Dec. 18, 2007
Stanford, Calif. - The Cardinal women's volleyball team kept its place in the national spotlight in 2007, maintaining a long tradition of wins, conference titles, Final Four appearances, National Championship matches and record-breaking performances.
The Cardinal began the year with its first undefeated non-conference season in more than a decade, continued by defending its Pac-10 title in the toughest conference in the nation, finished with a tough battle through the NCAA Tournament, and, for the third time in the last four years, was one of two teams left standing on the final day of the season. The squad ended the year with a No. 2 national ranking, a 32-3 record, its 14th conference title and an NCAA Final Four appearance, all collected while playing the toughest schedule in the nation.
The Cardinal began the year with a preseason to remember. The squad won all three of its preseason tournaments, went a perfect 11-0, dropped just four games and topped seven ranked opponents. The team capped its successful opening chapter with a thrilling five-game victory over eventual National Champion Penn State to claim the Yale Classic title and headed into one of the toughest conference schedules in the country.
The Cardinal won its first six conference matches, including sweeps of then-No. 4 and then-No. 5 USC and UCLA, before finally dropping a match to the Washington Huskies. Stanford rebounded, however, and lost just one more conference match from there on out. The Cardinal bested the Huskies on their home floor from the first time since 2002, snapping the team's 39-match home win streak, then won a five-game thriller over California on Senior Night to clinch a second-straight Pac-10 title. Head Coach John Dunning earned his 200th win with the Stanford program on Nov. 9.
Stanford swept the conference awards for the first time since 2001, with Dunning voted Coach of the Year, outside hitter Alix Klineman voted Freshman of the Year and middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo voted Player of the Year. Four players were named the All-Pac-10 Team, with Klineman the only newcomer to make the squad.
Stanford entered the NCAA Tournament as the overall No. 1 seed for the first time since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1998 and dominated its first three matches at Maples Pavilion. On the shoulders of senior setter Bryn Kehoe's 76 assists, Klineman's 24 kills and 23 digs and junior opposite hitter Erin Waller's 19 kills, the Cardinal earned a spot in its 17th Final Four with a four-game victory over UCLA in the Regional Final.
Akinradewo recorded a career-high 26 kills in the National Semifinal match, lifting Stanford to a thrilling five-game victory over USC. In the National Final, the Cardinal battled back from its first 0-2 deficit of the year, and nearly pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in NCAA Championship history, put fell short in the fifth game to take second place for the second consecutive year.
Despite the loss, the Cardinal had much to be proud of in 2007. The squad posted its 14th 30+ win season, won its 14th conference championship, advanced to its 27th NCAA Tournament, made its record 17th Final Four appearance and advanced to its unprecedented 13th National Championship match.
Stanford bested 18 ranked opponents, outhit 33 of the 35 teams it faced and won 21 matches by 3-0 margins. The Cardinal posted the best hitting percentage in the Pac-10 (.316), led the conference in both kills (17.46 kpg) and assists (16.21 apg), and ranked in the nation's top-five in all three categories. Four players - Akinradewo, Klineman, Kehoe and Cynthia Barboza - were named All-Americans, matching the highest total in program history, and, for the 11th time, Stanford produced the National Player of the Year. Kehoe, Akinradewo and Barboza were all named to the All-America First Team, the first time in school history that the Cardinal boasted three first-team All-Americans.
Akinradewo, the recipient of the National Player of the Year award, posted the second-best hitting percentage in NCAA history (.499), a mark which led the nation and shattered both the Pac-10 and program records by more than 50 points. The junior middle blocker was also one of the conference's top players in kills (4.11 kpg), blocks (1.21 bpg) and points (4.94 ppg), and was named Pac-10 Player of the Year for her efforts.
Kehoe led the nation in assists in 2007, with a 14.40 apg mark. She wrapped up an incredible career on the Farm in her third NCAA Championship match, but not before etching her name throughout the Stanford, Pac-10 and NCAA record books. The setter broke the program's career assist record on Oct. 12, and finished nearly 1,000 assists above the previous mark with 5,956. The total was the third-best in Pac-10 history and one of the top-25 in NCAA history, while her 13.32 career assist per game mark was among the NCAA's all-time top-10. Kehoe shattered her own single-season assist record on Dec. 13, and finished with a program-best 1,742 assists for the year, one of the top three marks in Pac-10 history and one of the top-20 all-time in the NCAA. A three-time All-American, Kehoe finished her career owning four of the top-10 single-match assist performances in program history as well as a place among the program's all-time top-10 in both service aces (5th, 129) and digs (7th, 1,220).
Barboza finished the year with a career-best 20 double-doubles, was one of the team's top hitters with 3.99 kpg, earned MVP honors at two of the team's three preseason tournaments and was named the program's first Academic All-American since 2004. She nabbed first-team All-Pac-10, All-Region and All-America honors, and, along with Akinradewo, joined Stanford's elite 1,000-kill club as just a junior.
Stanford's No. 1 recruiting class lived up to its name, as three freshmen moved into the starting line-up, and two proved to be the team's best in their respective specialties. Klineman led the team in kills (4.12 kpg) in her rookie season, earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors at her first opportunity, was a second-team All-American, was the only freshman named to the All-Region and All-Pac-10 Teams, earned Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and the Pacific Region Freshman of the Year honors and was named to the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team. Fellow freshman Gabi Ailes, the squad's libero, earned All-Pac-10 Freshman Honorable Mention, shattered the program's single-match dig record on Oct. 27 and surpassed the program's single-season dig record in the National Semifinal.
Two other players recorded the best seasons of their careers, as Waller stepped up late in the year to average a career-best 2.37 kpg, and senior middle blocker Franci Girard had the best hitting year of her career with one of the top hitting percentages in the Pac-10 (.317) and a career-best 2.19 kpg.
In the end, the 2007 Cardinal upheld the impressive 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 program in the nation. In 2008, with three returning All-Americans, a top-10 recruit, 11 returning players and six returning starters, the Cardinal is in position to continue where it left off.