After a rocky start, the No. 7 Stanford women’s volleyball team is looking to solidify its spot in the top half of the Pac-12 this weekend, searching for its first conference victory outside of Maples Pavilion and aiming to extend its win streak to four matches.
The Cardinal (10-3, 4-3 Pac-12) will hit the road for the first time since a disastrous two-loss trip to Southern California, hoping for better luck up north against Oregon State on Friday and No. 15 Oregon on Saturday.
In the series’ 52-match history, the Card has never lost to the Beavers, a winning tradition it looks to keep alive at least one match longer. A young team with just one senior on its roster, Oregon State (11-5, 3-3) stands only one spot below Stanford in the conference thanks in large part to the play of junior Camille Saxton and freshman outside hitter/middle blocker Arica Nassar.
Saxton, an outside hitter, ranks tenth in the Pac-12 with an average of 3.58 kills per set and fifth with .34 aces–or an ace for every three sets played. Nassar has been a force at the net, ninth in the conference with 1.15 blocks per set, making her the only freshman to appear in the conference’s top ten blockers. Sophomore libero Becky Defoe has been equally solid for the Beavers’ back line, ranking fifth in the conference with 4.39 digs per set and coming close to setting her own school record with 28 digs in last weekend’s three-set loss at No. 3 Washington.
Oregon (12-2, 5-1), currently half a game out of first place in the conference, is one of six Pac-12 squads ranked in the top-15 nationally. The Ducks, who shocked then-No. 1 squad Penn State with a 3-1 victory in State College, Penn. earlier this season, will be looking to rebound this weekend after suffering their first conference loss to Washington on Sep. 30.
Oregon’s impressive offense–fifth in the nation in both assists and kills per set–will be a tough match for Stanford’s equally acclaimed defense. As a team, the Card leads the nation in blocks per set and leads the conference in digs, while junior middle blocker Carly Wopat is the country’s individual blocking leader with 1.71 per set, something she attributes to a renewed mental focus on the court.
“The key to my early season success has really been learning how to outsmart my opponents, rather than just relying on my athletic abilities,” she said.
Sophomore setter Lauren Plum engineers the Ducks’ offense, leading the Pac-12 with 11.89 assists per set, sixth best in the country. Two junior outside hitters, Alaina Bergsma and Katherine Fischer, provide the firepower, with Bergsma beating out Stanford outside hitter Rachel Williams for the conference’s second-most kills (Bergsma averages 4.72 per set, Williams has 4.54) while Fischer contributes another 3.09 kills per set.
The Cardinal will kick off the trip against Oregon State on Friday, Oct. 7 at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore.