In front of a sold-out crowd of 6,055 at Rec Hall in State College, Pennsylvania, on Saturday night, the No. 2 Stanford women’s volleyball team (3-1) was defeated by No. 1 Penn State (5-0), 25-21, 25-22, 25-18. It was the first time the Cardinal had lost in straight sets since a sweep at the hands of USC on Oct. 4, 2013, 58 matches prior.
The Nittany Lions overmatched the Cardinal from the start: Penn State’s balanced offense excelled, and a poor serve-receive kept Stanford’s offense out of system for the majority of the match.
In short, the two-time defending national champions showed that despite losing a couple of key pieces from last year’s team, they are going to be the team to beat this year as well.
Four players had double-digit kills for the Lions, compared to only two for the Cardinal — freshman opposite hitter Hayley Hodson (16 kills, .452 hitting percentage) and senior outside hitter Brittany Howard (15 kills, .483 hitting percentage). In fact, the rest of the Stanford team combined for a .000 hitting percentage – 11 kills and 11 errors on 45 total attacks.
The Cardinal had every reason to be optimistic entering the matchup, with junior middle blocker Merete Lutz returning from injury on Friday against No. 6 Illinois and the team’s new offense looking in midseason form.
Meanwhile, Penn State was coming off of a match against Colorado in which its offense was charged with 13 attacking errors, and questions surrounded new freshman setter Bryanna Weiskircher, who is replacing the graduated 2014 AVCA National Player of the Year Micha Hancock.
But Weiskircher answered her critics with a career-high 41 assists, as the Penn State offense was balanced throughout and hit .327 for the match. Sophomore outside hitter Ali Frantti and fifth-year senior outside hitter Aiyana Whitney each had 13 kills for the Nittany Lions, while sophomore middle blocker Haleigh Washington had 12 and senior outside hitter Megan Courtney had 11.
For the Cardinal, Lutz only had 15 attacks after having 32 in her first match of the season on Friday against Illinois, when she tallied a career-high 19 kills. And senior outside hitter Jordan Burgess struggled, with three kills and four errors on 18 total attacks for a -.056 hitting percentage.
The most competitive set was the first, in which Stanford led from the start. The Cardinal had up to a four-point lead at 9-5 after a kill from senior setter Madi Bugg. But the Lions inched their way back and eventually won six of the final seven points of the set to clinch a 1-0 lead in the match.
Stanford stays on the road this upcoming weekend, with matches at North Carolina on Thursday and at Duke on Friday. The trip will include a stop in Apex, North Carolina, at Madi Bugg’s house for dinner, continuing the team’s tradition of trying to make pit stops at each player’s home during her Stanford career.
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.