Cardinal Volleyball Crystal Ball

For a fan of Stanford Women's Volleyball, it paid to be in Minneapolis for the recent 2007 USA Junior Olympic Girls' Volleyball Championships. Three of the four incoming frosh signed in the Class of 2007 - Alix Klineman, Stephanie Browne and Gabi Ailes - were on display. Also shining were a handful of prized Cardinal recruits in the '08 and '09 classes. Read on for the exciting scouting reports.

The USA Junior Olympic Girls' Volleyball Championships recently concluded in Minneapolis (Minn.), providing not only a glimpse of three members of Stanford's incoming freshman class, but also allowed a view of players in future classes that are on Coach John Dunning's recruiting radar.

Members of Stanford's 2007 Women's Volleyball recruiting class were named outstanding performers at the tournament.  Incoming Stanford frosh Alexandra Klineman was named to the U18 Open Division All-Tournament Team, and Gabi Ailes was named to the U18 National Division All-Tournament Team.  Klineman's Mizuno Long Beach 18 team placed second in the U18 Open Division Finals.  Ailes Nebraska Elite 18 Kryptonite team finished in fifth place in the U18 National Division.  Another member of the incoming Stanford class, Stephanie Browne, placed fifth in the U18 Open Division with her Vision 18 Gold team.

The following is a very unofficial scouting report on three members of the incoming class and some future hopefuls for the 2008 and 2009 recruiting classes.

Class of 2007

Gabi Ailes, out of Belleview West High School in Nebraska, promises to be a strong libero and defensive specialist over the next four years at Stanford.  Ailes is a fiery leader who would likely run through a brick wall to retrieve a ball.  She is very strong, tough as nails, and built low to the ground.  She has a good arm swing and hits effectively and with good power from the back row.  Ailes moves well, is an active, solid passer with good control, and sees the whole court.  She has good setting hands, and showed tremendous power hitting sharp angles from the left side.  Ailes had a particularly memorable moment showing her athleticism in making a tremendous back row dig, doing a shoulder roll and popping to her feet in time to hit a blistering back row spike.

Stephanie Browne, out of Monte Vista High School in California, is an old school middle blocker with remarkable size.  She needs to work on her upper body strength and explosiveness, but at 6'5" she will be worth the work.  What stood out in watching Browne was her intelligence at the net.  She has very active eyes, consistently makes very good reads of the setter and hitters and knows exactly where her hands should be at all times in being in the best position to make the block.

Alexandra Klineman, out of Mira Costa High School in California, is the next big thing in Stanford's long history of remarkable outside hitters.  Alix moves exceptionally well and with remarkable grace for a player of her size, even in the back row.  A role in a Balanchine ballet would not appear to be beyond her talents despite being 6'5".  She will definitely benefit from the strength training program at Stanford.  Klineman looks the part and acts the part as a team leader, talking and communicating, moving into proper position and being ready even when not being set or directly involved in the play.  She passes and covers adequately in the back row (not yet at the Kerri Walsh level).  Klineman has a remarkable, well controlled and hard jump serve that appears technically flawless with a long fluid swing.  She is also a devastating weapon hitting out of the back row.  She will make errors in trying to hit around the block when the set is off, and doesn't seem to be as comfortable going across her body to hit down the line.  She seemed most comfortable hitting cross court over the block.  Hopefully Klineman will be able to continue that particular shot at the next level.

Class of 2008

Kelly Murphy, out of Joliet High School in Illinois, is going to make some head coach very happy next year, and hopefully it will be Stanford's John Dunning.  Murphy was named the MVP in the U18 Open Division, and few would question the selection.  Murphy's Mizuno Sports Performance 18 Elite team defeated Klineman's Mizuno Long Beach 18 team in the U18 Open Finals.  Murphy is a 6'3" left handed opposite hitter with remarkable athletic skills.  Excellent blocking reads at the net and sets the block well for the middle.  Murphy is a dynamic attacker who likes hitting down the line – extremely hard.  Murphy is an extremely skilled volleyball player and will in all likelihood be next year's National High School Player of the Year.

Tanya Schmidt, out of Harker High School in California, is Stephanie Browne's teammate on the Vision 18 Gold team.  Schmidt looks physically very young and coltish.  She has a good arm swing and hits hard with a high contact point.  She is bit of a project, as she still appears to be learning the game, but is 6'2".  Schmidt needs to penetrate better on the block.  She also needs to get much stronger.

Colleen Ward, out of Naperville North High School in Illinois, is a 6'2" outside hitter and Murphy's teammate on the Mizuno Sports Performance 18 Elite team.  Ward was also named to the U18 Open Division All-Tournament team.  She is very strong and has excellent court reactions.  She hits well out of the back row.  Ward is a very smart player who sees the block well and hits the ball at a high impact point.  She is a very accurate hitter who can hit off the blockers fingers at will. Ward is very steady in the back row and has an excellent court sense, making good reads off the block to be in proper defense position.

Class of 2009

Katherine Douglas is a 6'2" outside hitter from Woodside High School in California, and is also on Stephanie Browne's Vision 18 Gold team.  Douglas is a very heady, vocal player.  She is a very strong for a girl her age.  She is an excellent blocker, possesses an excellent passing technique and covers the court well.  She has superb court sense.  Douglas also hits very well from the back row.

Katherine Fischer, out of Homestead High School in California, is a member of the Vision 16 Gold team that finished 10th in the U16 Open Division.  Fischer is very young, thin and unassuming looking on the sidelines.  That perception goes out the window when she steps on the court.  This youngster is intensely focused and wants the ball on every play.  Fischer really goes up and gets it.  She is very explosive.  She has a big time arm swing and hits very hard.  Fischer also has good pass technique.

Next for several of these young women: the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.  Klineman, Murphy, Ward and incoming Stanford frosh Cassidy Lichtman joined the US Junior National Team to train for the FIVB U-20 World Championships held July 19-27 in Nakhonratchasima, Thailand.  Gabi Ailes joined the US Junior National A2 Team to train for the European Global Challenge held July 17-27 in Pula, Croatia.

On the strength of the incoming class, and any success on the recruiting trail signing the likes of Murphy and Ward, the future of the Stanford Women's Volleyball team will be continued success at a very high level.

About the Authors

Don is a Stanford graduate, Class of 1979, and former member of the Stanford Men's Volleyball Team, playing for Coaches Art Lambert and Fred Sturm.  Don likes watching volleyball, particularly since he can no longer jump.

Signe is the incoming Editor-In-Chief of the Wayzata High School newspaper, the Trojan Tribune, and is a Stanford Class of 2012 hopeful.  Signe is also a member of Mizuno Minnesota Select 17 Black, which participated in the 2007 USJO Nationals, placing 46th in the American Division.

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