There was a warm welcome in Maples Pavilion for No. 2 Stanford women’s volleyball (17-2, 8-0 Pac-12) as it defeated No. 14 Washington (15-5, 5-4) on Thursday before taking down Washington State (13-9, 2-8) on Saturday. The Cardinal returned home after a four-game road trip to extend their winning streak to 12 straight.
Thursday night versus the Huskies was Breast Cancer Awareness Night, and the players were decked out in bright pink uniforms. The uniforms were then auctioned off during the game to raise money for the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center. The game itself was a slugfest, with the Cardinal going five sets for just the third time this year.
Despite winning the first set, the Cardinal struggled in the second and third, eventually dropping 2-1 to the Huskies. A major problem for the Stanford offense was its hitting efficiency. After a kill percentage of .577 in the first, it hit .118 and .167 in the second and third. The biggest obstacle for the Cardinal to overcome was their ace outside hitter, sophomore Kathryn Plummer, getting shut down by Washington blocks. Plummer attacked the net a massive 58 times, 30 more times than any other teammate, and came up with 20 kills. She added nine errors for a .190 kill percentage.
After the game, head coach Kevin Hambly attributed some of the Cardinal’s efficiency issues to a strong performance from Washington: “Teams are going to struggle at times, and teams are going to have good game plans. I think Washington is a really good team; they had a very good game plan, they took some things away from us, and we had to adjust.”
The Stanford adjustment came through patient play and a strong defensive front of its own. Blocks at the net for the Cardinal began to come alive, as middle blockers sophomore Audriana Fitzmorris and junior Tami Alade notched eight and six blocks respectively. Four players for the Cardinal had at least 10 digs, with standout sophomore libero Morgan Hentz notching 19 and drawing gasps from the crowd with every massive save.
Alade said after Thursday’s match that the team realized that they had to start playing smarter after dropping the third set. “We really talked about working on executing and not really trying to kill the ball every single time but being smarter with the swings we took. We really went into the fourth set thinking, ‘What are we going to do differently to win this game?’”
Alade was a star in the Cardinal comeback, killing what seemed like every ball set to her for 14 kills and a .632 kill percent and providing an emotional center for the team, rallying them with her energy and hustle. Sophomore setter Jenna Gray kept the team together and spread the ball around, making excellent decisions and racking up 51 assists. The Cardinal came back and took the final two sets, completing the comeback.
Alade gave the credit for her night right back to her teammates: “My ability to be so efficient is a testament to how great our passes are in the back row. Kate [Formico] and Morgan did a great job today just making sure it was there, and when it’s there, I like to get up, and Jenna finds me.”
On Saturday, the Cardinal dispatched the Cougars in three sets, and the stellar offensive attack that the Huskies slowed down resumed its usual course. Gray led the Cardinal to a calculated victory with 35 assists, two service aces, two kills and four digs.
Gray has stepped up as a major leader for this team in her sophomore year, and she had this to say about her leadership after the game. “I think it’s just something that comes along with being a setter because I’m touching the ball every single time; I play defense, I’m part of the offense. The biggest thing that I’m trying to do is just keep the court calm and pull everyone together.”
Plummer was back to usual form, racking up a team-high 10 kills and smashing through the WazzU blocks. Freshman outside hitter Megan McClure also had a nice game, contributing eight kills toward the Cardinal victory. The Stanford blocks weren’t as prevalent as in Thursday’s match, but the defensive excellence of Hentz was once again on display as she collected 17 digs through only three sets.
The Cardinal hit the road once again this weekend for a two-game trip to Arizona. They will take on Arizona State at 8 p.m. on Friday and Arizona at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada ‘at’ stanford.edu