Musings from Maples: WVB vs. UW

Stanford's 17-match win streak was broken in a tough 5-game loss to #8-ranked Washington on Friday night. 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/Jessica Fishburn
L – Gabi Ailes

Washington Starters

OH – Christal Morrison
OH – Stevie Mussie
MB – Ashley Aratani/Alesha Deesing
MB – Jessica Swarbrick
S – Jenna Hagglund
OPP – Megan McAfee/Becky Perry
L – Tamari Miyashiro 

Washington defeats Stanford, 3-2 (30-24, 21-30, 24-30, 30-27, 15-10)

•  Bryn Kehoe broke Wendy Rush's 20-year school record for career assists tonight, though it's probably little consolation for such a fierce competitor. The 5'11" setter needed just 43 assists to leap ahead of Rush and on a connection with Akinradewo late in the third game, the record was broken. The senior out of North Bend, Ohio finished the match with 62 assists and her career total currently stands at 5,023 assists.

•  What was supposed to be a highly anticipated battle between two unbeaten teams quickly lost steam after Washington did not hold up its end of the bargain with a five-game loss to host California on Thursday night. However, Jim McLaughlin's troops regrouped in time to deliver a knockout punch to Stanford and snap the home team's 17-match winning streak. The 17-0 start is the third best in school history; the 1994 squad started off the year 20-0, while the 1991 team went an amazing 27-0 to kick off its season.

•  With Washington's loss on Thursday and Stanford and Florida becoming victims tonight, Nebraska and Dayton are the only undefeated Division I teams left. The Cornhuskers are currently 15-0 on the year, while the Flyers have posted a 20-0 mark to start off the 2007 season.

•  Stanford started off the match in true dominating form on the strength of solid passing and the arm of Cynthia Barboza from the left side. A ball-handling error from Washington setter Jenna Hagglund made the score 5-0 and forced McLaughlin to burn one of his timeouts to calm his team down. The lead ballooned to 9-2 and it appeared that the Cardinal juggernaut was humming at maximum efficiency. However, the Huskies slowed down the potent Stanford offense thanks to great blocking and timely back-row defense. Down 9-2 until they tied it up at 17-17, the women in Purple and White defended the net well with three blocks, rejecting two attacks from Erin Waller and one from Foluke Akinradewo. With the score knotted up and the momentum clearly on the visitor's side, outside hitter Christal Morrison and middle blocker Jessica Swarbrick scored their final four points to snatch a 30-24 win away from the home team.

•  The second stanza almost played out exactly like Game One. Stanford built a seemingly commanding 17-5 lead thanks the solid play out of middles Akinradewo and Franci Girard and strong hits from outside hitter Alix Klineman. The front-row defense was also particularly effective, as the Stanford Wall got a touch on many Washington attacks, soft-blocking the ball and making it easier for the back row to dig up. However, there was no quit in the Huskies, battling back from a 12-point deficit to cut the lead to just three after a Morrison kill made it 23-20. However, Stanford made sure that there was no repeat of the first game, going on a 7-1 run to head to the locker room tied one game apiece.

•  Washington played excellent floor defense that contributed to their win tonight, posting 91 total digs. Libero Tamari Miyashiro and defensive specialist Megan McAfee established career highs with 37 and 12 digs, respectively. The Cardinal had many smartly placed tips into the open court that against any other team go down as kills, but the Huskies' back row unit was there to pick them all up, wowing the crowd with numerous pancake digs.

•  Not to be outdone, Stanford's backline defense wasn't too shabby either, totaling 87 digs. Libero Gabi Ailes led the way with a career-high 24 saves, while Barboza had 15 digs. Defensive specialist Jessica Fishburn finished the night with 15 digs, while Kehoe was in position to counter 11 Washington attacks. Ending the night with double-digits in digs, Barboza and Kehoe collected their 11th and 10th double-double of the year, respectively, with Barboza putting away 17 kills and Kehoe handing out 62 assists.

•  In perhaps its worst performance of the year behind the service line, Stanford registered a staggering 14 service errors compared to only six aces, which is a complete reversal from the previous night when the ratio was 11 aces to 5 errors. While normally a huge weapon for the Cardinal, their serves became a liability of sorts as many of them missed by mere inches. Ailes had a particularly rough night with her topspin jumper, committing seven errors, including a service gaffe into the net that handed Washington Game Four.

•  With over 53% of the swings taken from the left side, Barboza and Klineman did not do enough to terminate the ball. One of the reasons why Washington was able to win at Maples was because Stanford just couldn't put the ball away when a point was necessary. The two did combine for 36 kills, but they only managed to do so at a .196 clip.

•  For the second night in a row, Kehoe's connection with the middle was not as spectacular as it could have been. Fans at Maples Pavilion are used to seeing Akinradewo just pound the ball into the ground or off the block with authority, but attacks like those were few and far between tonight. Many of the sets appeared out of Akinradewo's sweet spot, denying her the ability to crush the ball for the easy score. The 6'3" middle blocker did garner 18 kills at a .417 rate, but again, when compared to previous performances, the power behind her shots just wasn't there.

•  While Akinradewo wasn't as strong on offense, her back-row defense was superb. She managed five digs on the night and four of them were delivered right into Kehoe's waiting hands.

•  Aside from the fact that the Cardinal were not able to terminate the ball during crunch time, their serve receive broke down at the worst times as well. Barboza was a favorite target of the Huskies' servers, as she struggled to find Kehoe on the first touch off the serve, especially in the fourth game. A huge factor that allowed Washington to remain competitive in all the games despite sporting the home team huge leads was the fact that the Stanford passes were not where they needed to be to allow Kehoe to run an effective offense and as a result, many of her sets were off to both the middles and outside hitters.

•  Cassidy Lichtman played a pivotal role in the Game Three win. Put in as a sub for Klineman in the back row, Lichtman's first touch of the match resulted in an ace, as her jump floater hit the top of the tape and trickled over for the 23-19 lead, prompting McLaughlin to call an immediate time out. She also had two great digs in that stanza to help Stanford restart its offense and go on the attack. Head Coach John Dunning swapped out Klineman for Lichtman in the ensuing games whenever he wanted more of a defensive presence in the back row.

•  Morrison may be the All-American on the Washington squad, but outside hitter Stevie Mussie is clearly the go-to hitter for the Huskies. The 5'9" senior leads her squad on the attack with 4.49 kills per game and she was the top offensive option tonight with 20 kills. Whenever Hagglund needed someone to deliver a kill, she always found Mussie – it didn't matter if she was in the front row or playing behind the 3-meter line. Granted, Mussie was often hit-or-miss with her .189 hitting percentage, but the fact that she was the No. 1 choice to crank away at the ball rather than Morrison is rather interesting.

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