By James Hemker
Top-ranked women’s volleyball (5-1, 0-0 Pac-12) fell in four sets to No. 8 Minnesota (4-2, 0-0 Big Ten) on Saturday evening. The 27-25, 27-25, 23-25, 25-20 loss ended Stanford’s 37-match win streak, which was the longest active win streak in the nation and Stanford’s longest win streak of all time. Across 10 meetings dating back to 2001, this marked the first win for the Golden Gophers.
Minnesota’s lockdown defense held the Cardinal to .185 hitting, the lowest figure Stanford has posted since Oct. 2017. The only Stanford attack to hit north of .260 was senior opposite Audriana Fitzmorris, who slashed 13/3/31 for .323 hitting. Senior outside hitter Kathryn Plummer paced the team with 20 kills, marking her third 20-kill game this season.
Graduate middle Madeleine Gates posted her second-consecutive 10-kill match, and junior outside hitter Meghan McClure set a new season-high with nine kills.
While Stanford was nearly even with Minnesota in kills (63-65), 29 Cardinal attack errors tipped the balance in favor of the underdogs. Additionally, despite impressive blocking performances from Gates (6 blocks), sophomore middle Holly Campbell (5 blocks) and Fitzmorris (4 blocks), the Golden Gophers out-blocked Stanford as a whole, 13 to 12.
Minnesota was led by star opposite Stephanie Samedy, a two-time First Team All-America selection. The Cardinal had no answers for Samedy, who led all players with 21 kills. Samedy was also instrumental at the net, recording six blocks, including a solo stuff.
A major factor in Stanford’s success keeping the sets so close was the back row defense. Senior libero Morgan Hentz paced the floor with 21 digs, and junior defensive specialist Kate Formico set a new season-high with 15 more scoops. McClure tallied 13 digs on the night, and senior setter Jenna Gray turned in a double-double with 12 digs and 51 assists.
Those same women also helped the Cardinal complete the rare feat of serving more aces (6) than errors (5) during the match. Hentz cooked up two, while Gray, Formico, McClure, and Plummer all had gems of their own.
After dropping just a single match en route to the national championship last season, the natural goal for this team appeared to some that it would be a perfect season. A quick glance at this year’s schedule, which features six-straight matches against top-15 programs, reveals that this was never really the goal.
Head coach Kevin Hambly understands that the real goal, winning the program’s ninth title, will mean Stanford has to win six consecutive tournament matches. This early-season trial-by-fire will ensure that the team is prepped for the real deal come December.
Next Wednesday, Stanford will continue its out-of-conference grind with a rematch of last year’s title game against No. 2 Nebraska.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.