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Stanford's Ajanaku is named national player of the year

 

Junior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku has been named the 2014 National Player of the Year by Volleyball Magazine. It marks the eighth time a Cardinal player has received the award.

Ajanaku was also one of seven players named to the Volleyball Magazine All-America first team. Stanford junior outside hitter Jordan Burgess earned second team honors for the second straight season, while senior libero Kyle Gilbert, junior setter Madi Bugg and redshirt freshman middle blocker Merete Lutz were all selected to the third team.

The All-America teams have a different look than in the past. Instead of 10 players of each team there are seven, and the votes were calculated based on position so each "all-star" team includes two middles, two outsides, an opposite, a setter, a libero and a coach. Stanford head coach John Dunning was named the coach of the second team.

Stanford's five selections were the most by any program in the nation this season. Eleven of the 21 players recognized were from the Pac-12 Conference. The Cardinal now boasts 28 Volleyball Magazine All-Americans, which have collected a total of 57 awards.

Ajanaku finished seventh nationally with a .428 hitting percentage, which is the seventh-best in a single season at Stanford. The middle blocker from Tulsa, Okla., moved into the top 10 on the Cardinal's career blocks list (435) and tallied 1.14 blocks per set for the year. A human biology major, Ajanaku was voted the Most Outstanding Player at the Ames Regional and was twice named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week, while also securing Offensive Player of the Week accolades in 2014. She was tabbed the AVCA National Player of the Week on Sept. 9 after the Cardinal knocked off then-No. 1 Penn State and then-No. 9 Illinois. She earned AVCA First Team All-America honors for the second consecutive year.

Burgess, a human biology major from Fort Myers, Fla., led the team with 19 double-doubles on the year. She was second on the squad with 3.09 kills and 3.16 digs per set. She collected her 1,000th career dig against Arizona on Nov. 7 and registered her 1,000th career kill on Dec. 6 against Michigan State. She is just the ninth Cardinal player to amass 1,000 career kills and digs. She registered the final kill in the Cardinal's sweep over No. 5 Florida to send Stanford to its first Final Four since 2008. She was recognized as a first team All-American by the AVCA this season.

Gilbert, a libero from Encinitas, Calif., ranked second in the Pac-12 with 4.74 digs per set, pushing that mark to 4.89 digs per set against conference opponents. The management science and engineering major earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors after setting a school record with 40 digs against Arizona on Nov. 7. For the season, her 607 digs ranks second on the program's single season list. She registered double-digit digs in all 35 of Stanford's matches this year. She finished second in Cardinal history with 2,017 career digs, which ranks 10th all-time by a Pac-12 player.

Bugg, a political science major who hails from Apex, N.C., led the nation with 12.10 assists per set. The reigning two-time Pac-12 Setter of the Year, she was second on the team with 15 double-doubles in 2014 and earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 20. She tallied a season high 59 assists in a four-set win at Oregon State on Oct. 31 and collected a career-best 24 digs in a win over No. 16 Arizona on Nov. 7. She moved into fifth place on the Cardinal's career assists list with 3,798 and her career assists per set average of 10.70 is fourth all-time at Stanford. She joined Ajanaku and Burgess as a first team AVCA All-American in 2014.

Lutz, a native of Houston, Texas, led the Pac-12 and was third in the nation with a .441 attack percentage, which is the third-best mark in a single season at Stanford. She also ranked fourth in the conference with 1.19 blocks per set. She was twice named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week and earned all-tournament honors at the Stanford Invitational and USD Invitational. She was also named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team this season. She capped off the year by earning AVCA Second Team All-America accolades.

As a team, Stanford finished the season ranked No. 2 in the AVCA poll. The Cardinal (33-2, 19-1 Pac-12) opened the season with 28 consecutive wins, setting a school record. The squad's 33 wins tied for the most in program history. The Cardinal made its nation-best 19th appearance in the Final Four and the first since 2008. Stanford captured its 19th conference championship and 16th as a part of the Pac-12 Conference.

— Stanford Athletics

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