W. Volleyball: No. 1 Stanford back on the Farm

Sept. 30, 2010, 3:03 a.m.

The No.1 Stanford women’s volleyball team (12-0, 2-0 Pac-10) returns to Maples Pavilion this weekend to host Oregon State (8-8, 1-1) and No. 11 Oregon (12-0, 2-0).

W. Volleyball: No. 1 Stanford back on the Farm
The No. 1 Stanford women's volleyball team returns to Maples Pavilion this weekend as it takes on Oregon State and Oregon. The Cardinal will face one of its toughest tasks of the season on Saturday when it takes on the undefeated Ducks (Simon Warby/The Stanford Daily).

Stanford’s conference home opener pits the squad against the unranked Beavers for the teams’ 56th matchup in Pac-10 history. The Cardinal has been nothing short of dominant in the series, winning all 55 matches to date.

Oregon State split against the Washington schools last weekend to open up its regular season. The Beavers come to Palo Alto fresh off a win at home against rival Washington State.

The match will yield a battle at the net, as OSU currently leads the Pac-10 in blocks on the season, while Stanford tops the chart in overall kills. Beaver sophomore middle blocker Ashley Eneliko ranks second in the Pac-10 in blocks, garnering 1.23 per game. Freshman middle blocker Mona Kressl also ranks ahead of Stanford’s block leader, redshirt junior Stephanie Browne.

On the offensive end, Stanford senior outside hitter Alix Klineman ranks second in the Pac-10 in kills this season, while OSU senior outside hitter Jill Sawatzsky is ranked sixth. Both players have at least twice as many kills as any teammate, making a showdown at the pins inevitable.

An aggressive net game is sure to rile up the fans, especially the first true Cardinal crowd of the season. Although the freshman class made its debut at Maples during the Stanford Invitational against UC-Irvine and Marquette earlier this month, this weekend marks the first home match while school is in session.

“This weekend is really exciting for the freshmen because we will get to experience the feeling of playing in front of the student body and all our fans,” said freshman outside hitter Rachel Williams.

All the teams competing in Maples this weekend are coming off victories and each is seeking to maintain a winning record throughout conference play.

The Ducks come to the Bay after upsetting previously undefeated No. 7 Washington at home last weekend, beating the Huskies for the first time in 10 years. Sitting at No. 11, Oregon now lies on the verge of its first top-10 ranking on the season.

Oregon’s rise in the NCAA rankings can be partially attributed to an effective service game. The Ducks top the Pac-10 in aces — senior Heather Meyers is first and sophomores Kat Fischer and Jocelyn Levig place fourth and fifth, respectively. This is the only team statistic for which Stanford does not rank in the top three in the conference.

Williams affirms that the team is “focusing on perfecting the little things and preparing as best [it] can.” Practices often include situations that simulate serving under pressure at zones on the court, as if to target a specific passer or weaker location in the lineup.

“Our main focus this season is to take a step forward each week,” said senior libero Gabi Ailes. “After the weekend, we take a look at film from our matches and work on our weaknesses until they become our strengths.”

Luckily for the Card, its serve-receive game is one of its strengths, an aspect which may counteract the Ducks’ effective serving on Saturday night whether or not Stanford can deliver from the service line.

As a top-ranked team, Oregon also earns a bulk of its points at the pins. Meyers and Fischer — who switch unpredictably between the left and right sides, both within and between points — rank sixth and seventh in points earned per set, which speaks to their ability to split the block. Both players, like Klineman, also frequently run an aggressive back-row attack, making their opponents liable for a variety of shots.

Additionally, Duck redshirt sophomore outside hitter Alaina Bergsma earned a season-high 21 kills, scored 23 points and won Pac-10 Player of the Week after her performance against the Washington schools. With at least three offensive threats on the court at all times, the Cardinal blockers and defenders will have their work cut out for them.

Nonetheless, Stanford tops the Pac-10 in assists and kills, ranks second in digs and rounds out the top three in blocks.

Both teams enter the match undefeated, posting identical records of 2-0 in the Pac-10 and 14-0 on the season. Despite the Cardinal posting a 47-3 historical record against the Ducks, the teams split their last two meetings as each won on its home court in 2009 conference play.

Home-court advantage is historically significant in this matchup — Stanford has not lost to Oregon in Maples Pavilion since 1989.

“We are coming off of playing the past four out of five weekends on the road,” Ailes said. “Playing on the road comes with many challenges — travel time wearing down bodies, playing in difficult atmospheres with hostile crowds, and adjusting to time zone changes. We are looking forward to playing in front of our home crowd.”

Stanford takes on Oregon State on Friday and Oregon on Saturday. Both matches are set to start at 7 p.m. at Maples Pavilion.

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