Women’s volleyball looks to improve 60-0 record vs. Oregon State in regional

Dec. 11, 2014, 2:59 p.m.

Two matches away from a trip to the Final Four in Oklahoma City, Stanford’s women’s volleyball team (31-1) will face a familiar conference foe in Oregon State (21-12) on Friday, but this time around, it’ll be with the season on the line in a small Midwest town far from the Pacific Coast.

Sophomore middle blocker Merete Lutz ranks fourth in the nation with a .447 hitting percentage so far this season. She combined for 18 kills and 14 blocks in Stanford's two tourney wins last weekend. (KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/stanfordphoto.com)
Sophomore middle blocker Merete Lutz ranks fourth in the nation with a .447 hitting percentage so far this season. She combined for 18 kills and 14 blocks in Stanford’s two tourney wins last weekend. (KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/stanfordphoto.com)

While the No. 1 Cardinal are 60-0 all-time against the Beavers, their best record against any individual opponent in program history, they are not taking this regional semifinal match lightly.

“All you have to do is watch one video tape of them and they are going to dig you off of the court until you make a mistake, if you let them,” said head coach John Dunning. “Their libero is doing a great job. They don’t make hitting mistakes. They are trying to sustain it until you can’t. They have gotten better and better at it as they have gone through the season.”

This is only Oregon State’s third NCAA tournament appearance in program history, and last weekend, they earned their first two postseason wins to clinch a berth in the Ames regional. They defeated Creighton in four sets in the first round, and then beat Arkansas-Little Rock in the second round by a 19-17 score in the fifth set.

Containing Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Mary-Kate Marshall will be one of the keys in the match for Stanford. The 6-foot-1 outside hitter from Coppell, Texas has averaged a team-high 4.22 kills per set this season, about two more kills per set than the Beavers’ second-ranked hitter. She had 37 kills combined over nine sets in the first two rounds of the tourney, and in the two matches against the Cardinal earlier this season, she had 30 total kills on a .229 hitting percentage.

Ultimately for Stanford, the match will come down to doing what they have been doing well all season: distributing the ball to all of their hitters on offense, especially taking advantage of the strengths of their middle blockers.

“What you have to do is execute and hit some balls they can’t dig. And you have to win the long rallies,” Dunning said. “All year long we have counted on our middles to do that. They have had a great year and we need to control the ball and get it to them once in a while. If I were other teams, I would certainly look at that because they are both doing a pretty good job.”

Sophomore middle blocker Merete Lutz ranks fourth in the country with a .447 hitting percentage so far this season, while her teammate junior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku ranks fifth with a .440 mark. The two accounted for 39 of Stanford’s 94 combined kills (41 percent) in last weekend’s matches against CSU Bakersfield and Michigan State.

As has been the case since the third week of the season, the Cardinal are ranked No. 1 overall, and have still only lost one match all season, but that hasn’t changed the team’s perspective heading into each week.

“One of the goals that we had coming into this year was taking one match at a time and not looking too far forward,” said senior libero Kyle Gilbert. “That has really helped us throughout the year to get better and better. Just improving every day in practice for every match.”

The Cardinal actually return to the Hilton Pavilion in Ames, Iowa for the second time this season; they swept Iowa State there at the start of their journey this season, in their opener a little over three months ago. First serve for the regional semifinal is set for 3 p.m. Pacific, and the match will be streamed online on ESPN3.

Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Jordan Wallach is a Senior Staff Writer at The Stanford Daily. He was previously the Managing Editor of Sports, a sports desk editor for two volumes and he continues to work as a beat writer for Stanford's baseball, football and women's volleyball teams. Jordan is a junior from New York City majoring in Mathematical and Computational Science. To contact him, please send him an email at jwallach 'at' stanford.edu.

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