The Cardinal defense came to play, as No. 5 women’s volleyball (16-4, 10-2 Pac-12) swept Oregon (7-14, 3-9 Pac-12) to the tune of 25-18, 25-12, 28-26 at Maples Pavilion on Sunday afternoon. The Ducks were held to a season-low .102 hitting while Stanford posted 13 total blocks.
Graduate student middle blocker Madeline Gates led the charge, recording a season-best nine total blocks, including two solo. Sophomore middle Holly Campbell turned in four more stuffs, and four other players tallied at least two blocks.
“The team effort blocking today was really cool,” Gates said. “Oregon has some hitters that have pretty extreme tendencies, so knowing that from scouting was also really helpful.”
In the back row, senior libero Morgan Hentz paced the floor with 10 digs, while senior outside hitter Caitlin Keefe and junior defensive specialist Kate Formico each upped eight balls.
“Today the defense won it for us,” said head coach Kevin Hambly.
“They did a nice job of reading the attackers, and they executed the game plan really well,” he elaborated. “[Oregon is] an aggressive team that plays fast, and that means a lot of balls are low and tight to the tape. If you’re not doing a good job of getting to the right spot and getting over to it quick, then you’re going to struggle to block balls”
Through the first two sets, Oregon’s hitting rested at triple-zero, with the team committing 18 errors to match their 18 kills.
Irregular passing and the absence of the team’s two most impactful hitters meant that the Cardinal offense also struggled at times. Senior setter Jenna Gray managed 28 assists, but the pins found only mild success. Senior opposite Audriana Fitzmorris (10 kills) was the only player wearing red in double figures, and freshman outside hitter Natalie Berty had seven kills in her second-ever collegiate match.
Unlike the pins, the middles attacked the court phenomenally, recording just a single error on 27 combined swings. Gates slashed 7/1/17 on .353 hitting, and Campbell terminated six kills — two with her left hand — on ten swings. Thanks to their efforts, the team closed the match with an efficient .293 hitting percentage.
“The offense was OK,” said Hambly. “.293 is a good number, but it wasn’t as clean as we would like it to be.”
The Cardinal came out firing in the first set, winning it 25-18 with 15 kills on an impressive .414 hitting percentage. Campbell played very well in this first set, leading the team with four kills on five swings and no errors.
After the first frame, however, the offense stalled and the Cardinal were forced to turn to their service game and frontline defense to generate points.
The second set saw Stanford dominate the Ducks 25-12, even though each team recorded just six kills. The Cardinal were aided by six blocks, three service aces and 12 Oregon attack errors. The Ducks hit -.207 with five of seven attackers holding a negative hitting percentage.
Both offenses returned to hitting above .200 in the third, thanks to Oregon switching up rotations and Gray willing points into existence. Faced with two consecutive set points for the Ducks at 24-25 and 25-26, Gray first executed her patented two-hand dump off before winning a joust at the net. The opposition had no time to recover, as back-to-back kills from Fitzmorris sent them packing.
“It was a little scary there at the end,” Gray said. “They really started to find their rhythm, so we knew we had to work extra hard to be disciplined and stop it. I think they were doing a good job working pin-to-pin on us, so sometimes you have to take a couple risks, like that dump. ”
At the conclusion of this weekend, Stanford sits in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12. The team is back in action on the road against the Arizona schools, with the Sun Devils on Thursday and the Wildcats on Saturday.
Contact Gerzain Gutierrez at gerzain ‘at’ stanford.edu and James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.