On To Colorado: Stanford Meets No. 11 Florida In First Match Of Fort Collins Regional

Dec. 8, 2008

ON TO THE ROUND OF 16: Of the 329 NCAA Division I women's volleyball teams, just 16 remain in the hunt for the 2008 NCAA title and the Stanford Cardinal is one of them. Second-seeded Stanford heads to its third consecutive NCAA Regional this week, and will take on 15th-seeded Florida in the second regional semifinal in Fort Collins, Colo. The Cardinal and Gators square off at 7 p.m. (MT) following another semifinal between No. 7 Hawai'i and No. 10 Purdue. The winners will battle for a trip to the Final Four on Saturday at 7 p.m. (MT).

LOOKING AHEAD: Should Stanford advance out of Fort Collins, the team will head to the Final Four in Omaha, Neb. This year's event will be held Dec. 18 and 20 at the Qwest Center Omaha.

THE ROAD TO FORT COLLINS: Stanford made easy work of its two opponents in the first and second rounds last week, sweeping Albany (25-9, 25-11, 25-21) and Long Beach State (25-15, 25-21, 25-15) at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal held its opponents to a 15-point average over the six sets, and allowed no more than 21 points in any frame. Stanford held Albany to just nine points in the first set of the tournament, marking the first time since 2002 that the Cardinal has held an opponent under 10 in an NCAA Tournament game. One of five teams to face a ranked opponent in the second round, Stanford made it look easy with its 21st sweep of the year.

CATCH THE CARDINAL: Fans can catch the matches this weekend live on KZSU radio (90.1 FM or online at http://kzsu.stanford.edu/). The regional final will be televised live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. (MT) on Saturday evening. Gametracker will also be available for both matches. Tickets can be purchased at www.CSURams.com or by calling (800) 491-RAMS.

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 (89) than any program in the nation. The Cardinal will be appearing in an NCAA Regional for the 26th time, and the seventh in its eight years under head coach John Dunning.

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 in the opening rounds of the tournament, picking up more bids to the round of 16 than any other conference (5). 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 made this year's field, and all five seeded teams from the conference are still alive. 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 116 victories, three consecutive Pac-10 titles and two straight appearances in the national championship match. Combined, they have tallied 3,888 kills, 2,619 digs and 946 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 continues this year's 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 16 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 11 matches against the remaining tournament field and has gone 9-2 in those contests. The Cardinal is 5-0 against teams on its side of the bracket, but has yet to face any of the three teams in the Fort Collins Regional. Stanford was 14-3 against the original 64-team field.

IN THE CENTENNIAL STATE: Stanford has been very successful in Colorado over the years, winning all 15 matches it has played in the Centennial State. The team last made an appearance there in 2005, competing in a preseason tournament at the University of Colorado- Boulder. The program is 6-0 at Colorado State's Moby Arena. Stanford's Alix Klineman, Foluke Akinradewo and Cynthia Barboza are all familiar with playing in the state, having spent the entire 2008 offseason training with the U.S. Women's National Team in Colorado Springs.

BRINGING IT WHEN IT COUNTS: Nearly every Stanford player upped her production last week, turning in increased averages for the postseason. Outside hitter Cynthia Barboza turned in 4.00 kps and 3.17 dps, while middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo also bested her season averages with 3.67 kps and a .500 hitting percentage. Janet Okogbaa had an incredible weekend with 3.00 kps, 1.67 bps and a .571 hitting percentage, while libero Gabi Ailes (4.50 dps) and setter Cassidy Lichtman (13.17 aps) also came in well above their season averages. Sophomore outside hitter Alix Klineman turned in 4.00 kps and showed signs of the postseason defensive surge she recorded last year (4.33 dps). As a freshman in 2007, Klineman averaged 2.33 dps during the regular season, then ramped it up for the postseason with a 4.26 dps average over the final six matches.

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 101 sets, Klineman has turned in 364 kills, good for a team-leading 3.60 kps mark.

DIGGING DEEP: Stanford libero Gabi Ailes has been hot recently, turning in three 20-dig performances in the last four matches of the regular season. 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). At Oregon State in the regular-season finale, 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 12 of the last 13 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 topping the school-record pace she accomplished last year (4.26 dps) with 4.27 dps. She is also carrying a career average (4.27) 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 fourth with 444. The Bellevue, Neb. native is now within 15 digs of taking over third place, and 23 digs of reaching 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), earned All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention, recorded 10 double-doubles and set new personal bests in every statistical category. As the exclusive setter in seven of the last eight matches, she has averaged 13.20 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, and last Saturday against Long Beach State, she turned in 41 in just three sets (a career-high for a three-set match).

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 .446 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 28-3 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). Fifteen of Stanford's matches have been against teams that are currently in the top-25, and 19 have been 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 19 of the last 21 matches. 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 14 of the last 15.

THE WALL AT THE NET: Senior Foluke Akinradewo is having the best blocking year of her career (1.45 bps) and currently stands third on the Cardinal career list (547). The senior is second in the Pac-10 in blocking and seventh 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. She is now within nine blocks of joining the Pac-10's career top-10.

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 113 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 swept two more opponents last week to open postseason play, matching its 21-sweep total from 2007. The team opened the conference season with six consecutive sweeps for the first time in school history this year, and finished with sweeps in 12 of 18 conference matches.

THE STREAK IS ON: Stanford enters regionals riding a season-long 13-match win streak. The team's 11-match streak to end the regular season was its longest season-ending run 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 three leaders in hitting percentage, including leader Foluke Akinradewo, hail from The Farm. Akinradewo paces the conference and is third in the nation with a .458 clip, while fellow middle blocker Janet Okogbaa is third in the conference at .397. As a team, Stanford leads the Pac-10 with a .319 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, just above the record of .316 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 28-3 record, but by the list of opponents' hitting percentages. Of Stanford's 31 opponents, 21 have hit below .200, with eight 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 23 times, above .400 five 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 20 of its 25 matches, and held 19 opponents below .200 hitting.

THE ACADEMIC AWARDS ROLL IN: Senior Cynthia Barboza continues to rack up academic awards this season, and was most recently named the Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for volleyball. The Cardinal outside hitter was also recognized as one of the top six players in the nation for her efforts both on the court and in the classroom on Nov. 25, 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-America 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 10.34 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 116 Cardinal wins, three conference titles and a pair of Final Four appearances.

NATIONAL POLL: Stanford stands at No. 2 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, the same slot it held preseason and every week since Nov. 3. 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 that it had 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 had only seen USC this year, and, with the Trojans eliminated, couldn't meet a familiar foe until the Final Four. In the tournament as a whole, Stanford had previously played 12 of the 64 teams.

SCOUTING FLORIDA: The 11th-ranked Gators (27-3) claimed the SEC title with an 18-2 mark in conference play this year, and earned their 18th-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. The team is led by SEC Freshman of the Year Kelly Murphy, a setter/hitter who paces the team with 3.25 kps and a .361 hitting percentage, all while contributing 5.51 aps. Fellow freshman Kristy Jaeckel is also an offensive threat (2.95 kps), while junior libero Elyse Cusack (4.59 dps) ranks as one of the nation's top servers with 43 aces. The Gators are 3-2 against ranked teams this season, but have not played any of the remaining teams in the field nor a team currently ranked higher than No. 20. Their best win was perhaps their most recent - a sweep of No. 22 Colorado State in the NCAA Second Round.

COMMON GROUND: Long Beach State is the only common opponent between Florida and Stanford this year. The Gators topped the 49ers in five sets on Sept. 6, while Stanford swept them in the NCAA Second Round last Saturday.

THE SERIES WITH THE GATORS: Stanford and Florida have two wins apiece against each other, with Stanford winning the first and last meetings (1994 and 2004) and Florida winning the two in the middle (2002 and 2003). The only one of those that was in the NCAA Tournament was the most recent, when Stanford was sent to Gainesville and met the Gators in the NCAA Second Round. The Cardinal prevailed 25-30, 30-15, 21-30, 30-27, 15-9, then marched on to win the NCAA title.

SCOUTING HAWAI'I: The Rainbow Wahine enter this week's regional with a 30-3 record, having claimed the WAC title to earn an automatic NCAA bid. Leading the way for Hawai'i is two-time WAC Player of the Year Jamie Houston, who ranks among the nation's top-50 kill leaders with 4.06 kps. WAC Freshman of the Year Kanani Danielson chips in 2.94 kps, while also leading the team with 308 digs (2.96 dps). Juniors Amber Kaufman and Aneli Cubi-Otineru joined Houston and Danielson as first-team All-WAC picks and are the most dangerous servers on the team with a combined 89 aces. Hawai'i is 3-2 against currently ranked teams and 1-2 against the remaining NCAA field. The team's biggest win came over No. 5 Washington on Sept. 13, as the Wahine defeated the Huskies in five sets at home.

COMMON GROUND: Hawai'i and Stanford have played six common opponents this year - UCLA, Saint Mary's, Washington, New Mexico State, Cal Poly and USC. Hawai'i has gone 7-2 in those matches, while Stanford has gone 9-0. Two of Hawai'i's three losses on the year (to UCLA and New Mexico State) are to teams Stanford beat.

THE SERIES WITH THE RAINBOW WAHINE: Stanford and Hawai'i have met 29 times before, and, going into the year, Hawai'i was the only school in the nation holding a winning edge over the Stanford program (Hawai'i leads the series 17-12). Yet, Stanford has been extremely dominant over the last two decades, winning eight of the 10 meetings since 1990, and eight of the last nine overall. Stanford last saw Hawai'i in 2006, when the Cardinal routed the then-No. 9 Rainbow Wahine on their home floor, 30-10, 30-22, 30-24. Hawai'i's only win since 1991 came in 2003, when John Dunning's club lost in five sets in the Aloha State. Hawai'i holds a 3-2 advantage in NCAA Tournament matches, but all three of the Rainbow Wahine wins came in the 1980s.

SCOUTING PURDUE: The Boilermakers (26-8) finished fourth in the Big Ten and were awarded an at-large bid to their fifth-straight NCAA Tournament. Purdue is led by senior All-Big Ten selection Stephanie Lynch, who carries the team with 3.40 kps, a .410 hitting percentage and 1.45 bps. Senior outside hitter Danita Merlau (3.04 kps) is also an offensive contributor, while senior Kelli Miller has proven to be an extremely capable libero (4.22 dps). The Boilermakers are 4-7 against ranked teams and 1-6 against the remaining teams in the tournament. Their only win against the remaining field came on Nov. 1 in five sets over Michigan.

COMMON GROUND: The Boilermakers and Cardinal have played two common opponents this year - Saint Louis and Illinois. Stanford went 1-1 against those teams, sweeping Illinois and falling to Saint Louis in four sets. Purdue is 1-2 against those teams, besting Saint Louis but falling to Big Ten foe Illinois twice.

THE SERIES WITH THE BOILERMAKERS: Stanford has won both of its all-time meetings with Purdue (1980 and 1984). The teams have never faced in the NCAA Tournament.

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