By James Hemker
The Pac-12 released the 2021 spring season schedules for women’s volleyball on Tuesday. Stanford’s season will start on Feb. 5 against Arizona and will feature matches against nine of the 11 other conference rivals.
Due to Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s current emergency directive, the Cardinal’s first two weeks of competition against USC and Colorado have been canceled. Stanford has 18 remaining matches, which is well above the modified minimum of 10 matches for eligibility in the NCAA tournament.
Matchups to watch for include games against Cal, Washington and UCLA. The Big Spike, Stanford’s annual match-up with its Bay Area rival, will be played as a home-and-home this year, with the Golden Bears coming to campus on Feb. 14. The Cardinal boast a 16-game winning streak in the rivalry.
The series with Washington on March 26 and 28 will give Stanford an opportunity for revenge. The Huskies came into Maples last year and snapped Stanford’s 26-match Pac-12 win streak. The Cardinal were held to a .111 hitting percentage, the program’s worst outing since 2012.
Finally, Stanford will end its season with a pair of home matches against UCLA on April 3 and 5. The Cardinal split its matches with the Bruins last season, and the Cardinal’s 0-3 loss is the only sweep Stanford has suffered under fourth-year head coach Kevin Hambly.
Perhaps the most important absence from the modified schedule is the season-opening out-of-conference matches that Stanford has used to compete against the nation’s toughest competition. Last year, the Cardinal faced five top-10 teams and three top-five teams. With Hambly at the helm, the program is 9-5 (0.643) in these ranked, pre-conference-play matches. The competition pays for itself later in the season, with Stanford boasting an 89-4 (0.957) record in the rest of its matches, including a 16-1 (0.941) figure in the postseason.
For the second year in a row, the Cardinal will return to the court as the defending national champions. However, the 2021 season will introduce the Stanford faithful to the next generation of Cardinal women’s volleyball. 10 of the 13 players on the roster have a year or less of collegiate experience. Senior outside hitter Meghan McClure and junior middle Holly Campbell are the only returning starters from the 2019 championship team.
Following University and county public health guidelines, the team returned to campus on Jan. 4, and after the mandated quarantine period, will begin practice outdoors. The team’s full schedule can be found here.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.