With pride and possibly the Pac-12 Championship hanging in the balance, Stanford women’s volleyball will host Washington tonight and, in doing so, hopes to avoid dropping both regular-season games to the Huskies for the first time since 2005.
The No. 5 Cardinal (20-5, 13-3 Pac-12) will enter this revenge match on a five-match winning streak with its highest ranking in the AVCA Coaches’ Poll since Sept. 2. Though Stanford has been adding to the win column over its recent stretch, the team has hit just .272 over its last five matches, compared to a .317 mark over its first 20 matches of the season. While this certainly is not cause for panic as the team still leads the Pac-12 in hitting, the Cardinal has been working on improving its offensive efficiency in recent practices.
“When you see a problem with hitting percentage, it can be a lot of things, from a lack of focus to not being able to distribute our offense as well,” said sophomore outside hitter Jordan Burgess. “To improve on that, we’ve been working a lot of different types of sets in practice. It comes down to passing.”
Meanwhile, No. 3 Washington (23-1, 15-1) is coming off of a win against then-No. 4 USC at home and is currently riding a 13-match win streak, having dropped just eight sets during that stretch. The Huskies, despite not having received any first-place votes in the preseason Pac-12 Coaches Poll, lead the conference by two games over the Cardinal and are having arguably their best season since their 2005 National Championship run.
The match will feature both the Pac-12’s reigning offensive and defensive players of the week. For the Huskies, junior outside hitter Krista Vansant earned the offensive honor — her third such honor of the year — after hitting .382 and averaging 5.00 kills per set in Washington’s two matches this past weekend. The Southern California native ranks sixth and fourth in the conference with 4.14 kills per set and 4.83 points per set this season, respectively. She will be a key to the match for the Huskies, as her season highs in both kills (23) and digs (20) came in the Huskies’ Oct. 20 match against Stanford.
Meanwhile, Cardinal senior middle blocker Carly Wopat earned the defensive award, as she recorded her first double-double of the season against Oregon with 10 kills and a season-high 12 blocks. She added 13 kills and two blocks against Oregon State on Sunday.
The five-set match between these two teams in October was a back-and-forth thriller with 23 tie scores and nine lead changes. Unforced errors — including 11 service errors — plagued the Cardinal throughout. One reason why the team is confident heading into tonight’s tussle is that it knows it will be better from behind the service line.
“As a team, we’ve been working a ton on serving — about 30 minutes of every practice is devoted just to serving,” said Burgess, who recorded three of the Card’s season-high nine service aces on Sunday against Oregon State.
While the Cardinal would still need help to have a chance at the conference title even with a victory over Washington, a win could certainly make things interesting down the stretch. First serve is set for 7:30 p.m. at Maples Pavilion, and the match will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.