With four straight victories, the women’s volleyball team has quelled any fears that arose after an early slip-up in conference play. The Cardinal is looking to carry its momentum into this weekend’s matches against Washington and Washington State, two potential roadblocks in its quest for a sixth straight Pac-12 championship.
After two disappointing losses to UCLA and USC three weekends ago, No. 7 Stanford (12-3, 6-3 Pac-12) has roared back, beating Arizona and Arizona State at home and Oregon and Oregon State on the road. The team is back home at Maples Pavilion this weekend for a matchup with Washington State on Friday before a showdown with No. 3 Washington on Saturday night.
The Cougars (11-7, 3-5) come into town with a sub-.500 conference record that has them sitting in ninth place in the Pac-12, four spots below the Cardinal. But it will be important for Stanford not to overlook the matchup, as Washington State swept Colorado in their last game and played well in the preseason.
Leading the charge for the Cougars is their lone senior, 6-foot-3 outside hitter Meagan Ganzer. The Cardinal will have a lot to handle with Ganzer, who has already piled up 343 kills. This total, paired with her 4.97 kill-per-set mark, has her sitting atop the Pac-12 in this statistic. Ganzer is also seventh in the conference in aces per set (0.29), and she is coming off a very solid performance against Colorado in which she had a game-high 19 kills and three aces.
The daunting task of slowing Ganzer down will be mostly up to sophomore Carly Wopat, who leads both Stanford and the Pac-12 in blocks with 1.62 per set. Wopat is quickly emerging as one of the Cardinal’s best players and is making a name for herself in the conference with multiple Player of the Week awards.
Provided that Wopat and company can neutralize Ganzer and the rest of the Cougar offense, the bigger test this weekend will likely come on Sunday against No. 3 Washington, which boasts a 15-1 record (7-1 conference).
The Huskies are currently sitting three spots above Stanford at second in the Pac-12, trailing only USC for the league lead. Their impressive resume includes straight-set victories against UCLA, Oregon and Arizona. With the Cardinal looking up at them in the standings, this game is as close to a must-win as it gets this early in the season.
Senior middle blockers Bianca Rowland and Lauren Barfield anchor the Huskies up front. The duo has combined for 96 blocks this season–Rowland is averaging 1.52 per set and Barfield 1.44.
But the Huskies’ most impressive player may be freshman standout Kristen Vansant. She leads all freshmen in points per set, with 4.18, and is 10th in the conference with 3.57 kills pet set. Vansant has played a major role in Washington’s success this season and will look to continue her stellar play this weekend against Stanford.
With the halfway point of the conference schedule coming up, this weekend should prove a good measuring stick for the Cardinal. The weekend kicks off Friday night against Washington State, with a Saturday night matchup against Washington to follow–both games tip at 7 p.m.