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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Fresh off two victories to start the NCAA Tournament, UF coach Mary Wise gave her first evaluation of her team's reward - No. 2 Stanford.

The Cardinal is led by two outstanding senior performers, outside hitter Cynthia Barboza and middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo, both of whom were first team All-Americans last season.

Akinradewo is also the returning National Player of the Year and was recently named Pacific 10 Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.

"The best matchup with Stanford…um… I think warm-ups will be pretty good," Wise joked. "They're the most physical team we've played all year."

The Pac-10 champs also receive huge contributions from a sophomore outside hitter Alix Klineman, who leads the team with 3.6 kills per set.

"Is this a huge challenge for our group? Sure," Wise said. "But we look at it as at least we get them on a neutral court, this could be a whole lot harder if this regional was held at Stanford."

Fort Collins, Home Away From Home

UF will be making its second road trip of the season to Fort Collins after knocking off hometown team Colorado State in Gainesville.

The neutral site will be just that with the Rams out of the tournament, giving the two rounds a much different feel than the "neutral" Gainesville site.

"We're kind of hoping that maybe the Colorado State fans in attendance won't hold Saturday's match against us," Wise said. "Maybe they can cheer for the team that beat their own…maybe."

Even with the crowd behind them, knocking out one of the country's most decorated volleyball programs will be a tough task for UF.

Playing against Stanford in Fort Collins could yield the same result for UF, a 3-0 sweep at the hands of Colorado State, as the last time it was in town.

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"What's different is who we're playing," Wise said. "This is a very talented Stanford team who has year in and year out gone through this tournament and reached the finals. It's almost like if Stanford is not in the final four something is wrong."

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