By King Jemison
Second-ranked Stanford Women’s Volleyball (20-1, 12-0) picked up two more wins over ranked teams this weekend, going on the road to sweep No. 15 USC and No. 20 UCLA in Los Angeles. The Cardinal have twelve such ranked victories, first in the nation by a wide margin. Junior outside hitter Kathryn Plummer led the team with 28 total kills and also chipped in 20 digs over the weekend to help Stanford secure its 18th straight 20 win season and move closer to a second straight Pac-12 Championship.
The Cardinal hit an ultra-efficient .373 to overwhelm the Trojans in surprisingly dominant fashion on Friday. Stanford won the first two sets by identical 25-19 margins and then edged out the Trojans 29-27 in a competitive third set. USC came into the game ranked sixth in RPI, but they were swept by Stanford for the second time this season, the first coming on Sept. 28 in Maples Pavilion.
Junior opposite Audriana Fitzmorris had one of her best performances of the season, putting up a match-high 14 kills on .414 hitting. Junior setter Jenna Gray had 39 assists to pace the Stanford offense, keeping her second nationally in assists per set. The tough Cardinal defense held USC to a .172 hitting percentage. Junior libero Morgan Hentz led the defense with 12 digs.
Sunday’s game against UCLA was not nearly as pretty, but Stanford won a gritty defensive struggle in dominant fashion. The Cardinal beat the Bruins 25-22 and 25-20 in the first two sets, respectively, before once again going extra points to win the decisive third set 26-24. After having just 36 digs on Friday, the Cardinal racked up 62 digs in Pauley Pavilion to beat UCLA at their own game.
The Bruins came into the game leading the Pac-12 in digs per set, and their defense kept them in the game again in this contest with 57 digs. UCLA libero Zana Muno had a remarkable 27 digs to single-handedly slow down the talented Stanford hitters, but in the end, the Cardinal defense was even more impressive. Hentz had 17 digs to once again lead Stanford, and Plummer and sophomore outside hitter Meghan McClure each added 13 digs. Senior middle blocker Tami Alade continued her fantastic final season with seven total blocks, keeping her near the national lead in blocks per set. Plummer also had 16 kills on 40 swings to carry the Cardinal offense on a tough night where they hit just .242.
Both games followed a similar pattern, with Stanford coming out hot in the first two sets and then overcoming a deficit to win a tight third set. Against USC, Stanford hit .519 in the first set and .467 in the second to absolutely overpower the struggling Trojans defense. In the third, USC settled in and took a 21-18 lead late in the set. Stanford then went on a clutch scoring run, winning five out of six to reclaim the lead. The match went back and forth from there, with the Cardinal fighting off two USC set points and then winning on a crushing kill from Fitzmorris.
On Sunday, UCLA jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first set to take advantage of a road-weary Cardinal, who were playing their fourth straight game away from Maples Pavilion. But the Cardinal used a 4-0 run in the middle of the set to tie it up and then cruised home for an opening set victory. Stanford led throughout in the second set and took a 21-16 lead in the third before UCLA rattled off five straight points to tie and eventually got to set point, but the Cardinal won the last three points of the match to pick up their 18th straight victory.
Stanford has swept eight ranked teams, and the Cardinal have only dropped four sets in conference play. Stanford has a four game lead in conference play and looks poised to win its second straight Pac-12 title in two seasons under head coach Kevin Hambly. The Cardinal are first in the all-important RPI rankings and look well-positioned to host an NCAA Regional for the second straight year as well.
After two straight weeks on the road, Stanford will return to Maples Pavilion this weekend for the first time since Oct. 13. The Cardinal will look to maintain their remarkable 27 game home winning streak dating back to Nov. 12, 2016 against UCLA when they face Colorado on Friday at 7 p.m. and Utah on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Contact King Jemison ‘at’ [email protected]