By James Hemker
Top-ranked women’s volleyball (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12) will face No. 3 Texas (3-0, 0-0 Big 12) on Sunday for the team’s 2019 home-opener. The marquee game will be the first matchup of the year between two top-five teams.
The Cardinal return home after opening their season with a successful road campaign. In South Carolina, the College of Charleston and Duke were both dispatched easily in three sets. On Wednesday, the team traveled south to Gainesville where Stanford secured their first ranked match of the year against No. 7 Florida in another 3-0 sweep.
Through those first three games, the Cardinal are hitting .348 while keeping opponents to .129. Led by senior outside hitter Kathryn Plummer’s 49 kills and setter Jenna Gray’s 103 assists, Stanford has out-killed their competition 137-89. Adding in their 13 aces and 23 team blocks, the Cardinal are averaging over 19 points a set, meaning their opponents have to average less than six attacking, blocking and service errors each frame to stay competitive.
Texas has played a slightly-harder schedule than the Cardinal thus far. After opening their season with a 3-1 win over Northern Iowa, the Longhorns defeated then-No. 14 USC, surrendering the first set to the Trojans. As Stanford handled Florida on Wednesday, Texas took down No. 8 Minnesota in a thrilling 25-22, 29-27, 35-33 win.
Unlike the Cardinal, all three of the Longhorns’ games took place on their home court in Austin, Texas, meaning the Maples crowd on Sunday will give Stanford an extra advantage.
While the two extra sets played gives Texas’ stats a quantitative edge over the Cardinal, the statistics per-set show the two teams as nearly identical. The Longhorns average just a half-point less than Stanford each set, and the kills, assists, digs and blocks all have similar margins.
Sunday will mark the 28th meeting between the two programs, with the Cardinal holding the historical edge, 20-7. Last year, the teams met for a home-and-home, where Stanford came away with two easy wins, dropping just a single set between the two nights. Plummer and senior opposite Audriana Fitzmorris both turned in double-digit kills in each of the two matches.
The Cardinal enter the game with the longest undefeated home streak in the country at 36 games. Under head coach Kevin Hambly, the program is 32-0 in Maples, having dropped just 12 sets in that span. First service against Texas is set for Sunday at high noon.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.