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Volleyball takes down two on road to Kansas City
Sophomore middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris helped the Cardinal to two NCAA tournament victories over the weekend. Against CSU Bakersfield, Fitzmorris led the team in kills (10) and blocks (8). (AL CHANG/isiphotos.com)

Volleyball takes down two on road to Kansas City

No. 3-ranked women’s volleyball (28-3, 19-1 Pac-12) continued its journey to Kansas City and the NCAA Final Four over the weekend, dispatching CSU Bakersfield (19-14) on Friday before taking down No. 23 Colorado State (29-4) on Saturday. The Cardinal were dominant in every phase of the game, claiming both matches in 3-0 victories.

Both weekend contests were completely one-sided affairs. The Cardinal dominated both opponents on offense but particularly on defense, as both the Roadrunners and the Rams were held to hitting percentages of under .100. These matches were the first occasions this season that the Cardinal managed to hold an opponent to under .100, and they happened consecutively.

In the first match, Bakersfield hit only .011 on the night, just one kill above a .000 hitting percentage. This was in part due to an incredible effort from sophomore middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris, who led the entire team with eight blocks as well as 10 kills on a ridiculous .833 hitting percentage.

Senior opposite Merete Lutz and freshman wing Meghan McClure chipped in as well to the defensive effort, each adding five blocks to the Cardinal total, which amounted to 15. It was a career-high in blocks for McClure, who also added five digs and five kills.

McClure was confident about the Cardinal win after the match, remarking, “I feel like we stayed really steadily, even when the other side was getting frantic, and our whole thing is staying consistent and playing like us, and I think we did that really well tonight.”

The Cardinal offense looked nearly unstoppable when on the attack and totalled a .417 hitting percentage versus the Roadrunners. Sophomore setter Jenna Gray dished out 33 total assists and was helped greatly by the effectiveness of Fitzmorris’ slide hit. When moving from the middle to the outside, Fitzmorris is nigh unblockable.

Fitzmorris continued her momentum into Saturday’s match against the Rams, knocking down another eight kills and seven blocks, contributing to another excellent defensive effort and 16-block match by the cardinal. Her partner at the middle blocker position, junior Tami Alade, assisted in the block party, adding eight blocks during her time on the court.

The game was put away by the excellence of the reigning Pac-12 player of the year, sophomore ace Kathryn Plummer. Plummer was magnificent in her performance, knocking down 14 total kills with a massive .600 hitting percentage, in addition to six blocks and five digs. The centerpiece of the Cardinal offense displayed once again why she deserves the praise she receives.

Gray was especially impressive in the game against the Rams, doing it all for the Cardinal. She had 35 assists, three kills with a 1.000 hitting percentage, seven blocks and a team-high four service aces.

It was another set of solid performances for the ever-present backbone of the team, sophomore libero Morgan Hentz, who put up 10 digs on Friday and 11 digs on Saturday.

After the game, Hentz said that the attitude of the team is all about focusing on each game and continuing forward: “I think we were really focused the entire time. Sometimes we can lose it, but I didn’t see any signs of that, and that’s really important heading through the NCAA Tournament because anyone can win on any given day. We are just taking it one game, one point at a time because if you look forward, you lose sight of things.”

The tournament continues this weekend, with Stanford still hosting the round of 16 and the round of eight. With two wins this weekend, the Cardinal advance to the Final Four in Kansas City. They will take on Wisconsin on Friday and then play against the winner of No. 6 Texas and No. 11 Utah on Saturday, in what could be a rematch of last year’s NCAA finals. The action begins Friday at 8 p.m. in Maples Pavilion.

 

Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada “at” stanford.edu.