By James Hemker
Last weekend, No. 13 Stanford beach volleyball (2-5, 2-0 Pac-12) earned its first victories of the season at the Pac-12 South Invitational hosted by Arizona. The Cardinal split Saturday, defeating Oregon (0-3, 0-2 Pac-12) and then dropping the duel to No. 2 USC (4-1, 1-0 Pac-12). The Cardinal returned to form on Sunday to defeat No. 14 Arizona (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12), picking up their first ranked win.
Stanford’s duel with the Ducks was almost perfect, with the Cardinal emerging victorious 4-1. Stanford secured the win with a quick sweep through flights three, four and five. But, Oregon managed to steal a win in the at the No. 1 pairing. Then Stanford closed out the duel with a tight victory in the No. 2 slot.
At No. 3, junior Morgan Hentz and sophomore Amelia Smith secured first blood for Stanford in a 21-14, 21-12 stomp. The freshmen duo of Maddie Dailey and Jordan McKinney held fast in flight four and secured their first pair win. The Ducks kept it close in the first game, 21-18 but the young Cardinals blew them away 21-11 in the second.
Flight five saw sophomore Blake Sharp and junior Shannon Richardson also record their first tallies in the win column. The two defeated Oregon’s pair in straight sets to the tune of 21-16, 21-16.
The No. 1 and 2 pairings all fought into the third set with mixed results. Senior Courtney Bowen and freshman Tori Ashkinos picked up their third pair win in flight two after a close 22-20, 15-21, 15-10 win. Freshman Charlie Ekstrom and sophomore Sunny Villapando were not so lucky. After splitting games one and two 21-16, 16-21, the Cardinal duo fell by just two points, 13-15.
The team was unable to convert their momentum into success against the Trojans. USC took every flight except No. 3 in straight sets. After battling back to win game two, Hentz and Smith were unable to overcome their Trojan opponents, falling 15-10.
Sunday morning, Stanford was able to regroup and secured its second conference win — this time, against the Wildcats. Though none of the matches went to a third set, the 3-2 victory was the closest duel of the weekend for the Cardinal.
Bowen and Ashkinos made quick work (21-10, 21-16) of the No. 2 Arizona pairing to secure the first point for Stanford. The Wildcats responded in flight four, but flight five was dominated by Richardson and Sharp. The sets ended 21-19, 21-13 and the pair picked up their second win together.
Hentz and Smith played an extremely close match at the No. 3 slot. The first game fell in their favor 21-18, and the pair secured the duel for Stanford by winning the second game after deuce, 22-20. Arizona managed to win the decision at the top flight, but the point was simply a consolation prize.
Stanford returns to the Farm to host four teams this coming weekend. UC Davis and Cal are on the docket for Saturday, while San Jose State and a rematch with Saint Mary’s are scheduled for Sunday.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.