This weekend, No. 14 Stanford women’s volleyball (12-6, 6-4 Pac-12) had mixed success on a Southern California road trip, falling to No. 15 UCLA (15-4, 7-3) in four sets on Friday but sweeping No. 25 USC (14-7, 6-4) on Sunday. At this point, the Cardinal hold a three-way tie for third place in the Pac-12 conference with 10 games to go in the regular season.
It’s been a seesaw of a season for the No. 14 Stanford women’s volleyball team, and the past two weeks have been no different. The Cardinal have gone 2-2 in their past four games, dropping their Friday matches but bouncing back to sweep each of their weekend opponents.
Stanford struggled in Friday’s matchup against UCLA, playing without its kills and blocks leader, fifth-year senior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku, who was injured during warmups. Stanford leads the nation in blocks per set with 3.42, and Ajanaku’s team-leading 109 blocks on the season have been no small part of that. Her 1.59 blocks per set ranks sixth in the nation.
After taking the first set 25-17, Stanford failed to repeat its strong play, falling in its next three sets, 25-17, 25-21, 25-21, respectively.
Despite the loss, several Cardinal players put up impressive statistics, including freshman setter Jenna Gray, who recorded a career-high 41 assists. Freshman libero Morgan Hentz also matched a career high as she led all players on either side of the net with 27 digs.
Fellow freshmen Kathryn Plummer and Audriana Fitzmorris also contributed strong performances, as Plummer recorded her team-leading fourth double-double on 16 kills and 11 digs, and Fitzmorris tacked on 14 kills of her own while hitting .444.
Sophomore middle Tami Alade did her part to fill Ajanaku’s shoes, recording a match-high six blocks, but overall the Cardinal were unable to account for Ajanaku’s critical production and could not down the Bruins.
With Ajanaku back in the lineup for Sunday’s matchup against USC, Stanford was able to find its rhythm, sweeping the Trojans in three hotly contested sets. Ajanaku totaled 10 kills and eight blocks in her return, but senior Merete Lutz paced the squad offensively, tallying 12 kills on 17 errorless attempts to hit .706 for the match.
Although the final line of 25-22, 25-19, 25-21 obscures it, the match was close throughout, featuring a total of 28 tie scores and 12 lead changes. Overall, however, Stanford led the Trojans in every major statistical category, outblocking the Trojans 14.0 to 6.0 and outhitting them .299 to .128.
Up next, Stanford will return home to host No. 7 Washington at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The match will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network.
Contact Matthew Bernstein at mbernste ‘at’ stanford.edu.