Women's volleyball off to a fast start

Stanford women's volleyball took its first step towards defending its Pac-10 crown by sweeping the visiting Beavers and Ducks in straight sets this weekend. Senior outside hitter Cynthia Barboza stated her case for conference Player of the Week honors by notching 28 kills on .500 hitting over the two matches.

Sept. 26: Stanford 3, Oregon State 0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-23)
OSU entered Maples on a six-match winning streak, which included an upset of then-No. 13 Wisconsin. With an 11-2 preseason record, could the Beavers finally notch their first win against the Cardinal in school history? If you read the headlines, you already know the answer to this one. Although Stanford was never threatened in the first and second sets, the third set proved to be quite competitive and provided an opportunity for someone to step up and lead the team to victory. Which team member would rise to the challenge on this night? Refer to the picture above for a clue.
Stanford cruised easily through the first two sets (25-16, 25-16), outhitting the Beavers .452 to .000 and .500 to .269 respectively. The third set looked headed in the same direction as the Cardinal raced out to a 15-9 lead midway through the set. OSU then went on a seven-point run to take the lead at 15-16. Strong serving by Beaver outside hitter Lauren Kinderknecht and poor serve receive by the Cardinal contributed to the run, as Stanford notched four attack errors and one serve receive error during the stretch. Barboza was one of the guilty parties, but rather than hang her head in frustration, she capitalized on an overpass and proceeded to slam the ball straight down on the Beaver side of the net. That play prompted a challenge from OSU head coach Taras Liskevych, as he felt that Barboza had contacted the ball before it had crossed over the net. From my vantage point, it looked like Coach Liskevych had a point, but when a ball is travelling in the direction of the blocker, you rarely see this call being made. Head referee Allan Hirayama agreed and promptly issued the coach a yellow card.
Before the set was over, Barboza added three more kills, capped by an impressive back-row attack on the right side that resembled a slide attack from the 10-foot line. When a pass to junior setter Cassidy Lichtman landed a little short and pulled her off the net towards the middle of the court, it appeared that her only outlet was a high outside set to sophomore outside hitter Alix Klineman. Instead, the always savvy Lichtman decided to ride the hot hand of her star All-American and dropped a surprising and perfectly placed back set that led to the emphatic put down.
Barboza ended the match with 15 kills on 26 attempts and three errors for a scorching .462 hitting percentage to lead the team while Klineman chipped in 11 kills. Senior middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo, who was presented at halftime with her 2007 Honda Award trophy as the nation's top collegiate female volleyball player, finished with eight kills on 16 attempts and just one error for a .438 hitting percentage. Lichtman paced the team with 25 assists while junior setter Joanna Evans chipped in 17 assists. OSU was led by outside hitter Bree Knitter's 10 kills.
Sept. 27: Stanford 3, Oregon 0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-20)
Fresh off a blowout lost against Cal the night before, No. 11 ranked Oregon was looking for a stronger performance from their team in the hopes of emerging with a Bay Area split. While they were usually able to stay close with Stanford, the Ducks were simply overpowered by the Cardinal down the stretch and return to Eugene with a 0-2 Pac-10 mark.
Desperate to try to shut down Stanford's dynamic outside hitting duo of Barboza and Klineman, Oregon coach Jim Moore resorted to pulling 5-10 setter Nevena Djordjevic in the third set when his team was serving while she was in the front row. In her place, Coach Moore inserted 6-5 middle blocker Rhiannon Tooker, but the move filed to pay off as the Cardinal continued to pound the ball over, around and through the relatively ineffective Oregon block.
Stanford hit over .300 in all three sets, culminating with 20 kills on .474 hitting in the third set. Klineman led the attack with 15 kills on .323 hitting while Barboza had another strong performance with 13 kills on just 22 attacks and one error for a ridiculous .545 hitting percentage. Akinradewo added seven kills and three blocks, while Lichtman, senior outside hitter Erin Waller and junior middle blocker Janet Okogbaa each added five kills. Sophomore libero Gabi Ailes was all over the court as she racked up 13 digs on the night, many of them in impressive fashion.
Of the team's 100 kills over the weekend, perhaps the most memorable came from the most unlikely of Cardinal players. Relegated to defensive duties throughout her collegiate career, senior defensive specialist Jessica Fishburn took a back-row set from Waller in the second set against the Ducks, rose up high in the air and proceeded to tool the Oregon block, drawing a round of applause from the crowd at Maples and endless smiles and laughter from her teammates.
Stanford travles to the northwest to take on the Washington schools next week. The matchup against No. 9 Washington should be a good one, as the Huskies are always hard to beat at home. The match will be aired on FSN - check your local listings.

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