A Richards attack, followed by a Barboza block, a Kehoe tip, an Akinradewo kill, a Nnamani jump floater and a Fishburn dig. The starters were on fire as the second-seeded Cardinal beat Missouri (30-20, 27-30, 30-24, 25-30, 15-9) to advance to the regional semifinals of the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament.

The December 3 win was only the second five-game match of the season, and head coach John Dunning was delighted with how his players comported themselves. “I love rallies, and getting things to continue somehow by magic,” he said. “When you get in the NCAA tournament, where there’s pressure, to watch them do things that you haven’t seen them do before just makes you wonder at their athletic ability and what they know about the game. We’re talking about some people with pretty high volleyball IQs, and that is fun—to sit there and look and go, ‘Oh, my god, that was just beautiful.’”

Stanford earned its 26th consecutive NCAA bid by clinching the Pac-10 title in November. Cardinal players were looking to avenge last year’s disappointing second-round exit. “Our team’s in a good place right now, and we’ve been fortunate enough to come from an amazing conference, where every game has prepared us for this tournament,” says senior outside hitter Kristin Richards.

Against Missouri, sophomore middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo tallied a career-high 26 kills, with Richards and sophomore outside hitter Cynthia Barboza contributing 22 and 18 kills, respectively. Junior setter Bryn Kehoe dished out 67 assists and had 21 digs, and senior outside hitter Nji Nnamani and sophomore libero Jessica Fishburn added 15 and 12 digs, respectively.

Going into the regionals in Austin, Texas, Dunning sounded confident. “One of the things we try to do at the end of the season is add some offensive options that we haven’t been using, that aren’t scouted,” he said. “These [players] hit on the move very well, and they’re very quick, so we’re adding things in that will possibly make it harder for teams to play against us.” Results from the remainder of the tournament will appear in the next issue of Stanford.