Musings from Maples: WVB vs. Cal Poly

Stanford continued its perfect start to the 2007 season and downed yet another ranked opponent Friday night with a 3-0 sweep of #17 Cal Poly. The Cardinal's upperclassmen led the way, plus a pair of frosh impressed again. Above and beyond a simple recap of Women's Volleyball matches, we present some insightful observations, opinions and notes from the floor of Maples Pavilion.

Stanford Starters

OH – Alix Klineman
OH – Cynthia Barboza
MB – Foluke Akinradewo
MB – Franci Girard,
S – Bryn Kehoe
OPP – Jessica Fishburn
L – Gabi Ailes

Cal Poly Starters

OH – Ali Waller
OH – Gaby Rivera
MB – Jaclyn Houston
MB – Dominique Olowolafe
S – Chelsea Hayes
OPP – Kylie Atherstone
L – Kristin Jackson

Stanford defeats Cal Poly, 3-0 (30-21, 30-18, 30-28)

• After a dismal home debut against Saint Mary's where she only garnered three kills and hit -.118, junior Erin Waller bounced back with a strong performance against Cal Poly.  In the first stanza, she served notice to the crowd at Maples that there would be no repeat performance, as she torched the Mustangs with four kills on five swings.  In addition to great offensive numbers (she ended the night with seven kills and a .429 hitting percentage), the 6'1" opposite held her own on the defensive end and carved up Cal Poly's serve receive with her wicked standing floater, collecting two aces and going on numerous serving runs.

• Thanks to tough serving, the Cardinal continually put pressure on the Mustangs' serve receive, and the passes intended for setter Chelsea Hayes more often than not ended up around the three-meter line, which limited her offensive choices.  Libero Gabi Ailes had a particularly good serving match.  While her topspin jump serve did not produce any aces, it was still a devastating weapon that allowed Stanford to score many points; in the second game alone, she served for nine points, including the final seven to seal the 30-18 victory.  Other top servers include jump floaters from setter Bryn Kehoe and middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo.

• There's no argument about it – Akinradewo is the best middle blocker in the country.  There is no one in the collegiate game right now who can do the things that she can do.  Her athleticism is unmatched and allows her to get kills even if the set is off its mark.  In the third game, Kehoe pushed the ball higher than normal and out of Akinradewo's sweet spot.  For most middles, this would have resulted in an error.  However, the 6'3" junior was able to stay in the air thanks to her incredible hang time and barely grazed the ball with her fingertips, going over the block and down for a kill.  Akinradewo is also successful at the net because she has the ability to hit a variety of sets, giving opposing defenses a headache when trying to come up with a plan to stop her attacks.  Whether the ball is delivered to her in front or behind the setter, at a slow pace or up-tempo, the two-time All-American will put the ball away for the easy score.  Friday nonight, she finished with a match-high 15 kills, hitting .636 in the sweep.

• There are many words that could be used to describe senior Bryn Kehoe, though fearless would be right at the top of the list.  No matter where she gets the pass, the 5'11" setter will not hesitate to set up Akinradewo or Franci Girard for the quick attack.  Even if the pass is near the three-meter line or Stanford is running a transition play, Kehoe always makes sure that the middle is still a viable option.  Many playmakers would never attempt running the middle if the pass was less than perfect because of the timing and coordination issues involved, but the senior has confidence in her ability to deliver the perfect set and faith in her teammates to put the ball away.

• The Mustangs did a great job of containing uberfreshman Alix Klineman, Stanford's 2007 leader in kills per game, in the first game after holding her to just three kills on a .100 hitting percentage.  The 6'5" outside hitter was frustrated thanks to a disciplined block and great back-row play, especially by libero Kristin Jackson.  Kehoe recognized she needed to mix up her sets to get Klineman better attacking opportunities and get her back into the flow of the game.  Early in Game Two, Kehoe set Klineman inside the antenna by a few feet, surprising the Cal Poly block and giving Klineman just the boost she needed to get her offense revved up.  The second stanza was a complete reversal of the first, as the Manhattan Beach (Calif.) native finished with six kills on a .545 clip.  Overall, Klineman's stat line included 11 kills on a .296 hitting percentage.

• One aspect of Klineman's game that makes her such a terminal hitter is her court awareness – she sees the big picture of every play and adjusts accordingly.  For example, in the third game Klineman was about to send over what seemed like a free ball and as a result, Cal Poly's Ali Waller positioned herself to attack from the left side and turned her back on the play.  Klineman recognized Waller's eagerness to hit and sent the ball in her direction; by the time Waller had turned around the ball had sailed past her and into the court for a Stanford point.

• Kylie Atherstone and Waller were the leading attackers for Cal Poly head coach Jon Stevenson with 12 and 11 kills, respectively.  Both are very good back-row hitters, especially Atherstone, who was always a threat to score a point no matter where she was in the rotation.  Waller did an excellent job finding the seams in the block and she also hit for power.  However, much to her frustration, the Cardinal backcourt was always there to pick up her shots.  Stanford had three players in double figures in digs (Ailes with 15, Barboza with 13, and Kehoe with 12) and outdug Cal Poly by a healthy margin, 65-50.

• Midway through Game Three, the match appeared to be wrapped up after a kill by Girard made the score 20-9 in favor of the host team.  At this point, Dunning looked to his bench for support.  He first took out Klineman in favor for redshirt sophomore Alex Fisher, and then he swapped Waller for freshman Cassidy Lichtman.   Finally, he took out Kehoe to let sophomore Joanna Evans take over the reigns of the team.  With three Stanford starters out, the Mustangs took advantage of the Cardinal's sudden lack of experience and mounted a furious comeback.  By the time Cal Poly had come within one point at 28-27, all of the starters were back out on the court and it looked like Stanford would preserve the victory after a Klineman kill gave the home team a two-point lead and match point.  However, Klineman hit out on the next point, again bringing the visitors to within one point of tying the game.  Dunning then called a timeout in hopes of icing out Ali Waller, whose jump serve had caused problems all night long.  In what should have been a superb ending to an exciting game, the evening ended on an anticlimactic note, as Waller served the ball into the net.  The entire Cardinal fan base in Maples Pavilion breathed a sigh of relief as the ball hit the top of the net and trickled back onto the Mustangs side, allowing the host squad to escape with the 30-28 win and the match.

Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!

The Bootleg Top Stories