanford has previously played 12 of the 64 teams.

SCOUTING ALBANY: The Great Danes (23-8) won their third-straight America East Conference championship to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA field. The team is led by senior middle blocker Kamisha Kellam (2.80 kps, 0.95 bps), who led the America East with a .388 hitting percentage this season and was named the conference's 2008 player of the year. Sophomore middle blocker Amanda Cowdrey was a first-team all-conference pick (3.30 kps, 2.95 dps) and sophomore Brooke Stanley was named the America East Setter of the Year (10.56 aps). The Great Danes are 3-4 against the field, with wins over unseeded Yale, Dayton and Western Kentucky.

COMMON GROUND: Arizona State is the only common opponent between Albany and Stanford this year. The Great Danes fell to the Sun Devils in five sets on Sept. 19, while Stanford swept the Pac-10 opponent twice, on Oct. 12 and Nov. 7.

THE SERIES WITH THE GREAT DANES: Stanford and Albany will be meeting for the first time ever on Friday. The Cardinal has only played two opponents from the America East Conference all-time, with both coming during the 2005 preseason. On a trip east that year, Stanford swept both Maine and New Hampshire.

SCOUTING LONG BEACH STATE: The 49ers (25-5) captured the Big West title to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the 22nd consecutive year. The team is led by outside hitter Caitlin Ledoux (3.22 kps, 2.23 dps) who was named the Big West Freshman of the Year and was a first-team all-conference pick. Seniors Quincy Verdin (3.17 kps) and Nicole Vargas (10.34 aps) along with juniors Brittney Herzog (1.86 kps, 0.76 bps) and Naomi Washington (2.37 kps, 0.93 bps) also made the 2008 first team. Long Beach State is 6-2 against the field this year, and is coming off an impressive win over then-No. 19 Colorado State on Saturday.

COMMON GROUND: Cal Poly and Stanford have played three common opponents this year - Santa Clara, Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara. Stanford went 3-0 against those teams, while LBSU went 5-1 with a three-set loss to the Broncos on Sept. 20.

HISTORY WITH LONG BEACH: Stanford and Long Beach State have met 16 times, and the Cardinal owns the series, 14-2. The teams met most recently in the 2007 season opener, and in her Long Beach homecoming, Cynthia Barboza rattled off a team-high 18 kills to lead the Cardinal to a 30-26, 30-19, 30-27 sweep. The teams have met three times in postseason play (all at the Final Four) with Stanford winning all three. The last time the two teams met in the postseason was the 2001 national championship match. After falling to LBSU earlier that year, the Cardinal bounced back and swept the previously undefeated 49ers when it counted, winning a 31-29, 30-28, 30-25 match in San Diego. In 1997 and 1999, Stanford knocked Long Beach out in the national semifinals. Stanford's last loss to the 49ers was on Sept. 25, 2001.

SCOUTING PEPPERDINE: The Waves (20-7) finished tied for fourth in the West Coast Conference and earned an at-large bid to their 20th NCAA Tournament and 11th in the last 12 years. Led by four-time All-WCC selection Julie Rubenstein's 4.36 kps, 2.43 dps and .313 hitting percentage, the Waves have consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 in both hitting percentage and kills. Other top players for the Waves include middle blocker Kim Hill (2.15 kps, 1.12 bps), who was named the WCC Freshman of the Year, and libero Stevi Robinson (4.79 dps), who was tabbed the WCC Defensive Player of the Year. The Waves are 3-7 against the NCAA field this year with wins coming over San Francisco, Colorado State and Saint Mary's.

COMMON GROUND: The Waves and Cardinal have played five common opponents this year - Oregon State, UCLA, Santa Clara, Saint Mary's and UC Santa Barbara. Pepperdine has gone 3-4 against those teams with wins over UCSB, Oregon State and Saint Mary's, while Stanford has gone a perfect 7-0 against them.

THE SERIES WITH THE WAVES: Stanford has gone 6-1 in seven all-time meetings with Pepperdine, and has not lost to the Waves since 1977. The teams have only met once in the John Dunning era, with Stanford winning in three games on Sept. 21, 2002, 30-26, 30-27, 30-28.

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