Playing in front of a home crowd of more than 4,600 people, the No. 2 Stanford women’s volleyball team fell to No. 5 California in four sets last Friday. Now at the season’s halfway mark, the Card (16-2, 7-2 Pac-10) is second in the Pac-10 standings, while the Golden Bears (18-1, 8-1) have taken sole possession of first place.
Stanford won the first set 25-21, but the Bears came back with a vengeance to take three consecutive games from the Card, winning those sets 25-16, 25-22 and 25-16 to take the match.
After losing the first point of the first set, the Cardinal took an early 4-1 lead, powered by a string of serves from sophomore defensive specialist Hannah Benjamin and aggressive blocking and attacking from junior middle blocker Stephanie Browne. But Cal quickly fought back, aided by several Stanford missed serves and hitting errors, to tie the game at 10-10.
The two squads continued to trade points back and forth, with several kills apiece from Stanford’s senior setter Cassidy Lichtman and sophomore opposite Hayley Spelman. The set remained in a deadlock until the score read 20-20. Both squads’ star outside hitters, Stanford senior Alix Klineman and Berkeley junior Tarah Murrey, came alive in the final stretch of the set, but it was ultimately five Klineman kills that secured the set victory for the Card, 25-21.
The second set started out evenly, with both Lichtman and Cal setter Carli Lloyd connecting with their hitters. The score remained tied at 11-11, but Berkeley posted seven unanswered points—including three kills from Murrey—to take an 18-11 lead. Stanford attempted to come back with two kills apiece from freshman middle blocker Carly Wopat, Klineman and Spelman, but Cal held on to the set, winning 25-16.
Klineman opened the third set aggressively with a kill and an ace, setting the tone for the Card’s strong 12-6 start. However, a Stanford service error and pair of Murrey kills helped narrow Stanford’s lead to 13-10, and a Bear ace, two more Murrey kills and another pair of kills from sophomore middle blocker Kat Brown gave Cal an 18-16 lead. Powerful swings from freshman outside hitter Rachel Williams and Klineman tied the score at 19-19, but Murrey proved unstoppable yet again, putting down three crucial kills. Klineman kills kept Stanford alive for two set-point plays, closing in on the Bears’ 24-22 lead, but Cal sophomore middle blocker Shannon Hawari put down a ball to close the set 25-22.
Cal never trailed in the fourth set, and the only tie was at 7-7. Despite strong offensive efforts from Klineman, Wopat, Williams and Spelman, the Cal offense outhit the Card .455 to .235 in the fourth set, helping the Bears pull ahead to a 19-15 lead. Cal proceeded to win six of the final seven points—Klineman had one kill for Stanford—and a Hawari kill ended the match in Berkeley’s favor, 25-16.
Klineman led the match with 22 kills, 26.5 points and three aces, and she also earned her eighth double-double of the season with 10 digs. Williams added 11 kills and seven digs, personal bests for her, and Spelman put down 10 kills. Lichtman had 51 assists, eight digs and four kills, and senior libero Gabi Ailes tallied 15 digs.
For the Bears, Murrey had 21 kills and 12 digs, and Hawari contributed 11 kills and a .588 hitting percentage. Lloyd added 52 assists, seven digs and five kills, and sophomore libero Robin Rostratter had a match-high 16 digs as well as two aces. As a team, Cal outhit the Card .347 to .268, and the Bears only missed two serves to Stanford’s nine service errors.
Next weekend, Stanford will head to Eugene, Ore., to take on Oregon on Friday, before squaring off against Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore., on Sunday.