COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 17, 2016) – Stanford University has relied heavily on its freshman class in 2016 resulting in the Cardinal reaching the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship match where it will face University of Texas at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday.

The Stanford freshman class, which has four starters who regularly fill starting roles, has been drilled with the fundamentals presented through USA Volleyball’s High Performance pipeline. Outside hitter Kathyrn Plummer, the 2016 AVCA Division I National Freshman of Year and an AVCA All-America First-Team selection, has HP experience in both indoor and beach volleyball. She is the only age-group player to win FIVB World Championship medals in both disciplines in the same year. In 2015, Plummer won the FIVB Beach U17 World Championship and was captain of the U.S. Girls’ Youth Team that won silver at the FIVB Women’s U18 World Championship for indoor volleyball.

“Playing for the USA Volleyball High Performance has really helped me because the competition was so much higher at the international level,” Plummer said. “They allowed me to complete all the skills of volleyball and kind of master all of them. That has really helped in the collegiate game, especially since moving positions and everything. The coaching staff is great, and all the teammates I have had I have built awesome relationships with them.”

Midway through the season, Plummer made the switch from opposite to outside hitter and becoming a six-rotation player. In Stanford’s NCAA semifinal victory over Minnesota, she contributed 15 kills and 11 digs in the four-set victory.

Yet, Plummer has had help from her freshmen teammates. Middle Audriana Fitzmorris, even before stepping foot on the collegiate court, was selected to the top U.S. Collegiate National Team that toured China this summer. In 2015, she earned gold with the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team at the European Challenge, a year after leading the same program to gold at the NORCECA Women’s U20 Continental Championship. Fitzmorris was a star on the 2013 U.S. Girls’ Youth Team that captured silver at the FIVB Women’s U18 World Championship.

“I really value my time in the USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline because I have had some invaluable experiences in Thailand, Guatemala, Europe, China etc., with wonderful teammates and coaches who really helped my development as a volleyball player and person,” said Fitzmorris, a 2016 AVCA All-America Honorable Mention selection. “I am very thankful for the unique experiences the HP program has provided me and the time spent with incredible people embracing adversity and challenging each other to get better with each contact in the gym.”

Fitzmorris pocketed 10 kills and eight block assists in the Cardinal win over Minnesota in the NCAA semifinal.

Stanford’s starting lineup also includes freshman libero Morgan Hentz, who was also part of Team USA that won silver at the 2015 FIVB Women’s U18 World Championship. She tallied a match-high 27 digs in the semifinal win over Minnesota. Setter Jenna Gray, the other starting freshman in the Cardinal lineup, does not have the same High Performance pipeline experience as Plummer, Fitzmorris and Hentz, but has a solid pedigree as well. As Stanford transitioned from a 6-2 to 5-1 offensive system, Gray became the primary setter drawing experience as the 2015 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year and PrepVolleyball Co-National Player of the Year.

The Cardinal freshman are not the only Stanford players raised through the USA Volleyball High Performance program. Senior middle Inky Ajanaku was selected the 2015 U.S. Women’s National Team that captured gold at the Pan American Cup. Sophomore Hayley Hodson, who is taking a leave from Stanford, has a long list of HP experience including the 2015 U.S. Women’s Pan American Cup team with Ajanaku. Senior setter Kelsey Humphreys and junior opposite Merete Lutz both competed in the 2013 FIVB Women’s U20 World Championship after leading the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team to bronze at the 2012 NORCECA Women’s U20 Continental Championship.

The Cardinal will be facing a Texas squad that also sports five players with USA Volleyball High Performance experience. Junior outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu has already been selected for a U.S. Women’s National Team roster as she helped the program to the silver medal at the 2014 Montreux Volley Masters Tournament in Switzerland.

Junior libero Cat McCoy was part of the 2014 U.S. Women’s Junior National Team that won gold at the NORCECA Women’s U20 Continental Championship. The Longhorns have two setters with High Performance experience. Nicole Dalton was part of the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team that placed ninth at the World Championship, while Chloe Collins was on the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Training Team in 2011 and was alternate on the World Championship roster. Freshman middle was on the 2015 U.S. Women’s Junior National Team with Stanford’s Fitzmorris and Hayley Hodson that won gold at the European Championship.