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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - April 5, 2013

Stanford women's sand volleyball debut has everything but Kerri Walsh

by Keith Peters

There was sun, sand, a volleyball net and even a host of spectators. The only thing missing was Kerri Walsh and maybe one of her Olympic medals.

While Walsh, a Stanford graduate and beach volleyball star, would have been the perfect addition to the historic day, the first-ever sand volleyball match on The Farm came off without a hitch as the 10th-ranked Cardinal women's team opened its inaugural season with a 4-1 win over Santa Clara on Tuesday at the ACSR Sand Volleyball Courts.

"Adding a sport is a big deal," said Stanford head coach John Dunning, "and so this is a big day for the Stanford sand volleyball team. This is big time; this is cool . . . It's an amazing day out. It's awesome that people decided to come out for the first day."

A good crowd turned out to watch the first-ever match in the sand, featuring Stanford's 11 players from the indoor volleyball season.

Four of Stanford's five pairs earned wins in their debuts, while the fifth tandem pushed its opponents to extra points in the deciding third set.

Stanford's No. 1 doubles team of Jordan Burgess and Carly Wopat secured the first win of the afternoon defeating Santa Clara's Taylor Milton and Dani Rottman, 21-18, 21-15. Wopat finished with 12 kills and nine digs, while Burgess turned in nine kills and 24 digs.

"That was a lot of fun," said Wopat. "I can't wait to get back out there.

"Coming into the first match, we (Jordan and I) were trying to have fun, and as we kept going we started to get better and better, noticing things and getting used to the game. I think if we keep doing that, keep on improving, it'll be great. And getting the first win feels awesome, it's really exciting. Jordan and I were just super stoked and happy."

Madi Bugg and Brittany Howard followed up with a three-set win over Kat Douglas and Sarah Vocano (17-21, 21-19, 15-9) to give the Cardinal the 2-0 lead in the match. Bugg put down an ace on match point to seal the win, totaling 10 kills, 19 digs and three aces. Howard added 15 kills, 12 digs and three aces.

In arguably the most competitive match of the afternoon, Santa Clara's No. 2 team of Haley Cameron and Alyssa Anderson posted a 23-25, 21-17, 17-15 win over Stanford's Kyle Gilbert and Rachel Williams. Gilbert notched 10 kills and 14 digs, while Williams tallied 18 kills.

Morgan Boukather and Megan McGehee clinched the win for the Cardinal with a 21-15, 21-19 decision over Kim Meyers and Lacey Maas.

Inky Ajanaku and Mary Ellen Luck also picked up a win for Stanford, defeating Katy Schatzman and Chloe Sliger, 21-16, 21-13. Ajanaku tured in 19 kills, 14 digs and three aces, while Luck added nine kills, 18 digs and three aces.

Among those in attendance for the historic match were Stanford alums and Indianapolis Colts teammates Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener, former Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor and former Stanford women's volleyball player Cynthia Barboza, who was part of the Pac-12 Networks broadcasting crew.

Dunning said 30 teams from around the country are playing this season. Sand volleyball was added to the list of NCAA emerging sports for women prior to the 2011-12 academic year. Fifteen schools competed in sand volleyball during the spring of 2012 and 15 more, including Stanford, have added the sport in 2013.

"We have some experience on our staff. Denise Corlett, our associate head coach for the indoor team, has been around (sand volleyball) a lot. Sara Dukes, our volunteer coach, played after she played here as an indoor player," Dunning told the Stanford Daily. "The main thing that I'm concerned with is what this is doing to make our indoor team do better, as well. We're competing to win here and all 11 who are playing here are on our indoor team as well, so it's going to help make our indoor team better, there's no doubt about it."

The Cardinal next will travel to the Sacramento State tournament on Sunday. Stanford will face the host Hornets at noon and St. Mary's at 3 p.m. The Cardinal will host SCU again on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.

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