By James Hemker
No. 5 women’s volleyball (17-4, 11-2 Pac-12) broke open the broom closet, sweeping Arizona State (13-11, 5-8 Pac-12) for the second time this year. Senior setter Jenna Gray turned in a double-double with 39 assists and 10 digs as the team cruised to a 25-16, 25-23, 25-10 victory. Outside of the win itself, the best news for the Cardinal was that senior outside hitter Kathryn Plummer made a cameo, ending a 10-match absence due to an undisclosed injury.
Plummer’s performance was limited to just one appearance at the service line in each set, for a total of four serves. It appeared that the team had no real intention of putting Plummer through rigorous gameplay, as she stayed fairly deep in right back after each serve. While she may not be quite ready for a full game, her presence on the court brought visible smiles to the team.
The team’s other terminator, freshman outside Kendall Kipp, was sidelined in sweats for the third straight game.
The last time these two teams met, an offensive shootout ensued, with both teams hitting over .300. Only half that picture was realized as the offense steamrolled the Sun Devils with a .349 hitting efficiency.
Gray’s 39 assists are tied for her most in a three-set match this season, and the team’s 48 kills are second-most in a sweep behind the first ASU match.
Gray’s primary target was graduate middle Madeleine Gates, who made the most of her attempts with a game-high 13 kills on .323 hitting. Senior opposite Audriana Fitzmorris, junior outside hitter Meghan McClure and freshman outside Natalie Berty each turned in nine kills, with the two veterans hitting north of .300. Sophomore middle Holly Campbell was the most efficient weapon on the court, terminating six kills on eight errorless swings.
A very strong defensive showing held the Sun Devils to hitting just .078, which ranks as second-worst by a Stanford opponent this year. Gates had the largest presence at the net, putting her hand in seven of the teams eight blocks. Coming into the match, the Cardinal had the best block in the conference (11th nationwide) with 2.83 blocks per set. Individually, Gates’ 1.28 blocks per set ranked 28th in the NCAA.
When Arizona State could negotiate the blocks, the Stanford backcourt covered extremely well. Three players posted double-digit digs, as the Cardinal out dug the opposition 52-46. McClure paced all players with 15 digs, senior libero Morgan Hentz recorded 12 and Gray had her aforementioned 10.
Stanford’s serving and passing won the game as much as its highly efficient offense or stout defense did. For the first time in just under a month, the opposition failed to record an ace against the Cardinal. The passing was spot on, as evidenced by the fact that the two middles took more swings (49) than the two primary pin hitters (44).
On paper, the serving was rough as the team committed 13 errors to just two aces, but in reality the errors were borne out of a highly aggressive serving strategy. Nearly every legal serve sent the Sun Devils out of system, and their attack never found its footing.
Stanford returns to action on Saturday against Arizona. The meeting in Maples a month ago saw the Cardinal hit over .400 and cook up 10 aces. First serve is set for 5 p.m. PT.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.