By James Hemker
No. 5 women’s volleyball (14-4, 8-2 Pac-12) will host their first rematches of the year when Oregon State (9-12, 3-7 Pac-12) and Oregon (6-13, 2-8 Pac-12) visit the Farm on Friday and Sunday, respectively. The Cardinal made the trip to the Beaver State four weekends ago, playing their first matches without senior outside hitter Kathryn Plummer. The Ducks fell in four sets, and the Beavers were swept.
Eight matches later, the offense seems to have found a new rhythm, and at the vanguard is freshman outside hitter Kendall Kipp. Last weekend, she helped lift Stanford over USC in a five-set reverse-sweep with a monster 23-kill, .378-hitting performance.
While Kipp is no stranger to putting balls away — she has reached double-digit kills in nine games — there has always been another teammate who has matched or surpassed her, helping to alleviate the burden. Against the Trojans, Kipp seemingly needed no help, outpacing all other Cardinal players by at least nine kills.
Of course, she would never even allude to that, instead giving the credit to her teammates.
“In that third set, we really emphasized playing as a team, and it felt like it all just kind of clicked,” Kipp said. “Everyone really stepped up, and I think we were contributing very equally between both pins and the middles.”
To anyone who has watched Stanford throughout of the season, Kipp’s performance against USC seemed more of an inevitability than a revelation. She has not seen the court in just eight sets all season, and she has assumed Plummer’s front line rotation in the last eight matches.
Senior setter Jenna Gray has three possible All-American attackers to go to between senior opposite Audriana Fitzmorris, junior outside hitter Meghan McClure and graduate middle Madeleine Gates, but Kipp has received the lion’s share of the balls.
Since that Oregon matchup at the beginning of October, she has led the team in kills (102), tallying 14 more than Fitzmorris (88) and 23 more than McClure (79). In fairness to the veteran attackers, they have committed about half as many errors as Kipp, but only so much can be asked from a player two months into her freshman year.
“She had some other matches where she played well, but USC was her first great performance in a big-time match,” said head coach Kevin Hambly. “It’s just what happens when you have a freshman that’s carrying the load that she carries. She has some good matches and sometimes she doesn’t.”
There are still plenty of areas for development for the young Cardinal, including her defense at the net and her ability to play out of the back row, but she will be the first to tell you how she’s trying to improve.
“College volleyball is a lot more fast-paced, so my blocking can improve,” Kipp said. “Reading the setter, making moves, and watching what the hitters are doing. I’m also working to try to hit higher as obviously the block is a lot bigger in college than in high school.”
Hambly believes that, given the time to adapt to the collegiate stage, Kipp will be one of the greats.
“Kipp is learning a lot about the game, so she has been relying mainly on her athleticism,” he said. “She is still working through how exactly to be a pin hitter, but she is obviously going to be exceptional. She will be great.”
Last time these teams squared off, Kipp posted 16 kills on .300 hitting against Oregon, and 12 more kills against the Beavers. With three weeks worth of film to review, expect those two teams to come into Maples keying on No. 10 in white.
The first serve against Oregon State is set for 6 p.m. on Friday, and the Sunday matinee with Oregon will begin at 2 p.m.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.