Tonight’s game against Washington State is the only thing separating Stanford’s women’s volleyball team from its first two consecutive days off since the season began nearly a month ago.
While the No. 1 Cardinal (11-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have had matches in four of the last seven days, coinciding with the first few days of classes, their performance on the court has not dropped off. The team is off to its best start since winning 14 straight matches to open up the 2010 season, and it now continues its conference slate after Tuesday’s Big Spike.
“They’ve gone at it since the first day, so this is the first time since we started that we’re going to have two days off,” said head coach John Dunning. “So we’re going to be pretty motivated to play.
“The Pac-12 has been crazy. You look down through the list and so-and-so is 10-0 and there are like [five] teams that have one loss or less. So Washington State is coming in with a lot of confidence. They’re ready to go.”
While the Cougars (9-4, 0-1) might be ready to go, history is not on their side in matchups against the Cardinal. Stanford is 54-3 all-time against Washington State, including an active 22-match winning streak against the team from Pullman, Washington. (Stanford’s last loss to Wazzu came on Nov. 16, 2002 on the road.)
Last season, the Cardinal swept both matches against the Cougars. However, one player in particular did some damage for Washington State in those matches, and has especially caught the eye of Stanford’s coaching staff.
Current sophomore outside hitter Kyra Holt tallied 20 kills and 13 digs over those six sets last season, and she is off to a good start to the 2014 season. Her 3.35 kills per set thus far ranks ninth in the Pac-12, and she has also contributed 2.14 digs per set on defense.
Senior middle blocker Chelsey Bettinson, one of the three Cougar captains, is another big threat for the team, as her .381 hitting percentage ranks sixth in the conference and her 1.56 blocks per set rank third in the Pac-12.
One area that Stanford has been working on as of late, and something that faltered a bit in the second set of Tuesday’s match against Cal, is covering the block. Washington State ranks fourth in the conference with 2.70 blocks per set (BPS) — just behind Stanford, which is at 2.88 BPS — so the Cougs may cause even more problems at the net than the Golden Bears did.
“They blocked some balls, we should have covered them, they shouldn’t have been stuffs,” Dunning said after the game. “And that’s going to show us something else too — we’ve been talking about it, we’ve been trying to get better but we’re not covering well.”
Meanwhile, the Cardinal look to continue the strong play from their own middle blockers. Sophomore Merete Lutz (.532) and junior Inky Ajanaku (.520) are the only players in the Pac-12 hitting above .500, showing that the Cardinal middles have not dropped off at all after the big loss of Carly Wopat ’14.
Stanford looks to enter its rare two-day break still undefeated, before welcoming Oregon and Oregon State to the Farm next weekend. First serve for tonight’s match is set for 7 p.m. at Maples Pavilion.
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.