Musings From Maples: WVB vs. Cal Poly

Big hitting and a strong defensive effort by Stanford resulted in a dominating victory over an overwhelmed Cal Poly team and another big step for the Cardinal in their effort to reach the NCAA Women's Volleyball Final Four in Sacramento. 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/Cassidy Lichtman
L – Gabi Ailes

Cal Poly Starters

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

Stanford defeats Cal Poly, 3-0 (30-15, 30-24, 30-20)

•  The match started off with setter Bryn Kehoe going to her bread and butter in the middle - Foluke Akinradewo. Two quick, thunderous kills right off the bat from the two-time All-American established Stanford's quick attack, enabling the pressure to be taken off of outside hitters Cynthia Barboza and Alix Klineman. With the Cal Poly blockers unable to load up at the antennas, Kehoe was free to run a varied offense from the beginning and get her hitters in the optimal position on most occasions.

•  On the other end of the spectrum, the Cardinal's defensive intensity really set the tone of the match, as they were determined to keep the ball alive at all costs. Whether it was an Erin Waller dig mid-court off of a hard Kylie Atherstone shot, or a one-handed flick of the hand from Cassidy Lichtman, the home team came to play. Leading the charge in the early going was freshman Gabi Ailes, who did an excellent job picking up shots from the left back. In all, Stanford had an amazing 27 digs in the first game alone; the team finished with 52 overall.

•  Long known for her offensive prowess, Klineman had a great game defensively. With a relatively quiet night on offense, finishing with "just" nine kills, the 6'5" freshman more than pulled her weight on the court with a match-high 15 digs playing center back; Klineman showed incredible hustle for a girl her size and was going all out on defense, sprawling her body all over to pick up any Mustang attack.

•  Kehoe definitely likes to instill confidence in her hitters and does so by setting them over and over again, even after making multiple mistakes. Case in point: middle blocker Franci Girard was having a rough go at things in the second game, being blocked and netting the ball to help Cal Poly run to a 9-6 lead. Immediately after Girard's four-hit violation, Kehoe set her classmate, who immediately put the ball away with authority. Kehoe just knows when the right time is to dish the ball to a teammate to give her some confidence back and Girard ended up contributing greatly, pounding down nine kills at a .375 rate.

•  The battle of the Wallers was won by Stanford's right-side junior, as Erin had perhaps her best game of the season after notching 12 kills on a career-high .733 hitting percentage. Cal Poly's junior had a more well-rounded stat line, as Ali compiled 11 kills, eight digs, and two blocks, but hit for an average .259 clip. While the Cardinal's Waller may have lacked the overall numbers that her Mustang counterpart produced, the instant offense was invaluable and contributed to the easy home win.

•  We all know what a dominating force Akinradewo is out of the middle, but fans tonight also got a glimpse at how quick she is in the back row as well. Barboza soft-blocked a Kylie Atherstone bullet, and the ball popped up and came down directly behind Barboza, almost certain to go down for a kill. However, Akinradewo had other plans, as she quick stretched out her 6'3" frame to get a hand on the ball and shovel it over. In previous matches, Akinradewo has proven that she can be an adequate back-row player and tonight just proved that with a bit more seasoning, she won't become a liability should Dunning decide to play her all six rotations next season (not likely, but just throwing out the big "if").

•  There is no disputing the fact that Kylie Atherstone is Cal Poly's go-to hitter, as she took over a quarter of her team's swings. Stanford took a chance to serve her every chance she was in the passing rotation to wear her down and as the match wore on, she grew increasingly frustrated with her inability to give the right pass to her setter Chelsea Hayes. In addition, Barboza and Klineman did an excellent job forming the block to counter the two-time Big West Player of the Year's bombs, which contributed to Atherstone only collecting eight kills on a .100 hitting percentage, way below her season averages of 4.75 kills per game and a .269 hitting percentage.

•  Kristin Jackson, a former teammate of Klineman at prep powerhouse Mira Costa High School, finished her career with 11 digs in the three-game loss to Stanford. The 5'4" libero and 2007 All-Big West First Team selection tallied 2,131 digs in her four-year stint as a Mustang, ranking 11th on the all-time NCAA digs list.

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