The Stanford Women's Volleyball team disposed of three nationally ranked opponents in a workman-like manner to win the 2007 Diet Coke Classic held at the University of Minnesota, August 31 – September 2. Stanford junior Foluke Akinradewo and super-frosh Alix Klineman were named to the All-Tournament team, and All-American junior Cynthia Barboza was named the tournament MVP. The other members of the all-tournament team were Jessy Jones and Brook Dieter of the University of Minnesota, and Stephanie Blackburn and Ellen Herman of Ohio University.
Stanford defeated the #12 ranked University of San Diego 3-0 (30-24, 30-24, 30-20), host #9 University of Minnesota 3-1 (26-30, 30-23, 30-26, 30-23), and tournament surprise #23 Ohio University 3-0 (30-15, 30-25, 30-23), in extremely hot conditions in Williams Arena. Stanford dropped only a single game to Minnesota during the weekend. University of Minnesota Assistant Coach Dave Manka was overheard to comment: "Stanford is Stanford. There are no good matchups against them. In the first game Stanford figured out what level it had to play at, and then just wore us down."
The early season three-day tournament format allowed Cardinal head coach John Dunning to experiment with different lineups and player combinations. Most of the physically able members of the team made at least brief appearances over the weekend, and the nation's #1-ranked freshman recruiting class made significant contributions.
All-American juniors Cynthia Barboza and Foluke Akinradewo were focal points of Stanford's high octane offense, and both delivered numerous spectacular kills that thrilled the crowd over the course of the tournament. The offense was bolstered by Alix Klineman, the #1 recruit in the Class of 2007, who ably shouldered a large portion of the Stanford offensive attack, leading the team in kills every match of the tournament. The other freshman in the starting lineup, Gabi Ailes, provided Stanford with an amazing display of quickness and athleticism at libero and defensive specialist, leading the team in digs, with a high of 18 vs. Minnesota.
Stanford rode its strong serving and exceptional back row defense to wear down its opponents. The back row defense was necessary, as Stanford was outblocked by both Minnesota and Ohio. While the Stanford front line was able to consistently force all three opponents to hit into the strength of the defense, blocks for points were far too rare for a team of Stanford's size. The Stanford middles seemed a step slow in closing the block. All-Tournament selection and super-frosh Brooke Dieter of Minnesota repeatedly found holes in even the Stanford triple blocks to exploit for kills.
The weekend also showed that Stanford needs to work on its passing, as it moves toward the start of the Pac-10 season. Stanford defended poorly against short serves, and Bryn Kehoe was forced to save many errant passes by setting either Klineman or Barboza out of the back row. Though Klineman and Barboza consistently delivered spectacular hits from behind the 10-foot line, this is not a play Stanford wants to rely on regularly in the coming season.
The home season starts with the Stanford Invitational on Thursday, September 6 when the Cardinal play St. Mary's at 7:00 pm in Maples Pavilion.
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