Musings from Maples: WVB vs. Arizona

Stanford defeated Arizona at Maples on Saturday night to clinch at least a share of its second straight Pac-10 championship. The Cardinal will battle Cal on Friday to claim the title outright. 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 – Jessica Fishburn/Alex Fisher
MB – Foluke Akinradewo
MB – Franci Girard
S – Bryn Kehoe
OPP – Cassidy Lichtman/Erin Waller
L – Gabi Ailes

Arizona Starters

OH – Tiffany Owens
OH – Brooke Buringrud/Katie Jackels
MB – Jacy Norton
MB – Dominique Lamb
S – Paige Weber
OPP – Randy Goodenough
L – Brittany Leonard

Stanford defeats Arizona, 3-1 (30-23, 28-30, 30-20, 30-28)

•  With tonight's four-game triumph over visiting Arizona, Stanford clinched a share of its second straight Pac-10 Championship and 11th overall. With Washington's loss to USC on Friday night, Stanford can win the conference crown outright with a victory over Cal next Friday at Maples Pavilion. Tonight's win over the Wildcats also effectively eliminates any hope of a postseason berth for them, as they will be unable to finish with a .500 overall mark, a qualification for the Big Dance.

•  Cynthia Barboza was initially held out of the match to let other players gain experience and to rest her knee. She warmed up with the team and participated in all of their drills, but right before the starting lineups were introduced, she changed into her sweats. However, after Arizona snatched Game Two by the slimmest of margins, head coach John Dunning had the junior All-American warm up during the 10-minute intermission with volunteer assistant coach Chris Muscat and started in the final two stanzas. In the two games that she played in, the outside hitter tallied nine kills and five digs.

•  With Barboza sitting on the sidelines for the first two games, junior defensive specialist Jessica Fishburn teamed up with redshirt sophomore and local product Alex Fisher to play the role of the second outside hitter position. After Barboza entered the match, Fisher did not return to the court, though Fishburn was used as a back-row sub for freshman Alix Klineman in the latter stages of Games Three and Four.

•  Midway through the first game, the 1,747 fans at Maples Pavilion got quite a scare as they witnessed senior Franci Girard go down with what appeared to be a serious injury. Attempting to block Randy Goodenough's attack, the 6'1" middle blocker landed awkwardly and was in pain and it looked like she had suffered a left ankle sprain. She was helped off the court and did not put any pressure on her left leg. However, Girard's tussle on the court was not as bad as it looked, as she rejoined her Cardinal teammates on the sidelines at the end of Game One. Girard returned to the court in the beginning of Game Two and finished the match with nine kills, two digs, and one block. Her contributions also extended to her duties behind the service line, as her standing floater gave the Wildcats fits all night long.

•  Middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo had one of her best hitting performances of her career, downing 21 kills at an incredible .769 rate. Whether the ball was off the block or straight down, Akinradewo's attacks were pretty much an automatic point for Stanford. Her first eight swings resulted in a kill and it wasn't until the end of the fourth game that the two-time All-American committed her first hitting error. The 6-3 junior also added six bocks, five digs, and one ace to her stat line.

•  Tonight was a night that freshmen Gabi Ailes and Alix Klineman would like to forget. For Ailes, she was the target for many of Arizona's serves and her passing was shaky all night long and ended with four serve receive errors. Ailes has the potential to be a great passer and showed flashes of brilliance tonight, but often her passing broke down and allowed the visitors to really make a game out of it. Klineman had difficulty putting the ball away against the Wildcat defense, though it probably had to do more with the fact that she was having an off-night. The 6'5" left-side attacker put down 14 kills though made 10 errors to finish with a .085 hitting percentage. However, many of her kills were in spectacular fashion and her final bomb of the night set up match-point for Stanford.

•  Despite her difficulties, Klineman was still able to help preserve a Cardinal victory, as her jump serve caused many problems for the Wildcats especially in the opening game. Stanford rallied from a 10-11 deficit to a commanding 17-11 lead behind the booming topspin serves from Klineman and cruised to a 30-23 triumph to open up the match.

•  Since being inserted into the starting line-up in mid-October, freshman Cassidy Lichtman has shown to be one of the most dependable back-row players for Stanford. A member of the United States Junior National Team this past summer, the 6'1" versatile hitter is stable in the serve receive rotation and is always in the right place on defense. Against the Wildcats, Lichtman collected eight digs playing on the right side.

•  Hustle Play of the Night – In the middle of the third game, an Arizona attack goes off the Cardinal block and heads straight towards the sidelines. Ailes is chasing the ball and crashes into the Stanford coaches to make a successful play, with Dunning yelling, "You're ok, you're ok!" Setter Bryn Kehoe than makes a great one-arm stab to save Ailes' get, sending the ball over the net. An Arizona player tries to attack the ball again, but this time it is opposite Erin Waller who makes the spectacular defensive play, as her one-arm dig keeps the ball alive. However, the Wildcats get one more crack at the ball and Goodenough puts it away for a point.

•  Arizona's Paige Weber was last year's recipient of's Andi Collins Award, an honor bestowed upon the nation's top high school senior setter. All previous winners of the Andi Collins Award currently play in the Pac-10: Kehoe (2004), UCLA's Nellie Spicer (2005), and USC's Taylor Carico (2007).

•  Heading into tonight's match, the casual observer might think that Stanford would have no problems with an Arizona squad sporting a 13-15 overall record and 3-12 conference mark. However, upon closer examination, the Wildcats have to be the toughest team in the nation with a losing record, including dropping five game matches to Southern California, California, and Oregon State. A more telling statistic? Out of the 46 games that Arizona has dropped this season, 24 were decided by three points or less.

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