Sports

Top-ranked Stanford women's volleyball opens the Sweet 16

 

The third round of the NCAA women's volleyball tournament will match the veteran against the newcomer when Stanford takes on Oregon State in the Ames (Iowa) Regional on Friday.

Stanford has made 26 appearances in the third round of the NCAA tournament and has advanced to the next round 19 times. Oregon State is making its first appearance in the Sweet 16, in its third overall NCAA appearance.

The Beavers (21-12) have never beaten Stanford (31-1) in women's volleyball in 60 meetings and won their first two NCAA matches ever to get this far. The Cardinal, meanwhile, has won 106 NCAA matches.

However, when the two Pac-12 rivals meet on the court at Iowa State in the regional semifinal on Friday at 3 p.m. (ESPN3), those statistics will mean absolutely nothing.

"They're pretty scrappy, said senior libero Kyle Gilbert. "They work really hard and inspire me to play better, just seeing how hard they go every time they play us. It's going to be a great match, I'm excited."

"They played well both times we faced them," Stanford junior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku said. "They have a lot of different weapons. We know what we're facing and we need to execute our game plan."

Ajanaku was named to the 14-player all-Pacific North Region team earlier this week, and was joined by Gilbert, junior setter Madi Bugg, junior outside hitter Jordan Burgess, and redshirt freshman middle blocker Merete Lutz. Senior Morgan Boukather received honorable mention.

Oregon State is represented by West Region Freshman of the Year Mary-Kate Marshall and regional Coach of the Year Taras Liskevych.

The Beavers, one of three unseeded teams remaining, finished the Pac-12 tied for seventh with Utah and Arizona State. The Utes and Sun Devils were eliminated in the second round.

Oregon State upset Creighton in four sets in the first round and then squeezed past Arkansas-Little Rock with a 19-17 fifth-set victory on Saturday.

"You have to get better every week," Stanford coach John Dunning said. "You can't go by record. You have to come to play. Oregon State, what a story. They didn't have a fun season last year and now they are so much better. I'm really happy for them."

The Oregon State-Stanford winner will meet the winner of the match between No. 9 Illinois and No. 8 Florida on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPNU) with a berth in the Final Four at stake. The Fighting Illini took the Cardinal to five sets at Maples Pavilion earlier this year. Florida beat Stanford the last time the teams met, which was last year in Texas.

"This time of the year is just awesome," Dunning said. "I love this time of the year and I think the team does, as well."

Jordan Burgess recorded 15 kills and had 18 digs, becoming the ninth player in Stanford women's volleyball history to accumulate at least 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs as the top-ranked Cardinal beat visiting Michigan State, 25-20, 25-22, 24-26, 25-23, last Saturday to advance to the Ames Regional.

On Thursday, Burgess was named to the 2014 Capital One Academic All-America Second Team, as announced by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

The Fort Myers, Fla., native was recognized as one of the top players in the nation for her efforts both on the court and in the classroom. Burgess is the first Stanford women's volleyball player to earn Academic All-America status since 2011.

Burgess, an outside hitter, holds a 3.53 GPA in human biology. She is a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention selection and a three-time all-conference honoree. An honorable mention AVCA All-American in 2013, Burgess was one of five Cardinal players named to the AVCA All-Pacific North Region this season.

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