Stanford University succumbed to defeat in their match against Penn State University in Women's Volleyball for 2 consecutive years. This time, the Stanford ladies were defeated in 3 straight sets (25-20, 26-24, 25-23) by the powerful (and no loss) Penn State ladies for their 2nd consecutive crown. Stanford defeated Texas in the semis while Penn State crushed Nebraska for the other semis match.
Stanford will lose their 2 big guns, Foluke Akinradewo and Cynthia Barboza as both are graduating students. Here's a great article featuring Cynthia and Foluke:
Foluke Akinradewo and Cynthia Barboza have added themselves to the long list of Stanford women’s greats.
By Mike Miazga
For this story, Stanford All-Americans Foluke Akinradewo and Cynthia Barboza were asked to tell their favorite story about each other.
“Everything I can think of might embarrass her,” laughed Barboza. “She almost told you an embarrassing one about me.”
But then Barboza answered the question. Her response was anything but embarrassing.
“One of my favorite things about Foluke is that every once in awhile we can sit down and catch up on life,” said Barboza. “We can take three and four hours at a time doing it. I can remember sitting in a room in Colorado Springs this summer (with the U.S. Women’s National Team) and talking about Stanford and the USA team. We talked about her and we talked about me. Foluke is a wonderful person to talk to.
She’s a friend of mine that I’m lucky to have in my life.”
In between those chats, these two extraordinary volleyball talents have helped carry on the Stanford winning tradition over the last four years (NCAA championship match appearances in 2006 and 2007). But Akinradewo and Barboza—the two Stanford team captains as voted on by their teammates—have brought so much more to the table this season.
“Both Cynthia and Foluke play such pivotal roles on and off the court,” said Stanford junior setter Joanna Evans. “They are so talented and have accomplished so much on the court. Both have really distinguished themselves as people who can lead and who can rally the rest of us in a match. Both are very inviting. They are a pretty unique duo that you do not find too often in college sports.
Stanford is lucky to have both of them, let alone one of them. They are incredible players that really do add a lot.”
Evans is impressed with the way the duo interacts with the rest of their Stanford teammates.
“Just the other day Foluke and Janet (Stanford junior middle Okogbaa) went to go study at a donut shop,” said Evans. “Foluke thought to do that. She did it on a whim. Those are the little things that show they are interested in their teammates. I had a lot of classes with Cynthia last year. Even if she was exhausted after practice or it was after a long road trip, she was always open to studying with me for class.”
Akinradewo, the 2007 AVCA women’s college player of the year, admits taking on a leadership role has been both exciting and challenging at the same time.
“It’s an honor that your teammates respect you and hear you and trust what you say,” said the 6’3” Akinradewo, who was born in London, Ontario and holds citizenship in Canada, the U.S. and Nigeria. “I’m still learning how to do it. It’s not about you. I’m so used to being in that comfort zone. I’m a somewhat quiet person. I’m speaking up more than I have before so I can be a better leader for this team.”
Barboza was quick to deflect her leadership role to a greater sum.
“We have such a great group of girls on this team, it makes things easy,” said Barboza. “Everybody wants to work hard and wants to get better. We’ve got a new mentality here. If you’re not giving everything, you’re not giving anything. It’s easy to lead when you have motivated players. The chemistry on this team is some of the best we’ve had here the last couple of years. Everybody is equally valuable here and brings something new to the table.”
There’s nothing new in terms of the excellence both have shown on the court for Stanford, which, as of press time, sported a 104-16 mark in their four years on The Farm. On a side note, three of the team’s six losses in 2005 came after Barboza (then a freshman) went down with
a knee injury.
“They bring different things to the program,” said Stanford coach John Dunning. “Cynthia is one of the more gifted and all-around players you will ever find in college volleyball. She has a great power game and great ball control and a tremendous amount of experience.
“Foluke is a player with explosiveness and amazing strength for someone who moves that quickly.
She plays way above the net. She has added so much to her game each season. She’s a very mature player as well.”
Stanford sophomore outside hitter Alix Klineman appreciates the intensity both bring to the gym each day.
“The biggest thing is I like their work ethic,” said Klineman, the ASICSÒ/Volleyball freshman of the year in 2007. “They are both really good and could settle for less. They don’t. They continue to get better. You are always able to go to practice knowing someone will challenge you every single day and force you past your limits. It’s definitely an advantage having a couple of great players to practice against and play with every day.”
Akinradewo, one of three siblings who all have the letters ‘olu’ in their first names (Olu means God in Nigerian), did not start playing volleyball until she was a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
“I was horrible,” said Akinradewo, whose first name means “God pampers me” in Nigerian. I’m not sure how I made the varsity—probably because I was tall and could jump. I’m still in awe every time when I think of where I came from to where I am now. And there is still so much improvement for me in the game.”
Barboza has watched that improvement take shape right before her eyes.
“She makes my life easier pulling all the blockers in the middle,” said the 6’ Barboza. “She’s a great athlete. When I first met her she couldn’t serve the ball over the net. She’s a player with all the athleticism and potential in the world that through hard work has turned herself into a phenomenal player.”
Akinradewo feels one of Barboza’s greatest attributes is her understanding of the game.
“She has a lot of knowledge,” said Akinradewo, who plans on pursuing the sport after college and would eventually like to go to medical school (she is a human biology major). “She’s able to see things we don’t see or notice. She’s like an extra coach, which helps.”
Both Akinradewo and Barboza tried out for the 2008 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team (and temporarily left Stanford to do so), but did not make the final roster. This was Barboza’s second time being an Olympic alternate. She was an alternate at age 17 in 2004.
“Knowing that I stepped on the court with those players at some point in time is very special,” said Akinradewo. “Maybe I helped them improve a tiny bit—not that they needed to. It added a lot of confidence by playing with and against the best players in the world. If you are able to do that, it makes you feel like you can do almost anything.”
“I’ve been in the USA pipeline since I was 14,” said Barboza, an outside hitter who is majoring in political science. “I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by great players and great coaches. I’ve had the opportunity to play with and against the best players in the world.”
Barboza, a Long Beach, Calif., native, said not making the Olympic team once again was a hard pill to swallow.
“It’s tough,” said Barboza, who mentioned the beach game as a possible future destination further down the road. “I’ve come pretty close both times. The closer you get to a goal, the harder it is when you are a couple of steps short. But getting to that point was a positive experience. I would do it all over again even knowing the outcome.”
Like with all of the Cardinal greats that have passed through Maples Pavilion, Dunning knows replacing Akinradewo and Barboza isn’t something that is feasible.
“To be able to coach two people this accomplished is pretty amazing,” said Dunning. “We will miss them. You can’t replace them. You have to go about it in a different way. They will go on to the next level and be great. You just know it.”
Basing from the article, both are planning to pursue on professional volleyball after College.