For the first time since 2011, the No. 7 Stanford women’s volleyball team (10-3, 3-1) was swept in a match (21-25, 15-25, 25-27). Not surprisingly, it was No. 2 USC (13-1, 3-0) — the only team that Stanford lost to in conference play last year and the team most likely to prevent the Cardinal from claiming back-to-back Pac-12 conference titles — that dealt them the loss.
Despite averaging three blocks per set on the season thus far, the Cardinal only recorded four blocks as a team in the entire match, all in the third set. In addition, it was outhit .358 to .245, the second time that Stanford has been outhit in a loss this season.
Statistically, the Cardinal players performed well in the match. Senior middle blocker Carly Wopat was on top of her offensive game with 11 kills, finishing the match with a .421 hitting average. Sophomore middle blocker Inky Ajanaku had 10 kills with four blocks. Senior Rachel Williams had another complete game with nine kills, six digs and three blocks. Sophomores Brittany Howard and Jordan Burgess both contributed as well with seven and five kills, and seven and 12 digs, respectively.
In addition, sophomore setter Madi Bugg moved the ball around with 35 assists to go along with 11 digs and junior libero Kyle Gilbert recorded 11 digs and two assists.
Despite contributions from all across the roster, it was timely runs that put the Trojans ahead early on and made it hard for the Card to force a fourth set despite a close final set. The Card also struggled in accuracy and were outhit in all three sets on USC’s home court.
Although the Trojans led by as many as seven in the first set (18-11), the Card was able to fight back and cut the lead to just two. The Trojans were forced to call a timeout but were able to hold onto the set with a 3-1 finish to take the first set 25-20. Stanford was held to just a .186 attack percentage, while the Trojans hit .350.
The second set win was a bit more decisive for the Trojans, 25-15. The Card managed to keep it close and hold onto the lead early on, but a monster Trojan 9-1 run in the middle of the set gave USC what they needed to plow forward and never look back. Both teams improved in hitting accuracy, the Trojans at .429 and the Card at .258. Late in the set, Stanford head coach John Dunning turned to his bench for a little added help and momentum as junior Lydia Bai, senior Mary Ellen Luck and freshman Kelsey Humphreys saw court action.
After halftime, Stanford came back with renewed determination and kept the third set close, but the Trojans ultimately won out, 27-25. Again, the Card led early on in the set — by as many as eight at one point — but in the end, the Trojans came back. The disparity in hitting percentage, however, was not as great as the Cardinal hit competitively with .306, barely trailing USC’s .311 average.
Stanford resumes Pac-12 play back at home in Maples Pavilion next week with Utah on Friday and Colorado on Saturday.
Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.