On Wednesday, the No. 2 Stanford women’s volleyball team returned home to Maples Pavilion riding a 16-game winning streak, matching the Cardinal’s longest streak since 2008.
Just three sets later, Stanford dispatched the Arizona Wildcats and stretched their streak to 17.
The Wildcats (12-10, 4-7 Pac-12) entered their showdown with the Cardinal having won three of their last four matches, an impressive turnaround after a five-game losing streak. Unfortunately for Arizona fans, it didn’t take long for them to return to their losing ways.
The Cardinal (19-2, 11-0) beat Arizona 3-1 in Tuscon in their last meeting, and was able to do one better this time around, winning 25-19, 25-18, 25-20.
The first set began relatively back-and-forth, with both teams putting together large runs, but neither gaining an advantage over the other. With the teams locked at 12-12, Stanford finally seized control with four straight kills. The deficit proved too large to overcome, as the Cardinal took the first set 25-19.
Freshman middle blocker Inky Ajanaku was the star of the set, recording six kills and three blocks in the set. She finished with 11 kills and four blocks, while hitting .526 on the match.
The Wildcats came out firing in the second set, winning four of the first five points. The Cardinal soon stormed back to tie the set at four apiece, beginning a back-and-forth volley in which neither side gained an advantage.
With the game tied at 16-all, junior outside hitter Rachel Williams entered the game and immediately made her presence felt. Her kill started a 9-2 Stanford run that ended the set in a 25-18 Cardinal victory. Williams accounted for five of the nine points herself, with four kills and a block. She finished with eight kills and five blocks on the night, while hitting .412.
Stanford entered the third set knowing that a victory would stretch their win streak to 17, but the Wildcats refused to go down without a fight. Arizona won the first three points and didn’t back down, refusing to relinquish the lead until freshman outside hitter Jordan Burgess’s back-to-back kills gave Stanford the 11-10 advantage.
Williams followed Burgess with two kills of her own, giving the Cardinal a decisive lead. Stanford would ultimately take the final set 25-20, causing yet another team to leave Maples Pavilion in defeat.
The Cardinal was led on offense by its middle blocking tandem of Ajanaku and junior Carly Wopat, who continued her strong play of late by tallying nine kills and three blocks while hitting .500.
Stanford only hit .292 on the match, but was able to put the Wildcats away through their usual tremendous defense, holding Arizona to just .130 hitting. Sophomore libero Kyle Gilbert continued her terrific defense, with 18 digs on the night.
The setter combination of senior Karissa Cook and sophomore Madi Bugg had 22 and 18 sets, respectively, while contributing eight digs each.
Ultimately, the game was another impressive triumph for the Stanford team, giving it a solid claim for a No. 1 national ranking. On Friday, the Cardinal hopes to extend its win streak against the Arizona State Sun Devils.