By James Hemker
Top-ranked women’s volleyball (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12) handled its first ranked opponent of the year with ease on Wednesday, downing No. 7 Florida (2-1, 0-0 SEC) in three sets on the road.
The Gators were unable to contain outside hitter Kathryn Plummer, who accounted for more than a third of Stanford’s total points. The senior crushed 21 kills on 34 swings, with just six errors, for a hitting percentage of .441, which was the highest among all players with at least five attempts.
The dominance for the Cardinal started slow, with Florida jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first set. The Gators kept the lead to 8-6 until Plummer found her first kill on the 15th play of the match. Despite three consecutive attack errors after that kill, Florida managed to keep the frame competitive, trading leads with the Cardinal before jumping out to a 20-18 lead.
After a critical timeout, the Stanford offense slipped back into its groove as senior setter Jenna Gray connected with Plummer for back-to-back kills. She followed that up with a service ace before returning to Plummer for two more kills. Flexing her own setting skills, Plummer assisted junior outside hitter Meghan McClure, who made it a 6-1 Cardinal run to set up set point. The Gators gave it up with a service error.
With a set in their pockets, the Stanford women returned in the second with a fury, building an immense 9-2 lead. While the first set was won through offensive might, the defense came through in the second frame, shutting down the Florida attack early.
Graduate middle blocker Madeleine Gates roofed two shots within the first eight points before finding the kill that would extend the lead to seven. Gates finished the night pacing the floor with four total blocks and adding six more kills to the team’s 55-kill match total.
Florida did its best to whittle the lead, but got in its own way with multiple service and attack errors. A block by Gates and McClure to make at 15-9 marked the third Cardinal block in the set, as Florida was held to hitting -.056. That set marked the first frame the Gators had hit negative in nearly 11 months.
The shortest non-libero starter, the 6-0 McClure tallied three blocks in addition to five digs. Offensively, she slashed 6/1/14 for a hitting percentage of .357.
A lethal combination of Plummer and Gator service errors gave Stanford a ten-point lead at 20-10, and closing the second out was simply a formality for the Cardinal at that point.
Despite having the coveted two-set lead, Stanford could not rest easy, as Florida had come back from an identical deficit against Dayton in its previous game. The Exactech Arena in Gainesville gained life at the start of the third, and the Gators stormed out to a 5-2 lead. Alas, the 112-mile trip to Orlando proved too far for any Disney magic, and Stanford, on the arm of middle blocker Holly Campbell, closed the gap before building its own lead.
The 6-4 sophomore turned in eight kills, good for second-most on the team, and a solo block. Most comfortable smashing balls on one foot off of the slide, Campbell also showed she had picked up some new skills over the summer, standing tall in the middle of the court and dunking a few quick sets.
Gates broke the final tie of the game with a kill at 12-12, and Stanford never looked back, forming a 10-1 run. After helping others put points on the board all match, Gray then took matters into her own hands and fooled the Gator front line twice, faking sets and find the dump-offs.
On the night, Gray finished with 37 assists, 11 more than the entire Florida team. She also tacked on her two kills and the ace, as well as three digs and a block.
After another quick kill, the Cardinal found themselves staring at match point with a comfortable 24-18 lead. Though Florida managed to sideout, the third set ended as the two before had, with the Gators unable to put the serve in play.
Stanford finished with 55 kills on .272 hitting, while Florida managed only 33 kills while being held to .118 hitting. Defensively, the Cardinal edged the Gators on the blocks 5-4, and senior libero Morgan Hentz’s match-high 15 digs showed who had control of the floor.
Stanford will return to the Farm for its home opener against No. 3 Texas on Sunday.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.