Usually a three-set victory suggests a dominant performance by the team coming out on top. Yet Stanford’s women’s volleyball team played one of its worst statistical offensive games this season while still recording its 17th sweep of the season.
Whether the Card pulled it off with a strong defensive performance or due to poor play by an Oregon State team that is winless in conference play, the mantra, “a win is a win,” is most appropriate.
The No. 6 Cardinal (20-5, 13-3 Pac-12) held off the Beavers (9-18, 0-16) in three sets 25-22, 25-23, 25-20 on Saturday to extend its winning streak to five matches since a five-set home loss to No. 4 USC. Stanford was held to just a .211 attack percentage, its second-lowest total of the season after a .190 mark against then-No. 6 Texas in September.
Oregon State libero Becky Defoe was a key to limiting the Cardinal offense. The Beavers’ lone senior, Defoe recorded 20 digs on Senior Night in Corvallis, Ore. Defoe entered the weekend ranked fifth in the Pac-12 with 4.45 digs per set and continued her pursuit to become just the 10th player in conference history to reach 2,000 career digs — is currently at 1,967.
Yet the Cardinal was able to avoid Defoe in key spots, as it tied a season high with nine service aces in the match — five of which came in the third set. Sophomore outside hitter Jordan Burgess led the team with a season-high three aces to go with seven kills and 11 digs. Senior middle blocker Carly Wopat had a team-high 13 kills and .667 hitting percentage, while sophomore outside hitter Inky Ajanaku had eight kills and six blocks.
The match was close from the start, as the first set saw eight tied scores and two lead changes. Stanford never led by more than three points, held back by six attack errors and a .171 hitting percentage. After an Oregon State timeout with the score even at 22, the Cardinal went on a three-point run — tying its longest of the set — to take the first game.
The Beavers were poised to tie the match in the second set, jumping to a 6-4 lead early on. But Stanford won nine of the next 11 points, going up 13-8 and never surrendering the lead the rest of the set. Wopat led the Card with five kills in the second set, and junior libero Kyle Gilbert added six digs, holding Oregon State to a .216 attack percentage.
The two teams combined for 12 attack errors in the third set, as the Card hit just .167 compared to the Beavers’ .159. Yet five Stanford service aces in which the Cardinal avoided the long rally, including one on match point by senior Mary Ellen Luck, sealed the match.
With No. 4 USC dropping two matches in Washington this weekend — to No. 3 Washington on Friday and Washington State yesterday — the Cardinal has regained possession of the second spot in the Pac-12 standings.
Now sitting two games back of Washington, the Card will try to make up a game in the standings when the Huskies travel to Maples Pavilion on Wednesday. First serve is set for 7:30 p.m. as Stanford continues the chase for its seventh conference title in the last eight years.
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.