By James Hemker
Despite a shaky start, top-ranked women’s volleyball (7-2, 1-0 Pac-12) put away No. 21 California (10-1, 0-1 Pac-12) in four sets, starting 2019 conference play on the right foot. The win in Haas Pavilion marked Stanford’s 15th-straight Big Spike win and 69th overall.
Senior setter Jenna Gray turned in her third double-double of the year with a match-high 48 assists and 13 digs. Those 48 balls brought her to 4,500 career assists and moved her to fourth of all time in Stanford’s record books.
The majority of Gray’s effort funneled to senior outside hitter Kathryn Plummer, who paced the floor with 22 kills on .304 hitting. Despite averaging over five kills a set, Plummer entered the third frame with just six total kills to her name. She finally seemed to forget about the tape and compression material wrapped around her hip and returned to her normal self, terminating eight kills in each of the final two frames.
Cal entered the match as just one of two undefeated teams left in the nation, and they played like it in the first set. The Golden Bears held a four-point lead to 17-13 before Stanford found a 5-0 run featuring a pair of kills from both graduate middle blocker Madeleine Gates and freshman outside hitter Kendall Kipp. The one-point advantage was soon forgotten as Cal put together a massive 8-2 run to close out the frame.
Kipp ended with eight kills and two blocks, while Gates finished the night with nine kills and just two errors to hit .368, which made her the most efficient Cardinal on the court. Defensively, she co-led the team with five total blocks.
Senior opposite Audriana Fitzmorris tallied five blocks as well, including a solo block, which was just the eighth of the year for Stanford. Gray’s second option, Fitzmorris crushed 10 balls to hit .259.
The Cardinal stormed back to the tune of 25-17 in the second set. They took the lead from the first serve and never relented. Cal managed to keep the set within reach up to 13-11, but Stanford rattled off a 9-2 run that featured aces from junior defensive specialists Kate Formico and Sidney Wilson.
Stanford out-aced Cal four to three, but 12 Cardinal service errors allowed the Golden Bears to hold on much longer than they should have.
The third set, which Stanford ultimately won 27-25, was the most competitive of the night. The largest lead Berkeley held was three points, and Stanford only managed a two-point gap in its own favor. Additionally, a major lineup change occurred following the media timeout when freshman middle McKenna Vicini was subbed in for sophomore Holly Campbell.
Campbell, who had posted a career-high 11 blocks against BYU, struggled to find much success with two blocks and five kills on just .125 hitting.
Despite some errors, Vicini handled the first meaningful court appearance of her Stanford career well. She played the rest of the match and finished with three kills, including a couple hard-hit quicks from Gray. She also had a hand in three blocks and even contributed an assist.
In front of the second-largest home crowd (4,178) to ever attend a Cal women’s volleyball game, the Cardinal got to business in the fourth set and ripped off a 7-2 run to steal the lead. The Golden Bears failed to rally, and Stanford won match point at 25-19 in a near-silent gym.
Cal was led by middle Preslie Anderson, who put away 11 balls on .455 hitting. Anderson entered the night averaging .523, but 11 blocks and 59 digs stifled her, and the rest of the opposition hit just .212.
Senior libero Morgan Hentz paced the court with 22 digs, and she tacked on a career-high 10 assists for her first-ever double-double. This match was Hentz’s fifth-consecutive with at least 21 digs.
Junior outside hitter Meghan McClure turned in nine more digs, and Plummer contributed seven as well.
The Cardinal return to Maples on Sunday to face No. 8 Washington, Stanford’s biggest contender for the Pac-12 title.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.