Women’s volleyball sweeps past Cal in Big Spike

Sept. 23, 2014, 10:39 p.m.

The No. 1 Stanford women’s volleyball team (11-0) continued its nonconference win streak into Pac-12 play, gliding past the Cal Golden Bears (8-3) in a three-set sweep — 25-16, 26-24, 25-16 — in the Big Spike.

(The Stanford Daily)
Senior opposite Morgan Boukather recorded nine kills in the win over Cal, second only to junior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku. The senior also tallied three digs and three blocks. (DAVID BERNAL/stanfordphoto.com)

Junior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku led the Card in kills with 14, notching a .632 hitting percentage, followed by senior opposite Morgan Boukather with nine kills. The Cardinal outhit the Golden Bears .296 to .122 and took care of business on the defensive end, topping Cal in digs and blocks. Sophomore middle blocker Merete Lutz recorded four blocks, while senior libero Kyle Gilbert had 13 digs in the win. Heading into this match, Lutz led the nation in hitting percentage at .577.

With 1,866 on hand at Maples Pavilion providing a boost of adrenaline, the Cardinal opened up the first set with an early 6-1 lead, with Cal unable to answer their first four kills, two of which came from junior outside hitter Jordan Burgess. Cal started to gain some momentum after blocking an attack from Ajanaku to stay within five, but Ajanaku answered back this time with a ripping kill that the Cal libero couldn’t muster the strength to dig. A double block for Cal put the score at 8-4. Another double block, a service ace and a quick kill from Lutz put the Card up 11-4, forcing Cal to call its first timeout to regroup.

“After practicing pretty hard [this week], I was really happy with the way we came out to start the match,” said head coach John Dunning. “We had a lot of energy, we were fresh.”

The Golden Bears, however, weren’t able to string together more than two points compared to Stanford’s six and burned through yet another timeout. The two teams traded points, with Stanford in the lead until match point, when Boukather’s kill handed the Card the first set, 25-16. Stanford ended the first set leading Cal in kills, 17 to 10, and in hitting percentage, .414 to .143.

The second set turned out to be much more competitive than the first, with Stanford unable to take the lead until its seventh point, which came off of a service ace from Howard — her second of the match. Cal certainly shook off any away game jitters and rallied hard in the second set. A long attack followed by a double block gave Stanford its largest lead, 11-8. However, Cal took back the lead after a Stanford attack error. Stanford struggled to win the long rally points and finish its attacks. Coupled with two consecutive attack errors from Howard, the Card trailed 15-12 at the media timeout.

“What’s a positive from that stretch in the middle of the game is that it was all our errors basically, so if we could just control those,” Boukather said. “Our passers were giving us beautiful passes, Madi [Bugg] was setting us up perfectly and we just couldn’t terminate. So I think we just have to get back in the gym and work on that more, maybe be more focused.”

Lutz came out of the timeout and drove down a kill, at which point both teams started to trade points and the lead once again. In total, there were 19 tied scores and 10 lead changes throughout the three-set match. Cal gained a 23-22 lead after the Card lost a long rally point. On the next point, three returned kills from Lutz finally ended in a double block from Stanford to tie the game at 23. Two kills from Ajanaku and an attack error from Cal sealed the hard-fought second set win for the Card, 26-24.

“I think Cal stepped it up and what happened in set two is that they had one rotation that they scored six points. The girl was short serving us — good strategy by them — and we didn’t make an adjustment,” Dunning said. “That’s really good for us because we’ve got to learn from that situation: You adjust after one, not after two, or three, or four, or five.  You adjust after one and next time you get into that situation, we’ll know how to do it better. This team is really good about taking situations we’re in and making them learning opportunities.”

In addition, the Cardinal were out-blocked in the first two sets — a rarity for the team.

“When we were hitting, we weren’t covering. They blocked some balls, we should have covered them, they shouldn’t have been stuffs,” Dunning said. “And that’s going to show us something else too — we’ve been talking about it, we’ve been trying to get better, but we’re not covering well.”

The third set started out very much like the second, with both teams trading points and neither able to swing the momentum in its favor coming out of halftime. Stanford went on a 3-0 run with a kill from Howard, an attack point and double block from Boukather and Lutz to give the team its largest lead at 9-6.

The Cardinal continued to stretch the lead until they sat comfortably ahead, 16-9. Cal was finally forced to call a timeout after Ajanaku gave the Card a 10-point lead. It was Ajanaku again that set up the Card for the match point with an easy tip. Sophomore setter Kelsey Humphreys served the match point, with a wide kill by Cal’s outside hitter giving Stanford the win.

The Card return to Maples this Friday to take on the Washington State Cougars at 7 p.m.

Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Ashley Westhem was Editor in Chief of Vol. 248 after serving as Executive Editor and Managing Editor of Sports. She is the voice of Stanford women’s basketball for KZSU as well as The Daily’s beat writer for the team and aids in KZSU’s coverage of football. She graduated in 2016 and is currently a Communications masters student. Ashley is from Lake Tahoe, California.

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