W. Volleyball: Card responds with pair of easy road wins

Nov. 8, 2011, 1:43 a.m.

There’s nothing like a couple of bounce-back wins to ease the pain of a home loss. After a promising weekend ended with a disappointing defeat to UCLA, the Stanford women’s volleyball team traveled east to take its anger out on Colorado and Utah.

W. Volleyball: Card responds with pair of easy road wins
Junior setter Karissa Cook helped lead the No. 3 Stanford women's volleyball team to an efficient weekend, defeating Colorado and Utah in road matches. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

Up first for the No. 3 Cardinal (19-4, 13-4 Pac-12) were the Buffaloes (5-20, 0-17) on Thursday in Colorado. Early on, the Card looked more like the team that had lost to UCLA rather than the one that had won nine straight matches beforehand. Colorado jumped out to a quick 10-5 lead, prompting Stanford head coach John Dunning to take a timeout. Still, attacking errors held the Card back as it kept an overachieving Colorado team in the game. Stanford managed to claw its way back, tying the game at 23 points apiece. A pair of blocks by junior outside hitter Hayley Spelman and sophomore outside hitter Rachel Williams gave the Card the first set 25-23 and a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Following the close first set, Stanford let its guard down in the second, playing uncharacteristically poor volleyball for a top-five team. Maybe it was the high altitude (5,345 feet), but Stanford did not look like a national championship contender in that set. Colorado outlasted the Card in a close affair that featured 10 ties, winning 25-22.

Dropping a set to the last-place Buffs may have been a wakeup call, as Stanford was a completely different team for the rest of the weekend. The Cardinal went on to dismantle Colorado, winning the third set 25-21. The offensive attack smothered the Buffs in the fourth as well, taking the match with an easy 25-15 win.

Leading the way for the Cardinal was the sophomore duo of Williams and middle blocker Carly Wopat. The pair combined for 27 kills and 10 blocks, which is nothing new, as Williams leads the team in kills and Wopat leads the team in blocks. Colorado, like most of Stanford’s opponents this year, was simply overwhelmed by the dominant frontcourt.

Stanford carried its momentum from Boulder into its match against the Utes (9-17, 4-13) on Saturday. After trailing early, the Cardinal took a 5-4 lead behind three Utah errors. It didn’t look back, holding on to the lead for the remainder of the first set. Sophomore outside hitter Sam Wopat clinched the set with a kill, giving Stanford a 25-18 first-set victory.

It was the same story for Stanford in the second set, as a Utah service error broke a 4-4 tie. The Cardinal did not relinquish this lead, going on to win the second set 25-22 behind Williams’ seven kills.

Stanford headed into the third set with its sights set on a sweep. This looked all but sealed with an 18-14 lead, until Utah managed to score three points in a row, forcing Stanford to call a timeout. Whatever was said in that huddle clearly had quite the effect, as Stanford proceeded to bury the Utes, allowing them only one more point in a 25-18 third-set victory.

Junior setter Karissa Cook came up big once again, posting 36 of Stanford’s 44 total assists. She also led the team in digs with 14. Wopat and Williams once again led a balanced offensive attack, but they received a lot of help from redshirt freshman outside hitter Lydia Bai. The trio had 12, 10 and nine kills respectively, managing to keep the Utes on their heels.

Currently tied for fourth in the Pac-12 with rival California, Stanford needs to continue looking forward. The Card is currently two games out of first place with five matches remaining in the regular season. With the season winding down, Stanford hits the road again this weekend to take on Washington and Washington State.


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