Honor Roll No. 8: Foluke Akinradewo

Foluke Akinradewo didn't arrive at Stanford to as much fanfare as some of her teammates (see: Cynthia Barboza or Alix Klineman), but she simply had the best single season in Stanford history. Her hitting percentage of .499 was second in NCAA history, shattered her old school record by .068 and easily gave the rising senior her second straight All-American and third straight All-Pac-10 season.

In the latest issue of The Bootleg Magazine, we released the 30 finalists for The Bootleg Honor Roll award for the 2007/2008 school-year.
The criteria are as follows:

Each academic year, The Bootleg's Honor Roll will recognize the top ten Stanford student-athletes who have performed at an exceptional level, with athletic accomplishments that are both extraordinary and inspirational.  While achieving athletic success, these athletes should also have displayed uncommon leadership, sportsmanship and respect towards their fellow teammates and opponents.  Finally, these honorees' performances and actions should also demonstrate their love for their particular sport as well as their school pride, the famed "Spirit of Stanford."

During the summer months, we are releasing the 10 winners of this prestigious award, one by one.  We have previously recognized baseball's Jason Castro, gymnastics' David Sender, swimming's Julia Smit and Paul Kornfeld, soccer's Rachel Buehler, track's Erica McLain and runner Arianna Lambie as amongst this year's winners. Our eighth announced member of The Bootleg's 2007-08 Honor Roll is volleyball's Foluke Akinradewo.

Honor Roll Winner: Foluke Akinradewo

If TheBootleg.com had a fashion Honor Roll, we might give Foluke Akinradewo the nod for her ubiquitous sunglasses, which make her stand out immediately to the most casual of fans (as if her 6'3" presence in the front and center of Stanford's formation weren't enough). But once a match starts, Foluke's play needs no accessories to command the majority of an opponents' attention. Despite regularly facing double and triple teams, Akinradewo hit an astronomical .499, which shattered her old school-record hitting percentage by .068, the Pac-10 record by more than .050 and placed a narrow second all-time in NCAA history. In my opinion, and the statistics certainly back this up, while Akinradewo hasn't enjoyed the career of a Candice Wiggins, Erica McLain or David Sender, she had the most dominant 2007-08 of any Stanford athlete. For her standout performance this past fall, TheBootleg welcomes Foluke as its eighth 2007-08 Honor Roll winner.

Akinradewo was the AVCA National Player of the Year, the Pac-10 Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All-American after her junior season this past year. Her hitting percentage was superlative, but so was the rest of her game, as her kills (4.11 per game, 485 total), points (4.94 per game), and blocks (a team-best 143) suggest.

Teammates Cynthia Barboza and Alix Klineman are every bit as talented as Foluke, but the junior from Plantation, Fla. set herself apart with a consistency in her play that her teammates sometimes lacked. Foluke notched double-digit kills in 31 of Stanford's 35 matches and hit above .400 in 27 of those matches. [For the unfamiliar, a hitting percentage in volleyball is (Kills – Errors)/Attempts. Hitting percentages have more variance than baseball batting averages, but generally, a good hitting percentage would be a good batting average and vice versa, which hints at just how incredible Foluke's .499 is. By means of comparison, Stanford hit .316 as a team this year (.280 without Foluke's contributions), and held its opponents to just .181. Franci Gerard, Stanford's next-best starting hitter, hit .317, Barboza .281 and Klineman .276. .499 is PlayStationesque.]

Foluke also showed an impeccable sense of timing, with her game time and again rising to match the importance of the occasion. In one of Stanford's biggest matches of the regular season, Foluke managed 20 kills and three aces as Stanford beat archrival Cal in the full five games to clinch the Pac-10 title. In the NCAA Tournament, Foluke dug deeper yet. First, she hit north of .550 in the first two rounds as Stanford swept overmatched opponents. She then hit .682(!) with 15 kills in a Regional Semifinal win over Cal Poly. The next night, she propelled Stanford into the Final Four with 18 kills against UCLA in the Regional Finals, and earned the Stanford Regional MVP award.

In the NCAA Semifinals against USC, Akinradewo hit .523 with 26 kills and a season-high nine blocks. Perhaps most impressively though, she was one of few Stanford players to shine in the NCAA Championship loss to Penn State, tallying 18 kills, six blocks and a .425 hitting percentage – even though the Nittany Lions quickly learned they could get away with doubling and tripling Foluke that night. Akinradewo placed on the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament team, and was also a National Player of the Week and two-time Pac-10 Player of the Week.

Akinradewo became the sixth Stanford women's volleyballer to win the Honda Award, given to the top female volleyball player nationally. She joins previous Cardinal winners such as Kristin Folkl, Logan Tom and Ogonna Nnamani.

In the classroom, Akinradewo is a human biology major, a pre-med, and a prospective orthopedic surgeon.

As of press time, Akinradewo needs to survive the US National Team's cut from 19 to 12 to make the Olympic Team. Akinradewo and Barboza are the only collegians still in contention to compete for USA Volleyball at the Olympics.

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