Another season, another weekend of matches dominated by Stanford women’s volleyball.
The No. 3 Cardinal (2-0) opened up their 2014 campaign in America’s heartland this weekend, taking on Iowa State (0-2) and No. 7 Nebraska (0-2) in the annual AVCA Showcase, and they swept both matches with ease.
On Friday night in Ames, Iowa, Stanford defeated Iowa State 25-16, 25-18, 25-19 in straight sets, trailing just once in the entire match — at 3-2 in the second set. The Cardinal outhit the Cyclones .317 to .130 behind a strong defense and efficient hitting.
Stanford’s sturdy block, which ranked fourth in the nation last season with an average of three blocks per set, picked up right where they left off. They outmatched Iowa State, 11 blocks to three, led by junior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku’s match-high seven blocks.
Ajanaku, a 2013 AVCA First Team All-American, also showed no regression from last season, despite having all of the attention on her in the middle of Stanford’s offensive attack. Over the two matches combined, she had a team-high .512 hitting percentage — 24 kills and two errors out of 43 total attacks — and a team-high 10 blocks.
Sunday afternoon was not much different for the Card, as they swept the Huskers 25-17, 25-17, 25-19, with the team’s depth and defense on continued display in front of a raucous crowd at the Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.
The paid attendance of 8,562 was the largest the Cardinal had played in front of since 14,299 people attended the 2008 National Championship game they played against Penn State, which coincidentally also took place in Nebraska, in Omaha’s CenturyLink Center (formerly the Qwest Center).
Five Stanford players had more than five kills in the match, as the Huskers found themselves bombarded by attacks from all angles. That factor, as well as Nebraska’s 16 errors in the match, was one reason they were never able to gain momentum in the match — their longest rally lasted just three points.
It was the Huskers’ third consecutive home defeat, their longest home losing streak in program history, as their young roster — consisting of 11 underclassmen, also the most in program history — was simply overmatched. The Cardinal outhit their opponent, .365 to .131.
Another major storyline of Stanford’s opening weekend was the unveiling of the winners of the preseason competitions for graduates Carly Wopat and Rachel Williams’ vacated spots in the starting lineup. Junior middle blocker Megan McGehee and senior opposite hitter Morgan Boukather started both matches, and filled in very nicely.
Boukather matched a career-high with 13 kills on Sunday against Nebraska, hitting .417, while also tallying a career-best 18 digs. McGehee hit .386 (10-3-19) over the two matches, also racking up four blocks.
Another indication that head coach John Dunning intends to use a large part of his roster this season, freshmen Sarah Benjamin and Sidney Brown, as well as redshirt freshman Merete Lutz all made their collegiate debuts over the weekend.
The Cardinal will resume its tough season-opening slate in their home opener on Friday, as preseason No. 1 Penn State arrives on The Farm for a rematch of last season’s NCAA quarterfinal matchup.
Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu