History doesn’t always have to repeat itself. This is the mantra that the Stanford women’s volleyball team will take into this weekend’s matchups against the UCLA Bruins and the USC Trojans, the teams that handed the Card two of its three losses on the season.
Stanford’s trip down to Los Angeles earlier in the season was, in a word, disastrous. The Cardinal dropped both of its matches, losing to UCLA in five sets (18-25, 18-25, 25-23, 29-27, 9-15) and USC in three (23-25, 24-26, 23-25). However, coming off eight straight wins and playing behind its home crowd at Maples Pavilion, the Card has every reason to believe that this weekend will be different.
This weekend is an opportunity for the Cardinal (16-3, 10-3 Pac-12) to gain ground in the Pac-12, as it trails both first-place USC (17-3, 12-1) and third-place UCLA (21-2, 11-2) in the conference. There is a lot on the line for Stanford, as a pair of victories would drastically improve its chances of winning the division.
The No. 4 USC Trojans roll into town on Friday night for what appears to be a compelling matchup. The Trojans handled Colorado and Utah this past weekend, winning both matchups in straight sets. Their only loss in conference play was to UCLA, and they have arguably been playing as well as anybody in the country.
Leading the way for USC is senior outside hitter Alex Jupiter. Jupiter has been a force this year, anchoring the Trojan offense. She is currently second in the Pac-12 in points per set with 5.19, and her 4.31 kills per set leads the team. Jupiter also leads all Pac-12 players with 0.5 aces per set.
Jupiter’s stellar play would not be possible without the help of teammate Kendall Bateman, though, as the senior setter has played phenomenally well for USC this year, averaging 11.77 assists per set. Bateman was named to the All-American team last year and has not disappointed this season.
The task of neutralizing the USC attack will rest mostly on the shoulders of sophomore middle blocker Carly Wopat. Wopat is coming off of her strongest performance of the season in which she posted a career-high 18 kills. However, the Card did not play its best volleyball last week and will certainly have to return to mid-season form in order to top the Trojans.
Things don’t get any easier for Stanford after USC, as the No. 6 UCLA Bruins pose a difficult challenge on Saturday night.
The Bruins are coming off of a shaky four-set win against Colorado and a dominating sweep of Utah in which they posted their highest hitting percentage (.411) on the year. The Bruins have been resilient this year, demonstrating the impressive ability to play their best volleyball against the toughest opponents. UCLA has beaten each of its fellow top four teams, downing USC, Stanford and Cal.
The Bruin’s balanced attack features junior Rachel Kidder and senior Lainey Gera. Kidder leads UCLA in points with 5.01 per set, not far off Pac-12 leader Meagan Ganzer’s 5.40 pace. Lainey Gera places third in the Pac-12 in digs with 4.88 per set.
The Bruins also boast one of the most experienced rosters in the Pac-12, with five seniors on the team. The Card can expect UCLA to thrive under the pressure and play one of their best matches of the year. Stanford will certainly be looking to emerge from the weekend with two wins and a spot atop the conference standings.
The weekend series kicks off at 7 p.m. on Friday night at Maples Pavilion.