When the Stanford women’s volleyball team last took on Washington and Washington State, it easily dismantled both opponents in straight-set victories. The Cardinal found Washington to be a different team on the road, however, losing to the Huskies 3-2. Stanford again had little trouble with the Cougars, however, defeating them 3-1.
Ultimately, the story of the weekend was the rematch with No. 10 Washington (19-7, 11-7 Pac-12). Entering the weekend, the No. 5 Cardinal (20-5, 14-5) stood two games back of conference leaders USC and UCLA and needed a sweep of the Washington schools to stay in the hunt for the Pac-12 title. Washington was coming off straight-set losses to both USC and UCLA and was hoping to find redemption by putting a dent in Stanford’s conference-title hopes. Coming into the match, the Huskies held an 11-1 home record and had definitely played tougher volleyball in Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Right off the bat, the Huskies looked like a different team than the one Stanford swept in their last meeting. Washington took a 5-4 lead in the first set and never looked back, ultimately taking a 25-18 victory.
The second set looked to be more of the same, as Stanford fell behind early and seemed to be headed into a 2-0 hole. The Cardinal soon roared back, however, tying the set at 24-24 before taking its first lead of the set, 26-25. Senior middle blocker Stephanie Browne’s kill would cement the comeback and tie the match up at one set apiece. Junior setter Karissa Cook was largely responsible for the set victory, recording assists on 15 of the 16 Cardinal kills. She would finish with a career-high 54 assists and 16 digs for her Pac-12-leading 15th double-double.
Stanford’s momentum continued into the third set, as it led the entire way for a 25-19 victory. The Cardinal captured the set largely due to its dominant defensive effort, holding the Huskies to just a .051 hitting percentage in the set. Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Williams had 10 digs in the set alone and would ultimately tally 20 digs and 20 kills for her 15th double-double, tying her with Cook for the conference lead.
The Huskies were not going down without a fight, however, and rallied to capture the fourth set 25-22, sending the Cardinal to its first five-set match since September. Washington roared to an early lead, and Stanford was unable to make up ground within the shorter fifth set, falling 15-10 and losing the match.
While it will go down in the books as a loss, Stanford played very well. The Cardinal had one of its strongest defensive efforts of the season, recording 87 digs and 11 blocks. Junior libero Hannah Benjamin and sophomore defensive specialist Mary Ellen Luck both recorded career-high dig totals, with 19 and 16 respectively. The Cardinal held the Huskies to a .193 hitting percentage, compared to Stanford’s .215. Freshman outside hitter Morgan Boukather had one of her best games for Stanford, posting 11 kills on .455 hitting while also recording seven blocks.
Incredibly, Stanford managed to lead the Huskies in almost every relevant statistical category except the area that ultimately was the team’s downfall: serving. Stanford had a service percentage of just .854, compared to a .944 percentage for Washington. The Cardinal also had 15 service errors, while the Huskies had only six.
Stanford’s matchup with Washington State (12-16, 4-14), however, went much smoother, as the Cardinal won 25-23, 25-11, 19-25, 25-15. Stanford, as usual, was led by Williams and Cook, who cemented their spots as the Pac-12 leaders in double-doubles. Williams posted 16 kills and 13 digs, while Cook had 47 assists and 10 digs.
Stanford’s victory can be credited to its ferocious defense and efficient offense. Entering the match, Washington State’s senior outside hitter Megan Ganzer led the Pac-12 in both points per set and kills per set. While she did lead all players with 18 kills for the match, the Stanford defense was able to hold her to a .097 hitting percentage.
After completing its final road trip of the season, Stanford heads home next weekend to take on the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers.