Seven straight wins is usually enough to put even the best teams on the brink of over-confidence. The Stanford women’s volleyball team, however, was focused on one thing going into conference matchups against Arizona and Arizona State: a hunger to keep winning. Two road wins later, and the Cardinal remains undefeated in conference play and riding high at the top of the Pac-12.
Arizona (9-6, 1-3 Pac-12) was first on the to-do list for the No. 7 Cardinal (12-2, 4-0 Pac-12), who needed a solid performance from its group of freshman contributors. Instead, it was Arizona who jumped out to an early 6-2 lead on a pair of kills by sophomore Rachel Rhoades to go along with three from fellow sophomore Madi Kingdon.
The two squads traded a few points, before the Card was able to capitalize on a couple of Wildcat errors to tie the set at 11 a piece. From that point on, Stanford gained control, gradually pulling out to a 23-18 lead after a block by freshman Inky Ajanaku.
Nonetheless, Arizona – Rhoades in particular – was not going to lie down. Rhoades picked up a pair of kills to pull within three points, forcing Stanford coach John Dunning to call a timeout. Whatever he said to the team certainly carried found its mark, as the Card scored two easy points to grab a 25-20 first set win.
Arizona would respond in the second set, refusing to give in to the higher-ranked Stanford team. However, it would be Stanford, not Arizona, that would be the Card’s downfall in the second set. This became obvious after Stanford followed an excellent set-tying Brittany Howard kill with three straight errors.
This would prove to be the story of the set, as Stanford went on to commit nine errors. Still, the Card maneuvered into striking position after a Carly Wopat block pulled Stanford to within two points of Arizona (23-21). But the early miscues proved to be too much to overcome, as a Taylor Arizobal kill gave the Wildcats the 25-22 win, evening the match at one set each.
That loss was enough of a wakeup call for Stanford, as they picked up the intensity in the third and fourth sets. Veterans Wopat, Lydia Bai, Rachel Williams and Karissa Cook helped set the tone for the Cardinal, letting their experience dictate the tone of the match.
After the Wildcats jumped out to a 20-19 lead on a Jordan Burgess service ace, Bai countered with a couple of kills to put Stanford back on top. Wopat closed out the set with a kill of her own a few points later, giving Stanford a 25-22 victory.
The Card got it going early in the fourth set, scoring three straight points. The veteran presence would prove important once more, as Wopat, Bai, and Williams smothered Arizona at the net en route to a match-clinching 25-18 victory for Stanford.
While the freshmen have stolen most of the headlines for the last couple of weeks, last year’s stalwarts were able to propel Stanford to victory in this contest. Wopat led the way, accruing a total of 15 kills.
After the victory, the Cardinal traveled to Tempe to take on Arizona State (13-4, 2-2 Pac-12). It became clear early on that this contest was going to be a battle. The Sun Devils stayed with Stanford for the entire set, jumping out to a 25-24 lead, just a point away from a first set victory, on an Ajanaku error. Wopat and Morgan Boukather bailed her out with a block on the next point. Stanford went on to win the first set by a score of 29-27.
The momentum continued to roll for the Card, as they outplayed the Sun Devils by a wide margin in the second set. Arizona State had 11 errors, as Stanford went on to win 25-17. However, despite the early hole, the Sun Devils were not ready to concede to the Card. They roared back in the third set, claiming a 28-26 win after kills from Macey Gardner and Erica Wilson.
Eager to return to the farm with a pair of conference wins and a nine-game winning streak under their belts, Stanford turned it on in the fourth set. They closed out the set and match with a 25-23 victory, moving to 4-0 in Pac-12 play.
Burgess, Cook and Madi Bugg stood out in a very solid Stanford performance. Burgess continued to impress, recording 10 kills along with 15 digs. She has been phenomenal both offensively and defensively. Cook and Bugg both managed to spread the ball around, setting up the playmakers at the net. The two setters split time, producing at a nearly identical mark. Bugg slightly edged Cook, recording 26 kills to her teammate’s 23.
The Card takes on Oregon and Oregon State next weekend at Maples Pavilion, looking to extend their winning streak to 11 games.