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Stanford aces Colorado in 3 sets with tough serving, defense

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Stanford women’s volleyball (22-4, 16-2 Pac-12) often looks like the most dominant team in the country. But the Cardinal elevated that dominance to an unprecedented level in their road sweep over Colorado (12-16, 4-14 Pac-12) on Sunday. 

No. 4 Stanford broke a program record for the most lopsided set win with a ridiculous 25-5 second frame triumph over the Buffaloes. The Cardinal outscored Colorado 75-37 overall behind nine kills and six blocks from senior opposite Audriana Fitzmorris. Additionally, the team served a season-high 11 aces. With the win, Stanford secured at least a share of the Pac-12 title for a third consecutive season.

Colorado simply could not handle Stanford’s relentless service pressure. Out of system throughout, the Buffs hit in the negatives for the match with 16 kills and 18 hitting errors. That -.012 hitting efficiency is the lowest by a Cardinal opponent this season. 

Meanwhile, senior setter Jenna Gray led Stanford’s offense to a .330 hitting mark with 42 kills from eight different players. Gray came one dig short of a double-double after a near triple-double in Friday’s win over Utah. 

Fitzmorris kick-started Stanford’s commanding performance with five quick kills as the Cardinal cruised to a 25-14 opening-set win. It only got worse from there for the Buffaloes. Stanford grabbed the first four points of the second set with Gray at the service line. Colorado finally got a sideout, but the Cardinal soon responded with a 7-0 run. After the Buffs briefly stopped the bleeding, Stanford twisted the knife even further with a 9-0 run that put Colorado in a humiliating 21-3 deficit, before the set mercifully finished at 25-5. 

The 20-point margin of victory in the second set was Stanford’s largest of the rally scoring era. The next-most dominant set win from the Cardinal this season came at 25-9 against both College of Charleston and Oregon State. Stanford hit .467 in the second and completely corralled the Buffs at the service line. Thanks to poor passing, Colorado could barely take a swing and managed just two kills in the set at a nightmarish -.148 efficiency. 

Stanford’s Big Three of Gray, senior outside hitter Kathryn Plummer, and senior libero Morgan Hentz each recorded three aces in the match. Plummer’s trio of aces came on three consecutive points late in the third set. With Colorado trailing just 20-16 in the third after a 4-0 run, the two-time AVCA National Player of the Year promptly sealed the match at the service line.

The Cardinal block gave Colorado all kinds of problems as well. Stanford had 10 stuffs in the match, including seven from graduate student middle blocker Madeleine Gates. The transfer from UCLA added eight kills on .368 hitting. 

In a match where Plummer was held to six kills, Fitzmorris picked up the offensive slack with nine kills on just thirteen swings for a .615 efficiency. Fitzmorris also shut down Colorado’s top offensive option with five blocks on outside hitter Justine Spann. Spann finished in the negatives with six kills and eight errors. 

Thanks to the victory over Colorado, Stanford needs just one more win against either Washington State or Cal to secure a third-straight outright Pac-12 Championship. The Cardinal could not have asked for a much easier match to clinch a share of the title than this one. Stanford won over two-thirds of the total points and completely controlled the flow of the game from the service line with those 11 aces and countless more out of system plays. 

With Washington still right on their heels at 14-4 in conference play, the Cardinal look to close out another year of Pac-12 supremacy in perhaps their last true road game of the season against Washington State on Tuesday night. 

Contact King Jemison at kingj ‘at’ stanford.edu.