Stanford Women's Volleyball: 2009 Season In Review
Dec. 30, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - With the conclusion of the 2009 collegiate volleyball season, Stanford can look back on yet another year which sustained its tradition as a national powerhouse. The Cardinal added another notch to the school's long tradition of wins, conference titles, consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and record-breaking performances.
The Cardinal opened the year with another challenging non-conference season, continued by defending three Pac-10 titles in the toughest conference in the nation and finished with a tough battle in the NCAA Tournament. The squad ended the year with a No. 7 national ranking, a 23-8 record, its 16th conference title and its 29th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Cardinal began the year in Notre Dame, Ind., at the Shamrock Invitational, eager to see the status of the team after losing four starters, including two All-Americans, from its 2008 squad. Stanford entered the year with the No. 5 national ranking and pulled out a five-set victory over Louisiana State on Aug. 28 in the season opener.
Despite dropping its next match of the Shamrock Invitational to host Notre Dame, the Cardinal recorded its first sweep of the season over Denver to conclude the first weekend of action.
Stanford's second weekend of the season took it to Stockton, Calif., for the University of Pacific's Banker's Classic. Its first match pitted the 11th-ranked Cardinal against No. 5 Florida. The Gators came from behind to hand Stanford its first five-set loss on the year.
Stanford bounced back to sweep its next three opponents before running into No. 6 Hawai'i in Honolulu. Playing in front of 7,801 fans, the largest crowd of the season, the Cardinal dropped its third match of the year.
Stanford would finally return to The Farm for its home first home matches of the year, still searching for an undefeated weekend.
The Cardinal hosted San Francisco and Saint Mary's as part of the Pac-10/West Coast Conference Challenge, and defeated both the Dons and the Gaels in four sets. Stanford would take a 7-3 record into Pac-10 play.
The Cardinal opened the conference season on the road at rival California. Stanford came up short against the Bears, falling in five sets in Berkeley.
The team was determined to not let that first Pac-10 loss get them down as they won their next five matches, including a five-set win over previously undefeated and third-ranked Washington, to sit atop the Pac-10 standings with a 5-1 record.
After a tough road loss at Oregon, Stanford swept the Arizona schools at home to close out the first half of Pac-10 play tied for first with Washington.
The Cardinal began the second half of the season with a four-set win over USC at Maples Pavilion. However, Stanford suffered its first and only two-match losing streak of the year, falling to UCLA at home and Washington on the road.
Stanford still had its sight set on its fourth straight conference title as the Pac-10 was experiencing the most parity in league history. For the first time ever, the Pac-10 Champion was going to have more than two conference losses.
The Cardinal refocused and went on to win its next five matches to put itself in position to claim at least a share of the conference crown heading into its regular season finale against the Cal Bears at Maples Pavilion.
Stanford fell behind 0-2 to Cal and was facing a sweep by its rival for the first time ever. Out of the break, the Cardinal rallied to win the next three-sets, and with a Washington loss to Oregon, Stanford had won the Pac-10 title outright.
The conference championship was the Cardinal's fourth in a row, establishing the most dominant title streak in nearly a decade and took a six-match win streak into the postseason.
Stanford placed three on the All-Pac-10 team, senior Janet Okogbaa and juniors Alix Klineman, for the third straight year, and Cassidy Lichtman. Junior Gabi Ailes was named an honorable mention selection. The Cardinal also placed two on the All-Pac-10 Freshmen team, Karissa Cook and Jessica Walker, while Hannah Benjamin earned honorable mention accolades.
Stanford entered the NCAA Tournament as the overall No. 4 seed and dominated its first round match against Long Island before defeating Saint Mary's in five in the second round match at Maples Pavilion. The team remained on The Farm as it hosted the Stanford Regional. The Cardinal ran into a determined Michigan Wolverine team that end Stanford's season in the semifinal.
Despite the loss, the Cardinal had much to be proud of in 2009. The squad posted its ninth consecutive 20-win season, won its 16th conference championship, advanced to its 29th straight NCAA Tournament.
Stanford bested 11 ranked opponents, outhit 24 of the 31 teams it faced and won 12 matches by 3-0 margins. The Cardinal finished the year ranked among the nation's top teams in hitting percentage (.268), kills (13.85 kps), assists (13.03 aps) and blocks (2.64 bps). Four players were named All-Americans as Lichtman earned First Team honors, Klineman and Okogbaa were selected to the second team and Ailes garnered honorable mention.
Ailes finished 19th nationally in digs per set (5.23), a mark which paced the Pac-10. The junior also became Stanford's career digs leader in 2009, passing Stanford alum Kristin Richards' mark of 1,597 set from 2003-06. In addition to setting a new mark for digs in a career, the Bellevue, Neb., native set new school records for digs in a single season (617), digs per set in a season (5.23) and digs in a single match (33).
Klineman was Stanford's top kills producer for the third straight year (489). Her 4.25 kills per set ranked sixth in the Pac-10, as did her 4.82 points per set. The junior recorded her 1,000th career kill in the first set versus Saint Mary's on Sept. 19. She became the 12th Cardinal player to register 1,000 career kills and is on pace to finish her time at Stanford in the top-5 in career kills. She is also on track to become just the eighth Stanford player since 1986 to tally both 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs. Klineman also earned Academic All-America honors for the first time in her career.
Lichtman finished the year with a team-best 22 double-doubles, including 10 triple-doubles. As a setter/hitter, she was a key all-around player, finishing second on the team with 3.16 kills per set, 2.78 digs per set and 3.55 points per set, while also averaging 3.25 assists per set. The Poway, Calif., native was the only Cardinal player to earn all-tournament honors in all three regular season tournaments Stanford competed in this season.
Stanford's seniors wrapped up their careers having won the Pac-10 Championship in each of their four years on The Farm. Okogbaa finished 15th nationally and second in the conference with a .387 hitting percentage, a mark that is seventh all-time in Stanford history. Her .812 attack percentage (13-0-16) versus Long Island in the first round of the NCAA Tournament is the best hitting percentage ever recorded by a Cardinal in postseason play.
In the end, the 2009 Cardinal upheld the tradition of a program that boasts more NCAA titles, more NCAA Tournament wins, more Final Four appearances, more national championship matches and more Pac-10 titles than any in the nation. In 2010, with 11 returning players, including two All-Americans, the Cardinal is in position to turn in yet another impressive season.