No. 2 Stanford Heads East to Finish Preseason Schedule
Sept. 10, 2007
Stanford, Calif. - THIS WEEK: Stanford has started 7-0 and will play the final four matches of its preseason schedule this weekend. The Cardinal first heads to senior Bryn Kehoe's home state of Ohio and takes on the Cincinnati Bearcats in a 7:30 p.m. contest Wednesday night. Over the weekend, Stanford will compete in the Courtyard by Marriot Yale Classic, a tournament highlighted by a Saturday night showdown between the No. 2 Cardinal and the No. 3 Penn State Nittany Lions. The tournament also includes Delaware State and host Yale, who the Cardinal will take on Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m., respectively.
CATCH THE CARDINAL: Three of Stanford's four matches this week (all but the one against Delaware State) will be webcast. The Cincinnati match can be found at www.GoBearcats.com, while the Yale and Penn State matches can be viewed for free at www.YaleBulldogs.com.
LAST TIME OUT: The Cardinal swept its home tournament last weekend, improving to 7-0 with wins over Saint Mary's, No. 17 Cal Poly and No. 9 BYU. Junior middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo led the charge for the Cardinal, with 47 kills, 19 blocks and a .547 hitting percentage on the weekend. Stanford has now bested six ranked opponents, and dropped just two of its 23 games.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Cardinal returns to the Bay Area to start the Pac-10 season next week, taking on the rival California Golden Bears in Berkeley on Sept. 21.
SHOTGUN START: With a 7-0 opening record, Stanford has recorded its best start in five years. The Cardinal has a chance to wrap up the preseason undefeated this weekend, a feat the program has not accomplished in more than a decade. The last team with a spotless non-conference record was the 1994 squad that went 32-1 and captured Stanford's second NCAA title.
HOMETOWN PRIDE: Stanford's two seniors will be returning to the places where, four years ago, they were the local volleyball all-stars. Bryn Kehoe, a St. Ursula Academy product who is now a two-time collegiate All-American, will be playing down the road from her hometown of North Bend, Ohio when the team plays Cincinnati Wednesday. The team will then swing by Franci Girard's hometown of Brooklyn, NY before competing a few hours away in New Haven, Conn. Girard a former standout at the Fieldston School in the Bronx, has been a regular starter for the Cardinal since she stepped on the Farm in 2004. Kehoe and Girard were both key players for the team when it won the 2004 National Championship and are looking to bookend their careers with another national title in 2007.
TWO DOWN, ONE TO GO: Senior setter Bryn Kehoe climbed yet another rung higher on the Stanford career assist ladder last weekend, and now sits second all-time. 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 Friday. The two-time All-American began her final collegiate season with 4,214 to her name. So far she has 336 in 2007, and stands just 453 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.
HITTING THE MARK: Junior middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo continues to be the most reliable hitter on the Cardinal squad, recording a kill more than half of the times she touches the ball. She has hit above .400 in five of the Cardinal's seven matches, with her season low (.368) being an 11-kill, five block performance in a sweep of Saint Mary's. Her season-high (.706) was 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 and has a .533 mark so far this season. She is currently hitting at a .418 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).
ALL-AMERICAN GIRLS: Stanford's three All-Americans - Foluke Akinradewo, Bryn Kehoe and Cynthia Barboza - stepped up when it counted last weekend. Against BYU, all three had season-best performances in multiple categories. Akinradewo had a season-high 21 kills and eight blocks, while Kehoe had a season-high five blocks and 61 assists. Barboza pounded a season-high 22 kills and dug a season-high 16 balls.
FRESHMEN SENSATIONS: Not only have two Stanford freshmen have 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 the last six matches, and leads the team with 4.26 kpg. Gabi Ailes, Stanford's libero, has recorded double-digit digs in the last six matches and leads the team with 4.09 dpg.
HOW SHE COMPARES: Stanford freshman Alix Klineman has been compared to some of Stanford's greatest newcomers in program history. After her first seven collegiate matches, Klineman is averaging a team-leading 4.26 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: The Cardinal players proved once again this weekend that they're not fazed by setbacks. On Sept. 1, Stanford dropped the first game of a match with Minnesota, and roared back to win 3-1. On Saturday, BYU edged Stanford in the first game of the match, but the Cardinal answered with a 30-18 win in game two and proceeded to win the next two games and cruise to a 3-1 victory.
UNFAMILIAR FOES: Three of Stanford's four opponents this week are newcomers on the Cardinal agenda. The Cardinal program has never before squared off with Cincinnati, Delaware State or Yale. As a matter of fact, Stanford has never matched up with an Ivy League opponent, and had seen just one foe from Delaware State's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (Florida A&M in 2003). Stanford has, however, met some of Cincinnati's conference relatives. Stanford is a combined 17-0 against the Big East.
SCOUTING CINCINNATI: The Cincinnati Bearcats are coming off of a 22-7 season and a third place finish in the Big East. Eight letterwinners and five starters return for Head Coach Reed Sunahara's tenth season, including junior middle blocker Jessie Nevitt, who earned AVCA All-America honorable mention last season. The Bearcats also return junior outside hitter Jessica Elley, the team kill leader from last season (3.54 kpg) and their starting libero, sophomore Jaime Frey (5.43 dpg). So far this year, Nevitt has taken charge with 4.17 kpg and 1.51 bpg. Cincinnati is 7-3, and has faced one ranked opponent, No. 21 Dayton on Sept. 3.
SCOUTING DELAWARE STATE: Delaware State is 0-11 this year and coming off of an 11-23 2006 record. Seven letterwinners and six starters return, including last year's kill leader, senior outside hitter Ayana Dyette. Dyette is the only Hornet averaging more than two kills per game this season, accounting for 134 of the team's 370 total kills. Senior outside hitter Kinga Muszynski leads the team in digs (4.17 dpg) and aces (0.28 per game).
SCOUTING YALE: Yale has only played three matches this season, but has won all of them, defeating Rhode Island, Sacred Heart and Maine last weekend. Last year, the team was 16-7 and tied for second in the Ivy League. Fourteen letterwinners and six starters return, including the team's kill leader from last season, sophomore outside hitter Alexis Crusey. Crusey is already leading the team after the first weekend with 3.75 kpg, while sophomore middle blocker Laurel Johnson is the team's block leader with 1.62 bpg.
SCOUTING PENN STATE: Penn State is ranked third nationally, and boasts a 6-1 record with four wins over ranked opponents and a loss to No. 1 Nebraska. Last season, the Nittany Lions went 32-3 before falling to Washington in the Regional Finals in Seattle. The squad's two outside hitters, junior Nicole Fawcett and sophomore Megan Hodge, were both First Team AVCA All-Americans last season and lead the team this year with 4.68 and 4.60 kpg, respectively. Junior middle blocker Christa Harmotto is also a returning All-American, and leads the squad with 1.44 bpg. The team also returns its setter, Alisha Glass, who was a Big Ten All-Freshman selection last year.
WHAT WE HAVE IN COMMON: Stanford and Penn State have met one common opponent, Cal Poly, this year. Penn State won in five games on Aug. 31, and Stanford swept the Mustangs on Sept. 7.
THE SERIES WITH PENN STATE: The Cardinal-Nittany Lion series can be described as nothing but dramatic. Going into this weekend, the series is deadlocked at 4-4. Stanford first met Penn State in the 1992 Regionals, when it knocked the squad out on its way to its first NCAA Championship. In 1997, Penn State handed Stanford its only two losses of the regular season, but the Cardinal prevailed when it counted, winning a five-game thriller for the 1997 NCAA Championship. Two years later, the Nittany Lions got payback, beating the Cardinal in the 1999 NCAA title match. The teams have met three times in the preseason since, with Stanford winning in 2001 and the teams exchanging five-game victories in 2004 and 2005. Notably, six of the eight meetings with Penn State have occurred in years in which Stanford went on to win the NCAA title.
LEADERS OF THE PAC: Foluke Akinradewo's .553 hitting percentage is currently the best in the Pac-10, while Bryn Kehoe's 14.61 assists per game also lead the league. Three Stanford players, Alix Klineman, Cynthia Barboza and Akinradewo, all make the top-10 in kills per game at fifth, sixth and eighth, respectively. Akinradewo is fifth in the conference with 1.48 blocks per game, while Gabi Ailes and Barboza come in at fifth and ninth, respectively in digs per game. Akinradewo and Klineman are sixth and seventh in points per game, with Klineman being the only true freshman to make the list.
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.
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. Eleven opponents appeared in the preseason top-25, and 13 participated in the NCAA Championship last season. Six of Stanford's first seven matches were against ranked opponents. No. 3 Penn State will be Stanford's seventh ranked opponent of the preseason.
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 fourth 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 fourth straight week, while Penn State, USC and UCLA remained the rest of the top-five. Five Pac-10 squads - Stanford, UCLA, USC, Cal and Washington - 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: Beginning his 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.