TOURNEY TIME: The third-ranked Stanford women’s volleyball team (24-5) 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. 7 seed, the Cardinal will face Hampton (19-10) in the opening round on Thursday night.
SCOUTING HAMPTON: Hampton (19-10) is making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance after capturing its first MEAC Tournament championship. Junior rightside Vendula Strakova, the MEAC Player of the Year, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after recording 25 kills, six digs, and four aces in the title match. The Lady Pirates have won six straight matches and 11 of their last 13. Strakova leads Hampton with 5.64 kills per set and leads the nation with 6.59 points per set. She is also averaging a team-best 0.60 aces per set. Junior outside hitter Krista Kraskura adds 2.30 kills per set and 2.35 digs per set. Senior setter Bibiany Fonseca controls the offense with 10.38 assists per set.
THE SERIES WITH THE LADY PIRATES: Thursday’s match at Maples Pavilion will be the first meeting between Stanford and Hampton.
SCOUTING OKLAHOMA: Oklahoma (23-7) enters its fifth straight NCAA Tournament and finished tied for third in the Big 12 at 11-5. The Sooners are led by unanimous All-Big 12 senior middle blocker Sallie McLaurin with 3.76 kills and 1.34 blocks per set to go with a conference-best .423 hitting percentage. Senior outside hitter Keila Rodriguez is third on the team at 2.43 kills per set and second with 3.25 digs per set, while sophomore outside hitter Kierra Holst adds 2.97 kills per set.
THE SERIES WITH THE SOONERS: Stanford is 4-0 all-time against Oklahoma. The last time the team met was during the 1997 NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal swept the Sooners in the second round at Maples Pavilion.
SCOUTING ALABAMA: Alabama (24-9) is making its first postseason appearance since 2007 and fourth overall. The Crimson Tide finished fourth in Southeastern Conference at 11-7. Alabama is a young squad, led by redshirt freshman middle blocker Krystal Rivers. An All-SEC performer, Rivers leads the team with 3.57 kills per set on a .406 hitting percentage. Rookie Brittany Thomas adds 3.33 kills and 2.43 digs per set for the Crimson Tide. Sophomore settter Sierra Wilson controls the offense with 12.05 assists per set.
THE SERIES WITH THE CRIMSON TIDE: Should Stanford and Alabama meet on Friday it would be the first match between the two programs.
LOOKING AHEAD: Should Stanford advance past this week, the team will travel to Lexington, Ky., for the Lexington Regional, Dec. 13-14. The Final Four will be held Dec. 19-21 at KeyArena in Seattle, Wash.
CATCH THE CARDINAL: Fans can catch the Stanford-Hampton match live on the Pac-12 Networks on Thursday as well as the winners’ match on Friday. KZSU radio will also be broadcasting both matches at 90.1 FM or online at http://kzsu.stanford.edu/. Live stats for all of the match will be accessible on GoStanford.com and ncaa.com.
SOCIAL NETWORKING: Fans will have access to unique behind-the-scenes content on the team this season by liking Stanford Women’s Volleyball on Facebook or following the team on Twitter and Instagram (@StanfordWVB). Instagram will house the Cardinal’s off the court photos and videos all season long.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: This year marks Stanford’s 33rd consecutive NCAA postseason appearance. The Cardinal is one of only two programs in the nation to have appeared in every NCAA Tournament since the NCAA Championship began in 1981 (Penn State is the other). Stanford has won more NCAA Championships (6), made more Final Four appearances (18), competed in more national championships matches (14) and won more NCAA Tournament matches (101) than any program in the nation.
SETTER OF THE YEAR: Sophomore Madi Bugg was tabbed the Pac-12 Setter of the Year. She leads the Pac-12 with 11.88 assists per set, upping that mark to 12.10 in conference matches. Her assists per set average ranks seventh in the nation and she’s had two of the Pac-12’s seven 60-plus assist outings on the season.
PAC-12 HONORS: Six Cardinal have been recognized on the All-Pac-12 Conference teams. Senior Carly Wopat and sophomores Inky Ajanaku and Jordan Burgess were all selected to the 14-player all-conference team. Senior Rachel Williams and sophomores Madi Bugg and Brittany Howard were honorable mention selections. Wopat and Williams are being honored for the fourth time in their careers as they were both all-freshman picks in 2010.
PAC-12 IN THE TOURNEY: The Pac-12 earned nine berths into the 2013 NCAA Tournament, a league record and the most by any conference in the nation. It is the 14th straight year in which the Pac-12 has sent at least six teams into the postseason and the 22nd overall. Pac-12 teams posted a 110-16 (.873) record versus other conferences this season.
STANFORD VS. THE FIELD: The Cardinal has played 18 matches against the 2013 NCAA field, posting a 13-5 record. Stanford went 11-3 against Pac-12 teams in the tournament, and picked up non-conference wins over UC Santa Barbara and Yale.
SWEET NOVEMBER: Stanford went undefeated in the month of November (9-0) and bring a nine-match winning streak into the postseason. The nine-in-a-row is the longest winning streak of the season for the Cardinal.
FAMILIAR FACE: Bryn Kehoe, a three-time All-America setter for the Cardinal from 2004-07, will be back on The Farm this week as she is in her first season as an assistant coach with the Alabama Crimson Tide. She won a national championship as a freshman, and is the Cardinal career record holder for assists (5,956) and assists per set (13.32).
RETURNING ALL-AMERICANS: Stanford has three returning All-Americans on its roster this season. Senior Carly Wopat, a two-time honoree, was a first team selection by the AVCA and Volleyball Magazine, while sophomore Inky Ajanaku was an honorable mention pick by the AVCA in 2012. Senior outside hitter Rachel Williams was an AVCA honorable mention selection in 2011. In total, the Cardinal has produced 31 All-Americans who have collected 70 total awards.
NATIONAL POLL: Stanford remained at No. 3 in the AVCA top-25 this week. Texas an Penn State sit ahead of the Cardinal, while Missouri and Washington round out the top-5. Four Pac-12 squads are ranked in the top-25.
RPI: In the latest Rating Percentage Index (RPI), the Cardinal came in at No. 6. Penn State, Texas, Florida, Missouri and Washington sit ahead of Stanford. Three Pac-12 squads are ranked in the top-10 and six in the top-30.
SENIOR CLASS AWARD: Senior middle blocker Carly Wopat has been named a top 10 finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, which focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. The winner will be announced at the Final Four in Seattle in December.
BLOCK CITY: Stanford’s team blocks per set mark of 3.02 leads the Pac-12 and ranks third in the nation. Senior Carly Wopat leads the conference and ranks 16th nationally with 1.41 blocks per set, while sophomore Inky Ajanaku is averaging 1.40 blocks per set (3rd Pac-12, 19th nationally). As a team, the Cardinal registered a season-high 18 blocks at Oregon (11/14).
NATIONAL HONORS: Senior Rachel Williams was tabbed the Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week on Nov. 26, becoming the first Cardinal player to receive the honor since 2011. Sophomore Inky Ajanaku picked up the award the following week. A Stanford player has won the national honor 16 times.
CONFERENCE HONORS: Senior middle blocker Carly Wopat has been named the Pac-12 Offensive (10/14) and Defensive (11/18) Player of the Week this season. Senior Rachel Williams joined her on Nov. 25 as the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, and sophomore Inky Ajanaku made it three in a row for the Cardinal on Dec. 2. Stanford now has 88 weekly awards all-time, which paces the Pac-12.
SPREAD OFFENSE: Stanford setter Madi Bugg has controlled the offense this season, leading the Pac-12 and ranking seventh in the nation with 11.88 assists per set. She has been spreading the love amongst her teammates in the process as five Cardinal players are averaging at least 2.60 kills per set - Carly Wopat (275k/2.89kps), Brittany Howard (274/2.82kps), Rachel Williams (266k/2.77kps), Jordan Burgess (269k/2.74kps) and Inky Ajanaku (247k/2.66kps).
CLIMBING THE CHARTS: Senior Carly Wopat ranks among the top 10 in school history with 592 career blocks (third), moving past Cardinal great Foluke Akinradewo (‘08). She now trails Kim Oden (1982-85) and Bev Oden (1989-92) who totaled 665 and 650 blocks, respectively. Her 1.37 career blocks per set average would be the third-best mark in school history.
SENIOR STATEMENT: Senior outside hitter Rachel Williams is one of the Cardinal leaders this season with 2.77 kills per set. She posted double-doubles in three consecutive matches (vs. Pacific, Florida & Texas) and leads the team with 10 overall. Her 21 kills against then-No. 8 Florida are the most by a Cardinal player this season.
DOMINANT DEFENSE: Junior libero Kyle Gilbert has led the defensive side of the ball for the Cardinal this season and ranks second on the Pac-12 charts with 5.02 digs per set. She set a new career high and tied the school’s single match record with 33 digs against USC on Oct. 30. She has 486 digs this season, which is the seventh-best mark in a single season in school history. Gilbert is averaging 4.05 digs per set for her career, ranking second in program history behind Gabi Ailes (4.57).
HOME SWEET HOME: Maples Pavilion gives the Cardinal a true home court advantage as Stanford won 24 consecutive home matches from Sept. 7, 2012 to Oct. 25, 2013. Stanford is now 28-1 at home since the start of the 2012 campaign.
CONFERENCE CHARTS: Senior middle blocker Carly Wopat and sophomore Inky Ajanaku lead the Pac-12 with a .438 hitting percentage this season. Sophomore setter Madi Bugg is fourth in the conference with 0.33 aces per set.
HEAD COACH JOHN DUNNING: Now in his 13th season at the helm of the Cardinal program, head coach John Dunning is one of the most accomplished coaches in the collegiate volleyball world. Dunning has four national championships under his belt, has taken teams to nine Final Fours and carried six of his 12 Stanford teams to the national championship match.
MILESTONE FOR DUNNING: Head coach John Dunning captured his 800th career victory on Nov. 22 as the Cardinal swept Washington State at Maples Pavilion, becoming just the fourth active Division I head coach to reach that mark. In 29 years as a head coach, he is 802-168 (.827), giving him a winning percentage that ranks amongst the top-5 all-time for Division I coaches. Dunning is 365-66 in his 13 seasons on The Farm, leading all active coaches in the conference by winning percentage (.847).