Of the many adjectives that can be used to describe the Stanford women’s volleyball team’s play this weekend, pretty is not one of them. However, sometimes it is just about getting the victories, and that is exactly what the Cardinal did.
Stanford (16-3, 9-3 Pac-12) went into its matches against Arizona (13-7, 5-6) and Arizona State (5-16, 1-11) as hot as any team in the Pac-12 and maybe even the country. The Card was looking to build on its six-game winning streak and continue climbing up the conference standings.
Starting the weekend off in Arizona on Friday night, it looked as if the team’s momentum from the previous weekend was carrying over, and Stanford jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead. But things got ugly fast for the Cardinal, as the Wildcats came back to take a 23-19 lead. On the verge of dropping the first set, Stanford turned it around quickly, closing out the game with six straight points to take the set, 25-23.
The Cardinal kept Arizona on its heels, taking the second set as well, 25-22. However, Stanford would be denied another sweep, as Arizona came roaring back to win the third set, 25-22. The Card began to show flashes of its former self in game four, burying the Wildcats offensively—Stanford closed out the match in style, taking the fourth set, 25-17.
Leading the way for the Cardinal was sophomore outside hitter Rachel Williams, who led all players with 18 kills. Junior setter Karissa Cook showed everyone why she had just been named Pac-12 and National Player of the Week, posting yet another double-double with 39 assists and 17 digs. The dynamic duo has been a major factor for Stanford this year.
Saturday’s game against the second-to-last-place Sun Devils could not have started off any worse. Stanford dropped the first set in miserable fashion, losing 25-22. But the Card charged back in the second set, stifling the Arizona State attack to even the match at one set apiece.
That was when Stanford got its groove back. Despite a subpar effort against Arizona and an early slip-up against Arizona State, the momentum shifted back to the Cardinal. Stanford proceeded to bury the Sun Devils, taking game three 25-20. The Card ended the weekend well, playing its best volleyball in the fourth set to win 25-18, capped by junior outside hitter Hayley Spelman’s kill.
Sophomore middle blocker Carly Wopat had a huge night, posting a career-best 18 kills and leading all players with 22 points. The young guns were certainly carrying Stanford, as redshirt freshman outside hitter Lydia Bai chipped in with 16 kills of her own. The pair anchored the Stanford offense on a night when the Card desperately needed someone to step up.
The Cardinal did not look like the team that had dismantled Washington in straight sets the week before, but it is tough to be disappointed with eight straight wins. Stanford is now sitting only a game out of second place in the Pac-12 and has a very real possibility of moving into first place by the end of next week. First-place USC and third-place UCLA, the last two teams to beat the Cardinal, are coming to town in what looks to be a pair of critical weekend matches on Friday and Saturday.
First serve for both matches will be at 7 p.m. at Maples Pavilion.