By Divine Edem
No. 1 Stanford (20-0, 10-0 Pac-12) played against No. 13 UCLA (14-6, 5-4 Pac-12) and No. 15 USC (6-3 Pac-12) over the weekend, holding onto its longstanding undefeated streak against the Bruins and the Trojans. Both Los Angeles teams put up tough fights against the Cardinal. Nevertheless, Stanford remained victorious against UCLA (25-20, 30-28, 20-25, 27-25) and USC (23-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-19).
In the UCLA match, the Cardinal knew that they had to start off strong in order to prevent UCLA from walking away victorious. Junior opposite Morgan Boukather started the first set strong with a kill for Stanford. The beginning of the first set was very tight, with Stanford and UCLA going kill-for-kill until a strategic kill by junior outside hitter Jordan Burgess propelled Stanford to increase its lead, forcing UCLA to call its first timeout.
Out of the timeout, UCLA attempted to chip away at Stanford’s five-point lead, but saves from junior setter Madi Bugg, blocks by junior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku and Burgess, and kills from redshirt freshman Merete Lutz allowed the Cardinal to maintain their lead and take the first set 25-20.
The second and third set saw a much tighter and prolonged race to victory for Stanford. The second set saw 13 ties and seven lead changes. An early service ace from Boukather and a kill from junior outside hitter Brittany Howard gave Stanford a lead of 3-2. Blocks by Ajanaku and Howard gave Stanford a one-point lead at 29-28 and an error by UCLA secured its second set win. The third set witnessed the Bruins take advantage of their strong service game, which led to errors from Stanford and subsequently UCLA’s first set win.
“They had service errors but their serving game was the key to the game. We didn’t to adjust to it very well, and I think that the whole night they’re serving game affected us. So that’s just an experience that you deal with,” head coach John Dunning said.
In the fourth set, Stanford started out strong with a huge block by Burgess and Lutz. Attack errors from UCLA and continuously strong defensive and offensive plays from Stanford put the Cardinal up 7-4. Despite efforts from UCLA to gain a lead, the Cardinal held the Bruins off. With the score knotted at 23, Stanford and UCLA went point-for-point until kills by Ajanaku and Lutz put Stanford back in the lead, 26-25. Boukather finished the match with a kill, giving Stanford its 19th win this season.
“We thought we could score streaks against them tonight and we got in our own way and we didn’t but at the right time we did,” Dunning said.
At the end of the match, Stanford finished with an average hitting percentage of .333. Ajanaku had a team-high 15 kills and nine blocks, while Lutz led the offensive hitting percentage with a game-high of .611 and trailed right behind Ajanaku with eight blocks. Boukather recorded nine kills and one service ace while Burgess collected nine digs, seven kills and one service ace. Howard had seven kills and three digs. On defense, junior setter Madi Bugg tallied 43 assists and 14 digs and senior libero Kyle Gilbert had 13 digs.
— Stanford Volleyball (@StanfordWVB) October 27, 2014
In the USC match, Stanford sought its 20th consecutive Pac-12 win. The first set started off well with back-to-back kills from Boukather and Howard. However, service errors from Stanford led to a tie between the Cardinal and the Trojans at 2-2. The tie was overcome by kills from Burgess and Ajanaku, which extended Stanford’s lead over USC. Stanford maintained its advantage until minor offensive errors put USC in the lead over the Cardinal.
The second and third set saw Stanford make adjustments to its defense and offensive plays and communication between the players on the court. Smarter plays from the Cardinal put the team back in its usual playing style, and Stanford won both sets to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
In the fourth set, the Cardinal were neck-and-neck with the Trojans for the first four points until a strategic kill from Lutz propelled Stanford’s momentum. The Cardinal took advantage of the errors from the USC defense to push the lead to three points at 9-6 before USC called the first timeout of the set.
After the timeout, USC came out with an immediate kill in an attempt to slow down Stanford’s momentum. However, junior middle blocker Megan McGehee’s consecutive service aces demonstrated that the Cardinal’s momentum could not be shaken. Stanford continued to take advantage of USC’s defensive errors and its team’s miscommunications to drive the lead to 17-11. Kills by Burgess, Howard, and Lutz and another impressive service ace from McGehee brought Stanford’s lead to 21-16, just four points away from victory.
USC tried to cut into the lead with kills from its middle blockers. However, the Trojans’ attempts were not enough to stop Burgess from making the game-winning kill that ended the match that gave Stanford its 20th consecutive win to begin the season.
The Cardinal’s latest victory saw Ajanaku lead the team in kills once again with 16 and a hitting percentage of .323. Lutz recorded a hitting percentage of .407 and totalted 12 kills. Burgess notched her 11th double-double with an impressive 13 kills and 21 digs. McGehee recorded three crucial service aces. On the defensive end, Bugg had 51 assists and 12 digs, and Gilbert recorded 26 digs.
Stanford will play at Oregon State on Friday and the University of Oregon on Sunday. The matches will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.
Contact Divine Edem at dedem ‘at’ stanford.edu.