Sports


Freshmen in charge as Stanford women advance to Sweet 16

 

Freshman Kathryn Plummer recorded 17 kills, Morgan Hentz had 16 digs and six assists and the Stanford women's volleyball team beat visiting Boise State, 25-11, 25-22, 25-18, in the second round of the NCAA tournament Saturday.

The Cardinal (23-7) advances for its fourth trip to Sweet Sixteen in the past five years and ninth in the last 11.


Audriana Fitzmorris
Senior Inky Ajanaku and freshman Audriana Fitzmorris each added nine kills for Stanford, which won its sixth straight and 12 of 13.

The sixth-seeded Cardinal plays unseeded Florida State (26-5) on Friday at Wisconsin in the regional semifinal. The third-seeded Badgers (27-4) meet Big Ten rival Ohio State (22-12) in other semi, with the winners playing Saturday for a berth in the Final Four.

Stanford owns a 5-3 mark against teams still playing in the NCAA tournament while the Seminoles, who knocked off Florida in five sets, are 0-3.

Plummer, the national Freshman of the Year, is one of several freshmen who made an impact on the season and on the outcome of the first two rounds of the tournament.

“I've been in a lot of big matches, just like all the freshmen,” Plummer said. “We're working together and limiting distractions.”

Ajanku and juniors Ivana Vanjak and Merete Lutz provide a strong support system that has helped hasten the freshmen's learning curve.

“Inky does a good job of keeping us calm,” freshman setter Jenna Gray said. “It's exciting. I've been watching the tournament for years and years with my parents and I'm finally in it. Sometimes I have to take a step back.”

What makes the freshmen so unique is that they don't really know how good they can be.

“I can tell you they have a lot of fun together,” Cardinal coach John Dunning said. “They're crazy. They are experienced and have played a lot of volleyball. And they're still getting better.”

Gray, who had 38 assists, assumed full-time setting duties during the middle of the season while Plummer, among others, changed positions.

“That's one of the real aces in the deck, how versatile these players are,” Dunning said. “Audriana could hit from the left one time, the middle the next and the right the next time.”

Kelsey Humphreys and Halland McKenna, who combined to record 18 digs, add depth all over the court.

“If you looked back to where we were at the beginning of the season until now, it's insane how much better we are,” Gray said. “We have the feeling we can get even better.”

Florida State has an international blend to its roster, featuring players from Germany, Norway, Canada, Croatia and Serbia as well as the U.S.A.

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