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Beach volleyball struggles against ranked foes

Sophomore Sunny Villapando and junior Morgan Hentz (above) took care of business, 21-8, 21-18, in the second flight while sophomore Blake Sharp and junior Shannon Richardson also claimed their match in straight sets. Hentz and Villapando were the only pairing to force a third set match; they narrowly won, 15-13, giving Stanford its singular point. (GLEN MITCHELL/isiphotos.com)

No. 17 beach volleyball (8-10, 2-1 Pac-12) competed in a busy spring break, winning four of seven duels across Southern California. Stanford secured wins against Nebraska (12-12), Irvine Valley College (8-7, 4-0 CCCAA), Concordia (4-9) and CSUN (9-10). In those victories, the Cardinal went 19-1 in matches.

The ranked programs gave Stanford more trouble, as they were able to win just three out of 15 total matches against No. 5 Pepperdine (16-6), No. 9 Long Beach State (17-5), and No. 16 Grand Canyon University (14-7).

The pairings were constant almost the entire week of competition, with only the No. 5 pairing being altered occasionally. Notably missing from the lineup was senior Courtney Bowen, who has been a veritable wall in her matches.

At the Belmont Classic in Long Beach, CA on March 23, Stanford started with an emphatic 5-0 sweep of Nebraska. The No. 1 pairing of freshmen Charlie Ekstrom and Tori Ashkinos claimed their point through a three-set grinder, as did sophomore Amelia Smith and freshman Maddie Dailey in the third flight.

Sophomore Sunny Villapando and junior Morgan Hentz took care of business, 21-8, 21-18, in the second flight while sophomore Blake Sharp and junior Shannon Richardson also claimed their match in straight sets. At the No. 5 slot, freshman Jordan McKinney and junior Kat Anderson allowed the Cornhuskers just 22 points total, 21-11, 21-11.

Against Long Beach State, the tables were turned and Smith/Dailey in the third flight was the only Cardinal pairing to secure a point, battling all the way to three sets.

The team then traveled to Irvine California on March 24, when they played a grueling schedule of back-to-back-to-back matches.

Two more 5-0 sweeps followed against Irvine Valley College and Concordia. Of the 10 matches played between the two duels, Irvine Valley’s No. 1 duo was the only pairing to successfully force a third set against Stanford.

The day ended with another tough 1-4 loss, this time to Grand Canyon University (GCU). Hentz and Villapando were the only pairing to force a third set match, and they narrowly won, 15-13, to give Stanford its singular point.

Two days later, Stanford arrived in Malibu to square off with CSUN and Pepperdine. The Matadors were handled easily, 4-1, as every pairing except the fourth flight secured their point in straight sets.

Pepperdine, the fifth best team in the nation, proved too much to handle. Mirroring the match with GCU, Hentz and Villapando were the only team to claim a point, again earning it after a three-set match.

The Cardinal will return to homebase this weekend as they play host to the Pac-12 North Invitational. The weekend will be filled with Stanford’s conference foes: Washington, No. 2 USC, No. 1 UCLA and No. 12 Cal.

Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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