After losing the first set to Cal last Wednesday, the No. 7 Stanford women’s volleyball team (9-2, 2-0 Pac-12) regrouped and has not lost a set since, beating Cal 3-1 and then sweeping No. 16 Arizona State 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-22) Friday night at Maples.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted against Cal,” said senior Rachel Williams. “We had a good practice [Thursday] night, and we were excited to play on our home court, because we love Maples and we wanted to play at the speed we wanted and control the ball better than at Cal. We were on our heels too much, and we really wanted to be on our toes against ASU, and I think we did that.”
The Card experienced strong leadership from Williams and fellow senior Carly Wopat to start the game off right and never looked back. Williams finished the game with three blocks, six digs and a team-high nine kills, to go along with Wopat’s seven kills on 12 attempts for a .500 hitting percentage. She also had five digs, which puts her into fourth place on Stanford’s all-time career blocks list with 508.
The team also saw contributions from sophomore Inky Ajanaku, whose dynamic play and blocking were missed during the Cal game as she was sick and could not play. In Friday’s game, Ajanaku had eight kills and a season-high nine blocks. As a team, the Cardinal out-blocked the Sun Devils 14 to 5.
Also of note, junior libero Kyle Gilbert recorded her ninth game of the season with double-digit digs, notching 12.
“Everyone is really solid in their roles,” Williams said, “so we’re just reminding everyone to calm down and embrace the moment and not get too overwhelmed and just play the game the way we know how to play.”
Stanford recorded just five errors to ASU’s 12 in the first set to easily overtake the Sun Devils 25-17, controlling the momentum of the game from the first serve. The second set ended much the same with Stanford hitting an impressive .464 and winning 25-19; however, the start of the set was a lot closer, with five tie scores and four lead changes early on.
As Stanford’s lead slowly stretched in the third set, the Sun Devils were forced to call a timeout, trailing 18-12. The Card came out of the break without the twin towers of Ajanaku and sophomore Brittany Howard, and fellow sophomore Jordan Burgess really came alive to stick it to the Sun Devils with three kills in the set. Burgess finished the game with seven kills and six digs.
Neither team hit well in the final set, with Stanford hitting .194 and ASU hitting just .062. The Sun Devils slowly gained back the momentum they held early in the second set to bring the score close at 21-18 at a Stanford timout. Howard returned to the game and immmediately got a block to rally the Card, but ASU answered back, trying to force a fourth set, and brought the score to 23-22 behind sophomore Macey Gardner, who had a game-high 17 kills.
However, her efforts weren’t enough, as Williams hit her final kill of the set to put the game at match point and another kill from Ajanaku ended the set 25-22.
Beating an opponent such as Arizona State, ranked in the top 25, will certainly help Stanford move toward re-entering the top five and give the team confidence heading into a tough road trip against No. 4 USC and No. 11 UCLA this week. The Cardinal meets the Bruins on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.