Every time Stanford’s women’s volleyball team comes home to Maples Pavilion, the team gets a reprieve from its daunting road schedule. The Cardinal continue to tour the Pac-12 over the next two months, taking on the nation’s elite teams. Seven teams from the Pac were ranked in the AVCA top 25 this week, four of them in the top 10.
That’s why it’s so important that the Cardinal take care of business on The Farm this weekend. The last time Stanford hosted a match at Maples, current No. 1 USC snapped the team’s 27-match home winning streak in a five-setter. Now, No. 7 Stanford (8-4, 2-2 Pac-12) looks to start a new streak this weekend as it takes on Oregon State (3-11, 1-3) and No. 25 Oregon (8-5, 2-2).
Last week, the Cardinal were on the road to face then-No. 14 Arizona on Wednesday in Tuscon and then-No. 6 Arizona State on Friday in Tempe. Both matches were tight, and Stanford played from behind in each of them. But timely plays and mid-game adjustments propelled the Cardinal to a win against the Wildcats, while they were unable to get things going against the Sun Devils.
While some Stanford players have stepped up their offensive contributions in the absence of middle blocker Inky Ajanaku, the team is still suffering from a lack of offensive depth. Reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Week opposite hitter Hayley Hodson has been the biggest eye-opener for the Cardinal, as she leads the team with 3.44 kills per set through her first 12 career matches.
Senior outside hitter Brittany Howard, who recorded the 1,000th kill of her career last Friday against Arizona State, has carried the weight on the opposite side of Hodson, averaging 3 kills per set and overall invigorated play. (Howard also joined Ajanaku and opposite hitter Jordan Burgess in reaching the 1,000-kill plateau, becoming the first trio of Stanford classmates to do so.)
And junior middle blocker Merete Lutz continues to take advantage of the opportunities she’s served from senior setter Madi Bugg, as she leads the club with a .355 hitting percentage and is averaging 3.10 kills per set. But, after those three players, offensive statistics drop off, with Burgess next at 1.91 kills per set. Stanford will look to get contributions from the rest of their talented roster when they take on the Oregon schools this weekend.
Friday evening’s matchup against Oregon State might be a welcomed break in an otherwise challenging schedule for the Cardinal. The Beavers have long been in the cellar of the conference standings, and they’ve again gotten off to a rough start in conference play.
They run a 6-2 offense with setters Dana Backlund and McKenna Hollingsworth, which has been the source of their trouble this season. The Beavers are hitting just .180 for the season, averaging over five errors per set. Sophomore outside hitter Mary-Kate Marshall, reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, is the player to watch for Oregon State, as she leads the team and ranks fifth in the conference with 4.02 kills per set.
Stanford looks to extend its perfect 61-0 record all-time against Oregon State. Last year, the Cardinal beat them three times, including twice in conference play and again in the Ames regional of the NCAA Tournament.
Sunday night’s match against Oregon, however, is likely to be more of a test for Stanford. The Ducks are ranked third in the Pac-12 with a .253 team hitting percentage, and their 13.68 kills per set average and 14.88 digs per set average both rank fifth. They boast the No. 4 recruiting class in the country according to prepvolleyball.com – freshman outside hitter Lindsey Vander Weide leads the class and ranks second on the team with 3.22 kills per set.
Another player to look out for is senior outside hitter Martenne Bettendorf, who was an AVCA Third Team All-American in 2014. Her 3.72 kills per set average leads the Ducks and ranks eighth in the conference, and she is averaging 2.09 digs per set.
Stanford hosts Oregon State on Friday night at 6 p.m. before welcoming Oregon to Maples Pavilion at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Both matches will be televised on Pac-12 Network.
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.