The third-ranked and third-seeded Stanford women's volleyball team opens the NCAA tournament with a match against visiting Denver at 7 p.m. Friday in a rematch of a first round contest from two years ago.
Cal Poly (20-8) and Georgia (20-9) meet in another first-round match at 4:30 p.m., with the winners meeting on Saturday at 6 p.m. with a berth in the Sweet Sixteen at stake.
Stanford (24-4) is one of two schools, with Penn State, to have appeared in every NCAA tournament since its inception in 1981. The Cardinal, which has never lost a first round match, has won more NCAA titles (8), more NCAA tournament matches (125), made more Final Four appearances (22) and been in the national championship match (16) more times than any other program in the nation.
Denver (23-8) is making its sixth straight postseason appearance after winning its fifth Summit League championship. Junior outside hitter Lydia Bartalo was named the Conference Player of the Year, leading the team with 3.25 kills per set.
In three seasons under Kevin Hambly, Stanford is 41-2 at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal won 32 in a row at home before falling to BYU on Sept. 21.
The Mustangs finished second in the Big West Conference, while the Bulldogs took fifth in the SEC and both received at-large berths into the tournament.
Stanford seniors Jenna Gray and Morgan Hentz were honored a third consecutive year as Pac-12 Women’s Volleyball Setter of the Year and Libero of the Year, respectively, when the All-Conference teams were announced Tuesday.
Seniors Audriana Fitzmorris and Madeleine Gates joined their peers on the all-conference team while junior Meghan McClure earned honorable mention. Outside hitter Kendall Kipp was also honorable mention as well as being named to the All-Pac-12 Freshman Team.
Gray became the second Cardinal setter to earn Setter of the Year in three straight seasons, joining Madi Bugg who did so from 2013-15. Stanford has 147 all-conference selections all-time, including honorable mention.
Stanford senior Kathryn Plummer, the reigning national Player of the Year, was not eligible for postseason Pac-12 awards because of not meeting the required minimum of matches played. She does, however, lead the Cardinal with 309 kills and was on pace to surpass 2,000 for her career before being sidelined.
Gray is ninth in the nation with 11.54 assists per set. With 5,245 career assists, she's the NCAA active leaders and ranks 11th in Pac-12 history.
Hentz became the 14th Pac-12 player to record 2,000 career digs and ranks sixth among NCAA active leaders.
Third among active players in the NCAA, Audriana Fitzmorris recorded her 500th block on Aug. 31 becoming just the ninth player in school history to hit the mark, and is 12th in Pac-12 history with 593.
Plummer's 1,840 career kills ranks fifth in school history and tied for fifth among active players in the NCAA.