CHAMPIONSHIP RUN: Stanford closed out the 2016 campaign on a season-best 10 match winning streak, capped off by a 3-1 win over Texas in the national title match. Earning the No. 6 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Cardinal out hit its opponents .272 to .177 in the postseason. Redshirt senior Inky Ajanaku led the Cardinal, recording team-highs 3.87 kills, 1.65 blocks and 4.80 points per set on .447 hitting in Stanford’s six NCAA Tournament matches. Freshman setter Jenna Gray turned in 12.26 assists per set, while fresham libero Morgan Hentz posted 6.00 digs per set in the postseason.
.@StanfordWVB earned a 7th national championship. https://t.co/LiSLmXYa6k #Stanford2016 pic.twitter.com/2el9KXgIgi
— Stanford University (@Stanford) December 31, 2016
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: The 2016 season marked Stanford’s 36th consecutive NCAA postseason appearance. The Cardinal is one of only two programs in the nation to have appeared in every NCAA Tournament since the NCAA Championship began in 1981 (Penn State is the other). Stanford has won more NCAA Tournament matches (115), made more Final Four appearances (20) and been in the national championship match (15) more times than any other program in the nation. It’s seventh NCAA title also ties Penn State for the most by a Division I team.
This won’t ever get old » pic.twitter.com/CWKn8be40H
— Stanford Volleyball (@StanfordWVB) December 19, 2016
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Redshirt senior Inky Ajanaku was tabbed the VolleyballMag.com Player of the Year (formerly Volleyball Magazine) for the second time in her career. It marks the 17th individual national player of the year award for the Cardinal all-time.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Freshman outside hitter Kathryn Plummer is the 12th Cardinal player to be named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and the second to earn AVCA Freshman of the Year honors. She ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in kills (3.34) and points per set (3.97), pacing Stanford. She also led the team with 11 double-doubles and posted a team-high in kills in 23 of the 34 matches.
?? When you find out you are the @AVCAVolleyball National Freshman of the Year @plummdawgg » pic.twitter.com/wRY589lZT5
— Stanford Volleyball (@StanfordWVB) December 14, 2016
HONDA FINALIST: Inky Ajanaku was one of four players nationally selected as a finalist for the Honda Sport Award for Volleyball. Other nominees include Ebony Nwanebu from Texas, Nebraska’s Kadie Rolfzen and Sarah Wilhite of Minnesota. The Honda Sport Award has been presented annually by the CWSA for the past 41 years to the top women athletes in 12 NCAA- sanctioned sports and signifies “the best of the best in collegiate athletics”. The winner of the sport award becomes a finalist for the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and the prestigious 2017 Honda Cup which will be presented on a live telecast on CBS Sports Network on Monday, June 26, 2017, in downtown Los, Angeles.
Inky Ajanaku (MOP)
Jenna Gray#NCAAVB pic.twitter.com/qTgpO9I7sS
— NCAA Volleyball (@NCAAVolleyball) December 18, 2016
ALL-AMERICANS: Four Cardinal players were named All-Americans by the AVCA in 2016, bringing Stanford’s total AVCA award count to 89 honors spread over 37 players. Inky Ajanaku and Kathryn Plummer earned first team recognition, while redshirt junior Merete Lutz was named to the third team. Freshman Audriana Fitzmorris collected honorable mention honors. It marks the fourth straight season in which the Cardinal had produced at least four All-Americans.
ALL-REGION: Four Stanford players earned AVCA All-Pacific North Region honors, including Region Freshman of the Year Kathryn Plummer. She was joined on the first team by Inky Ajanaku and Merete Lutz, while Audriana Fitzmorris secured honorable mention accolades. Ajanaku was one of just six players in the nation to be a four-time all-region honoree.
PAC-12 HONORS: Five Cardinal players were recognized by the conference in 2016. Redshirt senior Inky Ajanaku (four-time) and redshirt junior Merete Lutz (three-time) are repeat honorees, while freshman Kathryn Plummer joined them on the 18-player all-conference team. Freshmen Audriana Fitzmorris and Morgan Hentz were both All-Pac-12 honorable mention selections. Plummer, Fitzmorris and Hentz were also tabbed to the All-Pac-12 Freshman Team.
PAC-12 IN THE TOURNEY: The Pac-12 earned eight berths into the 2016 NCAA Tournament, tied for the most by any league with the Big Ten. It was the 17th straight year in which the Pac-12 had sent at least six teams into the postseason, and the 25th overall. Pac-12 teams posted a 95-31 (.754) record versus other conferences during the regular season.
STANFORD VS. THE FIELD: The Cardinal played 23 matches against the 2016 NCAA field, posting a 16-7 record. Stanford went 8-5 against Pac-12 teams in the tournament, and picked up non-conference wins over No. 2 seed Minnesota (twice), No. 3 seed Wisconsin, No. 4 seed Texas, No. 16 seed Penn State, Florida State, Denver and Boise State.
MADISON REGIONAL: Stanford advanced to the national semifinals by eliminating 16th-ranked Florida State in four sets before upsetting No. 3 Wisconsin on its home court after being down 0-2 to the Badgers. Redshirt senior Inky Ajanaku took over for the Cardinal, hitting .484 and averaged 4.11 kills and 1.67 blocks per set en route to being named the MVP of the Madison Regional. Freshmen Kathryn Plummer (3.00 kps/2.11 dps) and Morgan Hentz (6.33 dps) were also named to the all-regional team.
NATIONAL POLL: Stanford closed out 2016 ranked No. 1 in the nation, collecting all 64 first-place votes. Texas, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin rounded out the top 5. Seven Pac-12 schools appeared in the final poll, including No. 6 UCLA, No. 7 Washington, No. 20 Arizona, No. 21 Oregon, No. 24 Washington State and No. 25 Utah.
MAKING THE SWITCH: Switching from a 6-2 to a 5-1 system, Stanford went 17-2 and lost just 13 of 67 sets. During that 19-match span, the Cardinal hit .292 as a team, led by Kathryn Plummer (4.07 kps, 4.69 pps) and Inky Ajanaku (.426, 3.13 kps). In fact, all five hitters averaged at least 2.13 kills per set (Audriana Fitzmorris – 2.36 kps; Merete Lutz – 2.28 kps; Ivana Vanjak – 2.13 kps). Freshman setter Jenna Gray collected 11.93 assists per set.
IN THE NATION: Stanford led the country with 3.36 blocks per set, thanks in large part to its middle blockers Inky Ajanaku and Audriana Fitzmorris. Ajanaku (1.54 bps) led the Pac-12 and was sixth in the nation, while Fitzmorris (1.44) was third in the conference and 13th in the country. Redshirt junior opposite Merete Lutz added 1.02 blocks per set.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS: Redshirt senior Inky Ajanaku began her final season on The Farm ranked ninth in program history in total blocks. Against Minnesota (Dec. 15), she passed Carly Wopat (2010-13) for third on the all-time list and finished her career with 627. She also passed the likes of Kerri Walsh (1996-99) and Foluke Akinradewo (2005-08) on her way to third. Her first block at Wisconsin (Dec. 10) was the 600th of her career, putting her in a category with Kim Oden (665), Bev Oden (650) and Wopat (614) as the only Cardinal players to reach the 600-blocks plateau.
SINGLE-SEASON RECORD: Freshman libero Morgan Hentz set a Stanford single season digs record with 630. Her 4.88 season average was the third-best mark in a single season in program history. Gabi Ailes (2007-10) holds the school’s single season record with 5.23 digs per set in 2009. Hentz’s 4.88 average was also third in the Pac-12 in 2016.
Hustle, thy name is Morgan Hentz.@StanfordWVB 5 points from taking the first. #NCAAVB pic.twitter.com/0sfT2HPAgh
— NCAA Volleyball (@NCAAVolleyball) December 18, 2016
PAC-12 CONFERENCE FINISHES: The Cardinal finished tied for second in the Pac-12 with UCLA with a 15-5 record. It marked the 28th top-2 standing in conference play in the past 31 seasons. Stanford has won 16 conference championships in the Pac-10/12 era, and 19 overall in program history. Stanford has claimed seven of the past 11 Pac-12 titles and eight overall under head coach John Dunning.
THREE-TIME FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK: Middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris racked up five weekly honors after playing just four collegiate matches. She picked up her third Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors on Nov. 7. She has also earned Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive honors as well as an AVCA National Player of the Week recognition. The Overland Park, Kansas native hit .311 on the season, and averaged 2.41 kills and 1.44 blocks per set.
TOP OF HER CLASS: Redshirt senior Inky Ajanaku was one of 10 finalists in the nation for the Senior CLASS Award. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their athletic platforms to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. Ajanaku was named a Senior CLASS Award First Team All-American.
HOME SWEET HOME: Traditionally, Stanford has always protected its home court. The Cardinal is 221-25 at home under head coach John Dunning (16 seasons). Over the past five years, Stanford has gone 72-8 at Maples Pavilion.
TOP-RANKED RECRUITS: Stanford six-member freshman class was rated No. 1 in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com and Volleyball Magazine. The class features USA Today High School Player of the Year Audriana Fitzmorris (middle blocker), the No. 2 Senior Ace, Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year and No. 14 Senior Ace Jenna Gray (setter), Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year and No. 22 Senior Ace Morgan Hentz (defensive specialist), twins Michaela (outside hitter), the No. 31 Senior Ace, and Caitlin (defensive specialist) Keefe and California Gatorade Player of the Year and No. 3 Senior Ace Kathryn Plummer (opposite/setter).
FAMILIAR FACE: Former Cardinal All-American and U.S. National Team member Cassidy Lichtman joined the coaching staff as an assistant in June. She was a member of four Pac-10 championship teams from (2007-10), reaching the NCAA finals twice (2007, 2008). A versatile athlete, Lichtman played multiple positions during her career (setter, outside hitter, opposite and defensive specialist), racking up 51 career double-doubles, including 14 triple-doubles.
HEAD COACH JOHN DUNNING: Head coach John Dunning is one of the most accomplished and decorated coaches in the collegiate volleyball world. Dunning has five national championships under his belt, has taken teams to 12 Final Fours and carried seven of his 16 Stanford teams to the national title match.
DUNNING BY THE NUMBERS: In 32 years as a head coach, John Dunning is 888-185 (.827), giving him a winning percentage that ranks among the top 5 all-time for Division I coaches. He is 451-83 in his 16 seasons on The Farm, leading all active coaches in the conference by winning percentage (.845). He also passed Stanford Hall of Fame member Don Shaw (440) in 2016 to become the winningest coach in Cardinal women’s volleyball history.
NATIONAL COACH OF THE YEAR: John Dunning was tabbed the AVCA National Coach of the Year for the second time in his career. He was also honored in 2001, his first season on The Farm which ended with the program’s fifth national title. Dunning, who was inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2011, has also been recognized as the best in the nation two additional times during his career – in 1985 as the Volleyball Monthly National Coach of the Year and in 1986 as the PCAA Coach of the Year.
.@StanfordWVB Head Coach John Dunning gets emotional when talking about his team. pic.twitter.com/lGCh1qcwdk
— AVCA (@AVCAVolleyball) December 22, 2016