Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 25, 2010

Ex-Stanford trio helps U.S. volleyball

Nnamani, Akinradewo and Barboza playing key roles in qualifying tournament

by Rick Eymer

Former Stanford All-Americans Ogonna Nnamani, Foluke Akinradewo and Cynthia Barboza are keeping very busy these days performing well for the U.S. women's national volleyball team.

The team has been very successful this week during competition at the IX Women's Pan American Cup, being held in Tijuana and Rosarita, Mexico. Team USA defeated host Mexico, 25-14, 25-16, 25-15, on Tuesday evening on the final day of pool play.

Team USA finished Pool B in first place with a perfect 5-0 record to earn a berth directly into the semifinals on Friday. Cuba captured Pool A with a 4-0 record and has secured a semifinal berth.

Team USA out-blocked Mexico, 10-1, and held a 5-0 service ace advantage during the match. The U.S. had a 42-25 advantage in kills for the match.

The U.S. took time out from its busy schedule Monday to dispatch Costa Rica, 25-1, 25-10, 25-2.

The crowd of 118 inside Reforma Hall in Rosarito barely had time to get comfortable before the Americans took advantage of an undermanned Costa Rican team, needing a full 53 minutes to complete the sweep.

Nnamani recorded 13 kills in 17 attacks for a hitting percentage of .765, while fellow former Cardinal great Akinradewo collected seven kills and matched Nnamani for the team lead with five blocks. Barboza had nine points on seven kills and two blocks.

"We knew that Costa Rica didn't have their complete team, because they have a few more weapons," U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon said. "But despite the circumstances, they played hard and as best as they could with all their heart. We are happy to win this one."

The Pan American Cup is a qualifying event into the 2011 FIVB World Grand Prix, with the top three NORCECA teams advancing.

Softball

Stanford grads Jessica Mendoza, Alissa Haber and Lauren Lappin will be joined by Cardinal junior Ashley Hansen as Team USA competes in the International Softball Federation's (ISF) XII Women's World Championship in Caracas, Venezuela.

The Americans, the most decorated in the history of the international game, have participated in 11 previous World championships, winning eight gold medals, including the last six in succession dating to 1982.

Team USA opened against China on Thursday and then continues pool play against New Zealand, Botswana, Australia, the Dominican Republic and Czech Republic. Playoffs begin on June 30.

"Playing USA Softball is an honor," two-time Olympian Jennie Finch said. "Wearing USA across your chest pushes you to be the best you can be. You want to play well for not only for yourself and your country but your teammates and all the players that have come before you. It's really special to be a part of this team. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity."

Team USA owns an all-time world championship mark of 106-10 (.914), and has outscored its opponents, 650-45. Out of the 106 wins, 88 have been by shutout.

The national team ends its at the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City for the World Cup of Softball that runs July 22 through 26, and include teams from Canada and Japan as well as the Women's Futures National Team.

"The World Cup of Softball gets more exciting each and every year and 2010 is no exception," Mendoza said. "Where else can you see the best softball in the World and see the U.S. face off on home soil? The fans have always been outstanding and we hope to put on quite a show come July."

Men's volleyball

Stanford grad and Olympian Kevin Hansen helped the U.S. National Team down Egypt, 25-20, 25-22, 11-25, 25-14, in an FIVB World League match in front of 3,132 at the Cabarrus Arena in Concord, N.C., over the weekend.

Hansen, a record-setting setter while at Stanford, played the entire match and was credited with 24 running sets and no faults on 72 attempts.

Team USA (4-2) remains in second place, behind undefeated Russia, in its pool heading into Friday's match against Finland at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Beach volleyball

The U.S. men's national beach team of Stanford grad Matt Fuerbringer and his partner Nick Lucena won the AVP Nivea Tour Virginia Beach Open over the weekend in Virginia. The team, which took home the $20,000 grand prize, did not drop a set in six matches.

The pair made it to the finals after defeating former Cardinal star Will Strickland and Aaron Wachtfogel, ranked third, 21-12, 21-12 in 35 minutes.

Fuerbringer and Lucena defeated top-seeded John Hyden and Sean Scott, 21-17, 21-19, in the championship match.

Water polo

Cardinal grad Lauren Silver added a goal but the United States national women's team dropped an 11-9 decision to China Tuesday at UC Davis' Schaal Aquatic Center.

The same two teams met again Wednesday night in San Ramon for the second of three games this week in Northern California. The series concluded Thursday at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center.

The Chinese outscored the U.S., 4-0, in the final frame to complete a come-from-behind victory.

The Americans failed to convert on all four of their man-advantage situations while China was 3-of-9.

The fourth quarter belonged to the Chinese, who took the lead with 4:21 remaining to play.

After playing its match at Avery Aquatic Center, the Americans head for the FINA World League Super Final, which begins Monday at the Coggan Center in La Jolla. The U.S. plays Greece in its first match. Russia and Australia are also in USA's pool.

Canada, The Netherlands, China and Hungary make up the other pool. Quarterfinals are scheduled for Thursday, July 1.

In related news:

Stanford grad and former national team member Alison Gregorka entered the coaching ranks as an assistant to Kyle Kopp for the women's youth national team.

The U.S. men's national team, featuring three-time Olympian and Stanford grad Tony Azevedo, hosts Montenegro in a series of exhibitions beginning Saturday at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks at 5 p.m.

Stanford grads Thomas Hopkins, Peter Varellas, Layne Beaubien and Menlo School and Stanford grad Jimmie Sandman and Menlo grad Ben Hohl, a senior at UCLA, are also national team members.

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