Denver Volleyball to Face Defending National Champion in NCAA First Round

Photo credit: The Stanford Daily

This Friday, Denver (23-8, 13-3) will face the third-seeded defending national champion Stanford Cardinal (24-4, 18-2 PAC-12) at the Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Stanford’s senior class is gunning for its fourth-straight Final Four appearance and third National Championship. It’s a tough draw for Denver, to say the least.

Just how good is Stanford?

The Stanford women’s volleyball senior class of 2020 has won 115 games, three Pac-12 Championships and two NCAA National Championships. The six departing seniors have combined for 10 American Volleyball Coaches of America (AVCA) All-American honors, including seven total First Team selections. They are clearly the greatest class in the storied history of Stanford women’s volleyball, and many argue the most dominant NCAA volleyball program of all time.

And, the Cardinal feature one of the most visible and successful NCAA athletes of all time in outside hitter 6’6 Katheryn Plummer. Plummer is the two-time AVCA National Player of the Year. The top hitter in collegiate volleyball (4.75 kills per set) and has won so many awards and accolades in her career that they would be nearly impossible to list. Perhaps the most impressive award is the James E. Sullivan Award (2019) as the nation’s top amateur athlete joining athletes such as Carl Lewis, Peyton Manning, and Michael Phelps.

Plummer missed 10 matches this season with an undisclosed injury. But, she still dominates the Stanford stat sheet in nearly every front-line category. She is the engine that makes the Cardinal hum. And, assuming the match will be televised at the scheduled 8:00 pm MT start time, she is a ‘must-watch’ athlete.

DU’s star Lydia Bartalo is actually ahead of Plummer in kills this season (370-309) but Bartalo accomplished these numbers in twice as many matches played.

Denver made a similar trip to Palo Alto in the first round of tournament play in December 2016 against then #9 Stanford.  Denver played well but fell 25-12, 25-22 and 25-20 in three games. A realistic goal for DU volleyball Friday would be a game win which would be a first for DU volleyball NCAA tournament action. And a match win? That would be roughly equivalent to UMBC’s win over #1 Virginia in men’s basketball in March 2018. It would be, without a doubt, Denver’s biggest single win in any sport, ever.

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