By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Stanford senior outside hitter Alix Klineman knows all eyes are on her and her fellow seniors each time they take the volleyball court.
It's expected that Klineman will rip the ball effortlessly through a helpless defense, reach the unreachable ball and serve for an ace every time.
Klineman accepts the expectations because no one has higher expectations for her than she does. It's the kind of drive that leads to All-American performances night in and night out.
Klineman recorded 14 kills, 10 digs and a hitting percentage of .667 as the second-ranked Cardinal beat visiting Albany, 25-12, 25-17, 25-15, in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday night.
Stanford, in its 30th NCAA tournament, won its first-round match for the 30th consecutive year.
The Cardinal (25-3) will meet 17th-ranked Colorado State (26-4), which had to work hard to overcome a two-set deficit to beat Cal State Fullerton in the earlier first round match, on Saturday at 7 p.m.
"We've worked well together," Klineman said of the seniors. "But we also rely on everybody."
Klineman is six kills shy of matching three-time Olympian Logan Tom (1,939) for second on the all-time list. Senior libero Gabi Ailes, who had 11 digs, has set a new standard for liberos.
Senior Cassidy Lichtman has redefined her position on the court. She had 13 kills, hit .417, had 14 assists and nine digs.
"One of the neat things that happen is they help each other play better," Stanford coach John Dunning said. "That doesn't always happen. Younger players are looking to them and they are great in their own ways and helping other people. It's a really good, classic kind of team."
Stanford beat Albany, who won 20 or more a fourth straight season, for the second time in three years, for the second time in three years. The Great Danes last tournament appearance was also at Stanford in 2008.
"This can only help the younger players," Albany coach MJ Engstrom said. "We also played Florida and Colorado State and now it's a matter of getting used to that level of play. What you do is start a little nursery and keep it going. We'd like to make Albany a hotbed for volleyball. Our goal is to continue getting better."