After dropping an emotional five-set match to No. 4 USC on Wednesday, the Stanford women’s volleyball team will aim to start a new home winning streak tonight at Maples Pavilion, where it had previously won 24 straight matches.
The No. 6 Cardinal (15-5, 8-3 Pac-12), now a game and a half behind conference leader No. 3 Washington, takes on UCLA (12-8, 3-7) hoping to rebound. The team has been particularly resilient after defeats, going 20-4 in matches after a loss over the last five seasons.
Stanford’s match against USC was marked by constant shifts in momentum, perhaps none more crucial than a seven-point Trojan run at the end of the second set, which saw USC overcome a 18-23 deficit to even up the match. The letdown for the Card came after a first set in which it outhit the Trojans, .516 to .128, and cruised 25-16 in one of its best-played all-around sets of the season. Wednesday’s match seemed to parallel the team’s five-set loss to Washington on Oct. 20, when mental lapses manifested themselves on the court.
“It takes rededicating yourself every play to thinking about the tiniest little things,” said sophomore setter Madi Bugg, who recorded her fifth double-double of the season with career highs in assists (61) and digs (17). “After however-many…years I’ve played volleyball, I still have to think about my thumbs when I set.
“When you start to relax, the little things are the first to go, cause they’re the easiest to forget to do.”
Stanford did not have much trouble in its first match against UCLA this season, sweeping the Bruins 25-17, 25-15, 25-16. The Cardinal outhit the Bruins .390 to .123, with both defense and offense coming together for Stanford. Senior outside hitter Carly Wopat was the team’s top performer, hitting .667 with a match-high 13 kills on 18 attempts to go with six blocks.
UCLA, ninth in the Pac-12 standings, enters tonight’s match coming off of a four-set victory against Washington State last Sunday. Players to watch for the Bruins are junior outside hitter Karsta Lowe and senior middle blocker Mariana Aquino. Lowe is hitting .305 this season and her 4.20 kills per set this season ranks fifth in the Pac-12. Aquino’s .388 hitting percentage is fourth best in the conference, and she also averages 1.08 blocks per set.
The key for the Cardinal will be to use its nation-leading blocking to limit the Bruins’ offensive attack. UCLA has won 42 consecutive matches, including four this season, when it hits over .300. With a win tonight, the Card hopes to get its title run back on track.
“We have to stop setting a limit on how good we can be and start thinking and expecting that we can be a championship team,” said sophomore outside hitter Jordan Burgess. “And if it’s going to happen, each one of us has to get better.”
The Cardinal battles the Bruins tonight at 8 p.m. at Maples Pavilion. The match will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.