By James Hemker
Despite starting just nine players, having played only half of the originally scheduled games and competing solely for pride, women’s volleyball (2-7, 2-7 Pac-12) still took No. 8 Washington (14-3, 14-3 Pac-12) the distance in an extended, four-set loss on Friday night.
What seemed to be heading towards a clean sweep for the Huskies through two sets became a hard-fought brawl after Cardinal junior setter/opposite Mackenzie Fidelak exited the game at the start of the third after hitting her head. With her departure, the offense turned from a 6-2 to a 5-1 system.
The Cardinal capitalized on the switch, taking the third set 25-22, and sticking with Washington all through the fourth frame. The game climaxed at the end of the fourth as neither team could find the necessary two-point run to either end or extend the match. Stanford battled off four match points before succumbing to Washington 27-29.
Redshirt freshman Caitie Baird carried the Cardinal offense, terminating a career-high 25 kills on .289 hitting. Accounting for 46% of the team’s kills, the 6’3’’ outside hitter is ending the season on an upward trajectory. Baird put up 45 total kills last weekend, including a 20-kill performance which was her previous career-best.
In total, the team tallied 54 kills at a .232 clip, though the match is better represented when looked at in halves. Stanford started with a 6-2 offense, rotating Fidelak and sophomore setter Selina Xu as floor general. In part due to the limited roster, Fidelak rotated through the front row as opposite instead of subbing out like a setter normally would. Fidelak’s exit thus left an even larger hole for the Cardinal. They switched to a 5-1 offense, with Xu as the sole setter and sophomore outside hitter Natalie Berty taking over at right pin.
After two unproductive frames, the switch proved to be the necessary spark for Stanford. The Cardinal averaged a .157 hitting efficiency through the first half of the match, but closed out the night hitting .247.
Outside of Baird, senior outside hitter Meghan McClure (10 kills) was the only other Stanford hitter to reach double-digits. Combined with her 16 digs, the match marked McClure’s second consecutive double-double.
Unfortunately for the Stanford defense, the Huskies had a force to equal Baird in senior outside Samantha Dreschel, who put away 23 kills at a scorching .588 clip. The Cardinal had few answers for Dreschel but were able to keep pace with the rest of Washington, who hit .285 as a team.
On the defensive front, the Cardinal posted 10 blocks, with the middles leading the charge. Freshman Annabelle Smith, who sits atop the conference in blocks-per-set (1.48), paced the team with five blocks. Redshirt freshman McKenna Vicini had her hand in four more.
Freshman libero Elena Oglive led the Cardinal with 17 digs through four sets.
The two teams will rematch on Sunday at noon PT from Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle.