By James Hemker
No. 13 beach volleyball (4-7, 2-2 Pac-12) split their four matches this past weekend, going 1-1 on each of the two days. The Cardinal were able to find wins over UC Davis and San Jose State, but they dropped two more ranked wins to rival No. 11 Cal and No. 20 Saint Mary’s.
This weekend saw another shift in pairings, with senior Courtney Bowen moving up to the 1 slot with sophomore Sunny Villapando. Freshman Charlie Ekstrom was paired with her classmate Tori Ashkinos in flight 2.
The weekend opened with UC Davis on Saturday. In their first year as a program, the Aggies were quickly overwhelmed in a 5-0 sweep. Flights 1, 2 and 3 finished in that order, winning their matches in straight sets to quickly take the duel.
The Cardinal did not fare so well against the Golden Bears, who took a very close 2-3 decision. The two teams traded points as Cal won flights 1 and 5, while Stanford’s Nos. 2 and 3 won their matches. The match for the final point in flight 4 went to three sets, but the Cardinal were unable to close out the win.
Sunday opened with Saint Mary’s, who had started the season unranked and surprised Stanford in Hawai’i with an 0-5 sweep. The two teams were extremely well matched, with every single flight going to three full sets. Midway through the duel, a lightning delay was called that halted play for over half an hour. Rain persisted throughout the afternoon, giving a decidedly non-beach volleyball feel to the matches.
Ashkinos and Ekstrom put Stanford on the board first with their third straight win, but the Gaels responded by claiming flights 1, 5, and then 4 to take the duel. Junior Morgan Hentz and sophomore Amelia Smith were able to win the consolation point in flight 3 for the Cardinal.
After a tough loss to Saint Mary’s, the team regrouped and immediately prepared themselves for San Jose State.
“Winning and losing a duel is largely out of each pairing’s control, so to drop those back-to-backs against St. Mary’s and Cal was hard,” head coach Andrew Fuller said. “What was in our team’s control was bouncing back and getting up for the San Jose state match. They had about 12 minutes to do it, and there aren’t a lot of sports where you have that little time to shed a very painful loss. It was nice to finish the weekend on that.”
Stanford responded to the challenge, claiming the top three flights in straight sets. The Spartans were able to pick off the No. 5 slot, but freshmen Maddie Dailey and Jordan McKinney were able to hold on in three sets to secure the 4-1 victory.
Over the course of the whole weekend, the pairings of Ashkinos/Ekstrom and Hentz/Smith never dropped a match for a combined 8-0 record. Every other pairing won at least one of their matches.
The team will now head back to practice for two weeks in order to try and shore up weaknesses. Beach volleyball returns to action at Long Beach State on March 23.