The No. 6 Stanford women’s volleyball team (23-6) started off the postseason on the right foot, sweeping the New Mexico State Aggies (28-6) by a score of 25-20, 25-13, 25-17 in Maples Pavilion Thursday night to advance to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.
Three Cardinal players recorded double-digit kills, and the team combined for a .415 hitting percentage.
In the first set, Stanford took an early lead, but strong service from Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year Gwen Murphy quickly erased the Cardinal’s lead. The teams kept it close, but with the set tied at 11-11, the Cardinal went on a 9-4 run to regain control. Despite the Aggies fighting back to bring the score within 2, a pair of NMSU errors allowed the Cardinal to take the set 25-20, with an ace by freshman outside hitter Hayley Hodson to seal the deal.
As in the regular season, the Cardinal spread out their attack in the first set, allowing multiple players to record a significant number of kills. Hodson paced the team with 6, and senior outside hitter Brittany Howard and junior middle blocker Merete Lutz each registered 4 kills of their own.
“Having such a diverse offense really opens up the court for us in terms of the other team being able to block us,” Hodson said.
Stanford drove this point home in the second set, hitting .481 while holding the Aggies to a mere .032 hitting percentage. Hodson opened scoring with a kill, and the Cardinal maintained the lead for the remainder of the set until the final score of 25-13.
The score was tied a whopping 13 times in the third set. The teams were neck-and-neck throughout, but with the score tied 13-13, consecutive kills from Hodson and senior outside hitter Jordan Burgess gave the Cardinal a 2-point lead and enough momentum to keep scoring. Stanford took the set 25-17 to complete the sweep and advance to the second round of the tournament.
Senior setter Madi Bugg continued to masterfully direct the offense and registered 38 assists on the night. She is now only 16 assists shy of the 5,000 career assists mark, a feat only two Cardinal players have ever managed. Bugg’s outstanding performance throughout the season has allowed the Cardinal to develop their trademark balanced attack and secure victories.
“We have a lot of talent,” Howard said, “and Madi is really good at getting us incorporated at the right times.”
Three Stanford players registered double-digit kills on the night: Hodson (13), Lutz (13) and Howard (12). Lutz also led the team with an impressive .579 hitting percentage, while freshman libero Halland McKenna and Hodson also notched 10 digs.
Playing in their 35th consecutive NCAA Tournament despite missing middle blocker Inky Ajanaku and some initial false starts, the Cardinal have rebounded and proven themselves to be an effective and accomplished team. The Cardinal will look to continue to assert their dominance on the court as they progress in postseason play, with Loyola Marymount University next up in the Second Round. The match will be held at Maples, and the Cardinal will use their home court to their advantage as they fight to advance in the postseason.
The Cardinal lead the all-time series with the Lions 3-0, although the teams have not seen each other since 2000.
On Thursday, LMU upset No. 13 Colorado State in the first round of the tournament, coming away with a four-set victory to snap the Rams’ 20-match winning streak. Senior setter Hannah Tedrow ranks 10th in the nation with 11.70 assists per set, while sophomore and junior outside hitters Sarah Sponcil and Jamie Lea lead the Lions’ attack with 3.55 and 3.59 kills per set, respectively.
“[LMU] has some really good players, and I think their coach is really good,” said Stanford head coach John Dunning. “We know we have our hands full. It’s just the next step.”
First serve for Stanford and LMU is at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4, in Maples Pavilion. The match will be streamed live on Pac-12.com.
Contact Olivia Hummer at ohummer ‘at’ stanford.edu.