While the Stanford women’s volleyball team excels at home, its task this week will be to prove that it can win on the road with a trip to Washington and Washington State. The Card cruised to victory at Maples Pavilion when the teams last met, dominating both teams in three-set efforts.
This weekend, the Cardinal women will be looking to prove that it was more than the home crowed that propelled them to victory earlier in the season. With the season winding down, No. 3 Stanford (19-4, 13-4 Pac-12) needs to put its stamp on the Pac-12, and there is no better way to do that than by beating the No. 11 Washington Huskies (18-6, 10-6) and the Washington State Cougars (12-14, 4-12) on the road.
First up for the Card is Washington, and the Huskies are only two-and-a-half games behind Stanford in the Pac-12 standings, making this game a must win if the Card hopes to get back into the race for the conference title (UCLA and USC are currently tied for the top slot.) Washington boasts an impressive 11-1 record at home, proving that it plays its best volleyball in Seattle. However, it’s coming off of two embarrassing straight-set losses to USC and UCLA, and will surely be looking to right the ship with a win against the Cardinal.
Stanford’s offense will have to be on top of its game, as Washington has the Pac-12 and arguably the country’s best defense. This is due in large part to the pair of seniors up front, Bianca Rowland and Laruen Barfield. Rowland is first in the Pac-12 in blocks per set at 1.57. Barfield is not far behind at third, averaging 1.46 blocks per set. Sophomore libero Jenna Orlandini also poses a threat on defense, as she is currently sixth in the Pac-12 in digs, averaging 4.38 per set.
On Saturday, Stanford will take on Washington State in what looks to be a favorable matchup for the Card. What looked like a promising season for the Cougars has turned out to be very disappointing, as they are ninth in the Pac-12 with just five games remaining.
The one bright spot for the Cougars this year has been senior sensation Megan Ganzer. The outside hitter leads the Pac-12 in both kills and points, averaging 5.32 points per set and 4.79 kills per set. In her last match against UCLA, Ganzer posted a double-double with 10 kills and 11 digs, leading the team in both categories.
The question will be whether Washington State can stop Stanford’s dynamic sophomore duo of outside hitter Rachel Williams and middle blocker Carly Wopat. The pair has been nearly unstoppable for the past few weeks, smothering their opponents both offensively and defensively. Wopat is second in the Pac-12 in blocks per set at 1.57, while Williams comes in at fifth in kills, averaging 4.3 per set.
If Stanford is to make a run at first place in the Pac-12, coming out of Washington with two wins is essential. Currently two games behind the Bruins and Trojans with five games remaining, the title is not yet out of reach for the Cardinal.
Stanford takes on Washington in Seattle at 7 p.m. on Friday and finishes the weekend against the Cougars in Pullman at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.