The women’s volleyball team’s 13-game winning streak was put to the test Friday night as they took on the seventh-ranked defending national champions UCLA at Maples Pavilion. UCLA battled hard in the five-set match, but in the end, it was the No. 4 Cardinal that came out with the win, improving its record to 16-2 overall. The Card is now 8-0 in conference play for the first time since 1998, when the team opened 17-0 overall.
Freshman middle blocker Inky Ajanaku provided the extra spark that the Card needed to finish off the Bruins, registering a career-high 17 kills on 31 attempts with only four errors, for a .419 hitting percentage. “My team is really good with finishing,” she said, “and it was all about trust in the end. Everyone did their job and I’m so glad we got it done.”
Stanford was able to gain a 1-0 lead after the first set by capitalizing on UCLA’s 12 attack errors and .089 attack percentage. The Bruins did come up with a late run, tying the game 20-20, but it wasn’t enough as the Cardinal took the set 25-23.
The second set proved to be a much better effort by the Bruins as they improved to only three errors and a .462 hitting percentage. The Card hit only .256 in the set, and despite the nine tie scores and three lead changes, Stanford wasn’t able to hold on as the Bruins took the set 25-19.
The Card persevered in the third set through fifteen tie scores and nine lead changes to come from behind twice to capture a 28-26 victory. The tenacity of Stanford’s defense held the UCLA offense to only .127 in hitting, while the Card recorded 17 kills and five blocks in the set.
Freshman outside hitter Jordan Burgess was instrumental in the Card’s effort against the Bruins, posting career highs with 19 kills and 19 digs to earn her eighth double-double of the season. She logged seven kills and five digs in the gritty third-set win.
The Bruins defense answered back in the fourth set, holding the Cardinal offense to their lowest offensive output of the night at .184. The Card kept it close early in the set, but six kills each by UCLA’s Tabi Love and Kelly Reeves were too much to overcome as the Bruins forced a fifth set with a 25-17 fourth-set win.
The Bruins took the early lead as the Card trailed 12-9 in the fifth. But it was back-to-back kills by sophomore outside hitter Morgan Boukather that initiated a 4-0 Stanford run and sealed the 16-14 fifth-set win that clinched the 3-2 victory over the Bruins.
“I know my team. We’ve been there before; we’ve gone to fifth games. I wasn’t really worried; I knew my team, I trusted them and I knew we were going to finish it and close it out,” Ajanaku said.
UCLA actually outscored the Card 113-105 in the Stanford win and finished with a higher hitting percentage at .215 compared to the Card’s .214. The Cardinal was determined, however, to end its two-game losing streak against the Bruins, who now fall to 12-4 overall and 4-3 in the Pac-12.
The win brings huge confidence to the Cardinal as it ends its four-game homestand on a high note and looks to take on No. 2 Washington on Friday.
“Washington and every team is beatable at this moment I think, so we’re just going to go in, play our game and see what happens,” Ajanaku said.