Musings from Maples: WVB vs. USC

Stanford had to face yet another ranked team on Thursday night when the fourth-ranked USC Trojans visited Maples. The Cardinal handily defeated USC though, 3-0. 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 – Erin Waller
L – Gabi Ailes

Southern California Starters

OH – Kimmee Roleder
OH – Jessica Gysin
MB – Zoe Garrett
MB – Katelyn Bishop
S – Taylor Carico
OPP – Asia Kaczor
L – Alli Hilgren 

Stanford defeats Southern California, 3-0 (30-21, 30-27, 30-21)

• Sidelined for the past two years with various ailments, former Menlo School product Alex Fisher showed everyone why she was such a highly recruited player coming out of the prep ranks with a spectacular performance against Southern California. Subbing on the right side for a struggling Erin Waller at a pivotal moment in Game Two, the 6'1" outside hitter responded by teaming up with middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo for a block and then hammered the ball on the right side on the next point. For her strong play down the stretch of the second stanza, Fisher was rewarded with a starting nod in the third game, where she continued to do damage. In all, Fisher finished with four kills on five swings for a career-high .800 hitting percentage to go along with one block.

• Despite Waller's uneven play as the opposite hitter, ending the night with eight kills on a .188 clip, the 6'1" junior was able to redeem herself towards the later stages of the contest. Midway through the third game, head coach John Dunning reinserted Waller into the lineup and she came through, hitting .750 on her way to three kills. Her first swing in the final stanza hit the net, rolled along for a bit before finally falling on the Trojans' side. On the next point, the Ballwin (Mo.) native deftly avoided the USC double-block by tipping the ball into the open court. Waller ended the match with her most impressive hit of the night, thundering the ball down the line to give the Cardinal the 30-21 Game Three win.

• While freshman Alix Klineman has generated much of the buzz for the Stanford Women's Volleyball team this season, junior Cynthia Barboza has quietly been putting together another campaign that is sure to earn her another First Team All-American nod, content with letting her play on the court speak for itself. Tonight, however, she made sure that her presence was felt, putting on a dazzling display of all-around excellence against the Trojans. Not only were her booming jump serves creating gasps of amazement from the Maples faithful because of their sheer velocity, but her pinpoint passing and digging stabilized the back row. However, her biggest mark on the match came with her offense, as she completely took over when her teammates needed her most. With a substantial 15-9 lead in the second game, Stanford somehow found itself trailing 18-19 after a Franci Girard attack attempt sailed long. While most teams would not be able to regroup from such a collapse, the Cardinal had Barboza to bail them out of trouble. Following Girard's miscue, setter Bryn Kehoe turned to Barboza for a kill and the Long Beach (Calif.) native delivered to knot the score up at 19-19. The two teams then battled mightily for the lead the rest of the way and with every USC attempt to gain the upper hand, Barboza was there to blunt any challenges the visitors put forth. The final six points that Stanford scored on its way to the 30-27 triumph were a result of Barboza kills (three from the back row!), and her serve caused the overpass that Klineman quickly converted for a point. Ms. Clutch concluded the night hitting .333 with 15 kills, nine digs, three aces, and one block.

• Smoothest play of the night: On a Trojan attack directed to the middle of the Cardinal's court in the third game, Barboza got low to the ground to dig up the bomb. Not only was it a perfect pass to Kehoe, but the 2006 AVCA All-American First Teamer recovered in time to take a swing from behind the 3-meter line, smartly tipping the ball around the USC block for the kill. The play was so effortless and smooth that most people won't be able to appreciate just how difficult that sequence of events really was, though Barboza made it look so easy that it can often be taken for granted.

• Stanford's serve receive did not play up to its potential, as many of the passes were off the mark. In particular, tough serves from freshmen Zoe Garrett and Geena Urango picked on fellow classmates Gabi Ailes and Klineman. Despite the passing misgivings, the Cardinal offense did not suffer, as Kehoe was still able to connect with the middle attack and keep the USC blockers guessing. Her dishes to Akinradewo and Girard were for the most part spot on, an improvement from the last time the Cardinal played at home. There was only one play where communication was non-existent, as the mistiming on a set caused Girard to completely whiff at the ball; luckily, Klineman was right behind her to put the ball back in play.

• While the Cardinal's passing game could be a cause for concern for head coach John Dunning, their defense was absolutely outstanding. Ailes churned out a match-high 18 digs and many of them resulted in perfect passes straight into Kehoe's hands. Stanford completely dominated in the back row, posting a huge 55-37 advantage in digs. The home team also outblocked the visitors 12.0 to 8.0, with Klineman rejecting a career-high five blocks. Kehoe and Girard also each achieved a season-high five blocks to add flair and flavor to the Stanford block party.

• It was previously written in The Bootleg that Foluke Akinradewo is the best middle blocker in the country and with her performance tonight, it is a statement worth repeating again. The 6'3" quick hitter effects the game on so many levels that it is a shame she only plays in the front row. Her spikes are unstoppable, her blocking ability is top-notch, her serves continually cause serve receive problems for the opponent, and her back row defense isn't too shabby for someone of her stature. The uber-athletic Akinradewo led the Cardinal offense with a match-high 18 kills on a .680 hitting percentage while pitching in four blocks, four digs, and one ace. One could argue that California's Kat Reilly or Arizona's Dominique Lamb are better blockers or that Nebraska's Tracy Stalls or Penn State's Christa Harmotto are more efficient attackers, but after watching the way Akinradewo can shred the opposing defense or put the clamps on the rivaling team's offense, there's just no comparison.

• Southern California's local connection is stronger than most schools in the country, as over half of its players have ties to either the Bay Area or the Stanford team. Freshman Lexi Aiassa, redshirt junior Jessica Gysin, and senior Diane Copenhagen all prepped for former Stanford legend Kim Oden at Saint Francis (Mountain View), while senior Bethany Johansen was a member of the mighty Archbishop Mitty Monarchs, where Stanford great and current beach star Kerri Walsh spent her high school years. Sophomore Chelsea Wilson hails from nearby Los Gatos, Calif., playing for Joe Ripp at Los Gatos High School, while sophomore Alli Hillgren captured two state titles with current freshman Cassidy Lichtman at Francis Parker High School down in San Diego. Finally, sophomore Taylor Carico and freshmen Alexa Altamura and Shelby Avol won multiple state championships with Klineman at national powerhouse Mira Costa in Manhattan Beach (Calif.), while Garret dominated the club circuit with Klineman as members of the Mizuno Long Beach Volleyball Club, whose strength and conditioning coach happens to be four-time All-American and former Stanford middle blocker Matt Fuerbringer.

• Copenhagen, a regular starter all season long for head coach Mick Haley, did not take to the court at the beginning of the match. The 6'2" outside hitter injured her abdomen during USC's five-game victory over Arizona last weekend. Starting in her place was freshman Kimmee Roleder. Copenhagen did see court time, entering the match for short stints as a back-row sub for Gysin and Roleder in the second and third game, respectively.

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