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December 16, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, December 16, 2005
NCAA VOLLEYBALL

First-team All-American honors for local standouts First-team All-American honors for local standouts (December 16, 2005)

by Rick Eymer

Stanford junior outside hitter Kristin Richards and Santa Clara senior opposite hitter Cassie Perret have a date in San Antonio on Friday night, and they'll be joined by the top collegiate women's volleyball players in America.

Richards, the heart and soul of a Cardinal team that finished second in the Pac-10 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament despite injuries to three key players, on Wednesday was named a first-team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

Perret, a Menlo Park resident who helped the Broncos reach the Final Four for the first time in school history, was also a first-team pick. She's the first SCU volleyball player in school history to be named to the first team.

In Santa Clara's media guide, Perret listed Woodside Priory's state Division V championship as her top athletic achievement. In the span of a few weeks Perret has been able to add a few more achievements, including West Coast Conference Player of the Year. After this weekend, she may be able to add another title.

Stanford freshman middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo was named to the second team. Akinradewo was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and owns one of the nation's top hitting percentages.

Stanford sophomore setter Bryn Kehoe, who missed most of the final six weeks of the season with a broken bone in her right hand, was named to the third team along with Santa Clara middle blocker Anna Cmaylo and setter Crystal Matich.

Stanford freshman Cynthia Barboza was on her way to All-American status before tearing the ACL in her left knee. She missed half the season as a result, though she was leading the Pac-10 in kills per game at the time of her injury.

Richards led the Cardinal with a 4.90 kills per game average, and was second in digs at 3.55. She also recorded a team-high 38 service aces and was second with 57 blocks. She has 1,422 kills and 1,247 digs in her three-year career at Stanford.

For Perret, the All-American honor culminates her finest season at Santa Clara. Always known for her consistency, she developed into one of the top players in the country through sheer will and hard work.

"Four years ago, they made this happen at Santa Clara, and my belief is that they wanted strong commitment, wanted things done here and they wanted to be successful," Santa Clara coach Jon Wallace said of his four seniors. "We got great kids in that recruiting group, and they made it happen. Cassie Perret, Kim McGiven, Caroline Walters . . . I could go on and on . . . these girls that worked so hard to make it happen, they deserve it."

The awards will be presented at the AVCA All-America/Players of the Year Banquet at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter Hotel.

Santa Clara, which squared off with top-ranked Nebraska in the first round Thursday night, became the first WCC school to make it the Final Four.

The Broncos appeared to be outmatched by the taller Cornhuskers and their two first-team All-Americans in 6-foot-2 junior Christina Houghtelling and 6-5 sophomore Sarah Pavan. Santa Clara has been playing the role of "Hoosiers" all season. Angered by being picked to finish third in the WCC, the Broncos rode that perceived slight all season.

There were only a handful of people who thought Santa Clara had a chance to beat Stanford on its home court in the second round, and the Broncos were the underdogs against Arizona too. Nebraska? Santa Clara players are probably blissfully unaware they're supposed to be shaking in their sneakers. Just put them on the court and let them have at it.

The Cornhuskers enter Thursday's showdown as the top-seeded team in the NCAA tournament. Nebraska (32-1) reached the Final Four after sweeping both UCLA and Florida last weekend. The Cornhuskers have not dropped a game yet in NCAA play.

"I talked to Kim McGiven the other day and she was so pumped up for this week," Wallace said. "She told me, `I'm so excited. I just want to play Nebraska.' That's something I love to hear. It's going to be awesome for them to be playing in front of a big crowd and it will be a rewarding life experience for them."

Another first-time Final Four participant, Tennessee, played third-ranked Washington in the other semifinal. The finals are Saturday at 3 p.m.


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