Musings From Maples: WVB vs. UCLA

A conference rival will often rise to the occasion in the NCAAs and UCLA certainly did. Senior Bryn Kehoe's incredible career-high of 76 assists led the Cardinal to the win in a four-game fight and a spot in the school's 17th Final Four. 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

UCLA Starters:

OH – Ali Daley
OH – Jade Machado/Dicey McGraw
MB – Rachell Johnson
MB – Katie Mills
S – Nellie Spicer
OPP – Kaitlin Sather
L – Jessica Fine

Stanford holds off UCLA, 3-1 (28-30, 30-28, 30-26, 30-7)

•  Prior to the beginning of the match, it was announced to the 3,540 fans in attendance that No. 10 California swept No. 2 Nebraska in the Madison Regional to reach the Final Four and a loud roar of applause was unleashed. It was probably the first and last time that Stanford fans will ever cheer for their Bay Area rivals.

•  This season, UCLA has been characterized as a top-notch defensive team with limited offensive capabilities. However, the Bruins showed tonight that they do have the weapons to compete with anyone in the country and setter Nellie Spicer had many options. Opposite Kaitlin Sather was UCLA's go-to hitter tonight and she put her team on her back in the first two games, unstoppable whenever she took a swing. Heading into the 10-minute intermission, the 6'1" opposite had 16 kills on a .500 hitting percentage, getting kills from either side of the antenna, from the front or back row, off of power hits or soft roll shots. In the remaining two games, Cynthia Barboza and Alix Klineman adjusted their positioning on the block to neutralize her shots and the defense also did an excellent job in containing her for the rest of the match.

•  Stanford had a difficult time getting the ball the Kehoe, as she was running all over the place to set the ball. Their serve receive game had difficulty solving UCLA's tough floaters, particularly Ali Daley's standing float. There were several points in the match where the Cardinal could not control the ball and it resulted in an easy Bruin point. Barboza was the target of a majority of the serves, as many teams in the past have tried to take her out of the game by serving her; she, along with libero Gabi Ailes, had a match-high three serve receive errors each.

•  Kehoe established a new career high in assists, dishing the rock 76 times to her teammates for kills; what's even more amazing is that she did this in four games, compared to her previous personal-best of 70 assists in five games. In despite of Kehoe's achievement tonight, she was very inconsistent with the location of her sets, having difficulty connecting with all of her hitters, especially in the first two games. Numerous times the middles and opposite hitters found their balls too low or out of their sweet spot and tipping the ball was their only option. In particular, the connection between her and middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo was not as solid tonight as it was the previous evening.

•  Service errors cost Stanford the first game, as three of the four final points for UCLA resulted from miscues made behind the service line first from middle Franci Girard, then by opposite Erin Waller, and finally Barboza, which set up game point for UCLA. Stanford ended up going on a four-point run to come within a kill from tying the game, but Sather finished off the stanza with a kill to give her team the unexpected 1-0 lead.

•  Stanford's block was very ineffective in the first two games, as the home team only managed to accumulate three blocks. Akinradewo and Girard were often late sealing the block, allowing the UCLA attackers to hit through the seam and find the floor for kills. The final two games were a huge improvement in terms of net play, as the Cardinal combined for nine blocks, as Akinradewo had three rejections alone in Game 3, while Girard stuffed five attacks, all in Game 4, including a sweet solo on freshman Katie Mills midway through the stanza.

•  After a sub par first game, Waller got off to a hot start in Game Two, accounting for the first three points thanks to two kills (one off of a slide and the other a back-row attack) and an ace. The 6'1" right-side attacker also had a hand in the fourth point, as she dug Sather's bomb that set-up Klineman's smash for the 4-0 Cardinal lead. Waller would end up being a clutch performer for head coach John Dunning the rest of the way, as she got her kills either off of the three-step approach or from the slide. She ended the match with a career-high 19 kills on a .304 clip and added five digs and two blocks.

•  Despite her passing woes, Barboza had perhaps one of her strongest outings of the year, putting down 21 balls at a .354 clip against one of the toughest defensive teams in the nation. The 6'1" outside hitter really came through whenever Kehoe sent the ball her way, especially in the fourth game. Down 7-1, the Cardinal clawed their way back from the early hole thanks to spectacular play from Barboza; while Stanford went on a 12-3 run, Barboza was personally responsible for six of those points, including four straight points during which Barboza had three kills and teamed up with Girard for a block. Throughout the year, Barboza has shown an ability to raise her level of play when her team needs her to and tonight was no exception.

•  UCLA coach Andy Banachowski received a yellow card in the second game. After Jessica Fine got nailed for a double contact to give Stanford a 20-17 lead, Gabi Ailes handled the ball in a very similar manner two points later and the Bruin coaching staff was absolutely livid, jumping up and going outside of the coaches area to protest the call.

•  Ailes continued to have a strong NCAA Tournament after racking up 21 digs in tonight's four-game victory. Combined with the nine saves she picked up last night against Cal Poly, she currently has 498 digs to her credit in 2007 and just needs five more break Kristin Richard's single-season record of 502 digs, established during the 2004 championship season.

•  Klineman had the best all-around game of her career, posting personal bests in kills (24) and digs (23), while adding four blocks, two aces, and a .340 hitting percentage. With Texas' Juliann Faucette faltering against USC in the Elite Eight, Klineman is on track to nab Stanford's sixth National Freshman of the Year, following in the footsteps of Cary Wendall (1992), Kristin Folkl (1994), Kerri Walsh (1996), Logan Tom (1999), and Kristin Richards (2003).

•  As she did last night against Cal Poly, Akinradewo made one of those "Where-did-she-come-from?/How-did-she-do-that?" plays against the Bruins. Sather had been set the ball and smartly tipped it in the middle of the court where there were no Stanford defenders in sight... but unfortunately for her, Akinradewo came flying out from the left side, stretched out her body and fisted the ball up and over to the other side. Because of her incredible hustle, Stanford was still alive in the point and ended up winning it, after middle blocker Rachell Johnson got roofed by Barboza and Girard. Her athleticism was noticed by everyone in the stands and she even joked during the press conference that she actually has a secret desire to be a libero.

•  Akinradewo was named the Stanford Regional MVP after compiling stellar numbers against Cal Poly and UCLA, averaging 4.71 kills on a .596 hitting percentage in the two victories that propelled Stanford into the Final Four. Teammates Kehoe, Klineman, and Waller were named to the All-Tournament squad, as were UCLA's Johnson, Sather, and Spicer.

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