The No. 6 Stanford women’s volleyball team (21-6, 15-4 Pac-12) sent its seniors off in style in their last home game Wednesday night, defeating archrival Cal (9-21, 3-16) by a 3-1 final margin, 25-22, 18-25, 25-13, 25-23.
The four-set victory was the Cardinal’s eighth straight Big Spike victory, meaning that the senior class of Madi Bugg, Jordan Burgess and Brittany Howard will end their Stanford careers undefeated against the Golden Bears. (Senior Inky Ajanaku is also among the group, but will return next year after a medical redshirt this season.)
The match started as a back-and-forth affair, with 13 tied scores and 4 lead changes in the first set. Cal senior Lillian Schonewise came out on fire, registering 9 of her 20 kills in the first to keep the unranked Bears in contention.
At 18-18, however, Stanford was able to pull away behind the efforts of Burgess and middle blocker Merete Lutz, who together registered 5 kills in the span of 8 points. Back-to-back kills by freshman Hayley Hodson granted the Cardinal the first set, 25-22.
Stanford got off to a quick start in the second, taking an 11-7 lead. However, the Golden Bears, who had won just three sets in the series dating back to 2012, fought back, riding the formidable play of Schonewise and sophomore outside hitter Christine Alftin, to go on a 13-2 streak and take a 20-13 lead.
After allowing Stanford to hit .469 in the first set, Cal held the Cardinal to just a .132 clip in the second and took the set, 25-18.
The overmatched Bears were unable to sustain their level of play for the rest of the match, however. In the third set, Cal managed just 8 kills to Stanford’s 18 and was outhit .097 to .405. After a series of runs, Stanford closed out the set easily, 25-13.
It was more of the same from the Cardinal in the fourth, as Hodson opened the set with a kill, and the team never relinquished the lead en route to a 25-23 victory. The freshman outside hitter tallied 7 of her team-high 18 kills in the set to seal the victory for Stanford.
Senior Brittany Howard finished the night with her 10th double-double of the season, registering 12 kills and 13 digs. Classmate and fellow outside hitter Jordan Burgess added 8 kills, while setter Madi Bugg dished out 49 assists.
The senior trio, honored before the game, ends its career at Maples Pavilion an outstanding 60-2 and still has time to improve on its 111-18 career record, as Stanford travels to Southern California to take on No. 13 UCLA (23-6, 14-5) in the last game of the regular season.
It will mark Stanford’s only meeting with the Bruins this year, a team the Cardinal have not lost to since the 2011 season, dropping just five sets in the teams’ past six meetings.
However, the Bruins are fresh off their biggest win of the season, upsetting No. 1 USC in a five-set thriller to hand the Trojans just their second loss of the year. Junior libero Taylor Formico was a force for UCLA, notching a season-high 28 digs, and will look to neutralize the Cardinal attack in a similar fashion.
The Bruins also feature one of the conference’s best players in junior outside hitter Jordan Anderson. In her first season at UCLA, the West Virginia transfer ranks 12th in the country with 4.55 kills per set.
Friday’s matchup with the Bruins will carry extra significance, as the winner will claim the third spot in the final conference standings behind USC and Washington, the top two teams in the country.
The Cardinal, winners of 11 of their last 12, will look to end the regular season on a high note before shifting its focus to the postseason, where the team has advanced to the Regional Finals or the Final Four in each of its last three seasons.
Stanford takes on the Bruins in Los Angeles on Friday at 8 p.m. The match will be broadcast live by Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.