No. 2 Stanford women’s volleyball is perfect through the first half of Pac-12 play. The Cardinal (18-1, 10-0 Pac-12) travel to Southern California this weekend to play No. 15 USC (15-6, 7-3) on Friday and No. 20 UCLA (11-6, 6-4) on Sunday.
Most teams would be intimidated by a weekend facing two nationally-ranked opponents; don’t expect Stanford to be. The Cardinal lead the NCAA in wins against top-25 teams this season, boasting a 10-1 record against the nation’s best.
The lone blemish on Stanford’s record came on Aug. 31 against then-No. 9 BYU. In front of an always-boisterous crowd in Provo’s Smith Fieldhouse, the Cougars outlasted Stanford 3-2.
Since then, the Cardinal have been untouchable. They have won their last 16 matches, all of which were decided in four sets or fewer.
Stanford is so successful because they are great at all six of the volleyball skills: serving, passing, setting, attacking, blocking and digging.
Offensively, they are unforgiving. The Cardinal average 15.2 kills per set, which is the second most in the nation. They are led by the reigning Pac-12 setter of the year, junior Jenna Gray. She is having another great year, averaging 12.55 assists per set while leading the Cardinal to a .312 hitting percentage clip on the season. From the service line, the Cardinal collect 1.4 aces per set.
Defensively, Stanford leads the nation with 3.24 blocks per set. Opponents face a Stanford front row that averages 6-foot-3. If a ball does get passed the Cardinal front line, there is a good chance that it will get scooped up in the backcourt – junior libero Morgan Hentz is the best libero in the conference, if not the nation. Averaging 5.05 digs/set, Hentz has been named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week five times already this season.
With their blocking, serving and attacking, the Cardinal score on average almost 20 points a set. This makes the margin of error quite slim for opponents hoping to defeat Stanford. If the Cardinal are having an “average” set, their opponents cannot have more than five serving, hitting, or setting errors and expect to win the game.
USC and UCLA will need to be almost perfect to defeat Stanford this weekend. USC is currently in second place in the Pac-12. The Trojans came to the Farm back in September and Stanford greeted them with a 3-0 sweep. They are coming off a five-set loss at Washington State last weekend, so expect them to be hungry to take the court again on Friday.
Stanford easily swept the Bruins on Sept. 26, not even allowing UCLA to score 20 points in any of the three sets. UCLA is also coming off a loss in Pullman. On Sunday, Washington State beat the Bruins in straight sets.
Friday’s match against the Trojans is set to begin at 7 p.m. On Sunday, the first serve at UCLA will be at 4 p.m. Both matches will be televised on Pac-12 Network.
Contact Jake Stuebner at jstuebs ‘at’ stanford.edu.