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W.Volleyball: Pac-12 powerhouses USC, UCLA visiting the Farm

The wins just keep piling up for the Stanford women’s volleyball team, which has soared to No. 4 in the country following another dominating performance this past weekend. After pulling out a tough five-set win against Oregon and taking care of business in three sets against Oregon State, the Cardinal extended its winning streak to 11 games and remained undefeated in conference play.

But the road certainly gets more difficult for Stanford (14-2, 6-0 Pac-12) this week, as a pair of Pac-12 powerhouses from Southern California visit the Farm.

Junior middle blocker Carly Wopat and the Stanford defense face a tough test this week as No. 6 USC and No. 7 UCLA pay a visit to Maples Pavilion (Stanford Daily File Photo).

Maples Pavilion will be the center of the volleyball universe tonight when No. 6 USC (16-2, 4-2 Pac-12) rolls into town. The Trojans are coming off a dominating performance in which they dismantled both Arizona and Arizona State last weekend. Despite a couple of hiccups against very talented Washington and Oregon squads, the Trojans have had a successful season and will certainly be looking to end Stanford’s winning streak.

A surprisingly dominant veteran-rookie pair has led USC’s offense this season. Standout freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio, a highly touted recruit from Jalisco, Mexico, has been as good as advertised for the Trojans. She is leading the team in kills (242 at 4.10 per set) and trails only libero Natalie Hagglund and setter Hayley Crone in digs (144 at 2.44 per set). Her stellar play has helped USC transform into a national championship contender, subsequently making a name for herself as potential Pac-12 Player of the Year. Senior opposite Katie Fuller is not far behind, however, having amassed 206 kills and 125 digs throughout the season. The talented pair has complimented each other perfectly.

Still, their success would not be possible without sophomore stalwart Hayley Crone, the talented setter who has orchestrated the Trojans offensive attack. Crone has recorded 680 assists thus far, and will add to this total against the Cardinal. Stanford middle blocker Carly Wopat, one of the team’s defensive leaders at the net, definitely has her hands full.

The schedule certainly doesn’t lighten up for Stanford. On Friday night at Maples, the Card will renew its rivalry with the defending national champion UCLA Bruins (12-3, 4-2 Pac-12). UCLA certainly had Stanford’s number last season, beating the Card 3-2 and 3-0 in their two meetings of the season. The Cardinal will be looking to reverse its fortunes on Friday.

Standing in the way is 6-foot-3-inch middle blocker Zoe Nightingale. The sophomore has led the Bruin defense this season, recording 75 blocks on the year. Junior outside Hitter Kelly Reeves and senior Bojana Todorovic have contributed to the defensive effort, accounting for 121 and 196 digs respectively, but the Stanford offense will not be able to merely overpower UCLA with its basic attack as they have other some opponents throughout the season.

Senior outside Hitter Tabi Love has led the way for the Bruin offense this season. The Minnesota transfer who earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors last season has led UCLA with 224 kills at 4.07 kills per set this season. She is certainly making a convincing bid for the All-Pac-12 team this year, recording a solid .345 hitting percentage. But Love is merely the leader of what has been a balanced Bruin attack throughout the season.

Stanford will try to keep the momentum rolling this weekend and stretch the winning streak to 13 games. Tonight’s match tips at 7 p.m. from Maples Pavilion and will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.