Stanford sand volleyball (9-4) toppled the St. Mary’s Gaels (4-14) in a decisive manner on Tuesday, crushing its opponent by a 5-0 margin.
Wind was a major factor in the picturesque Stanford Sand Volleyball Arena, with gusts visibly shifting the trajectory of serves and sets in midair. This natural hurdle complicated a game that many players used to the hard courts of indoor volleyball already consider tough.
“It’s enough [of a challenge] to move around in the sand,” said junior Jordan Burgess, who played in the No. 3 slot. “Then the wind’s moving the ball all over the place…[it’s] hard to know what to do with it.”
Despite the unfamiliar conditions, the Cardinal got out to a rocking start. Sophomore Kelsey Humphreys and freshman Catherine Raquel dominated their opponents in the No. 4 spot, winning in straight sets by a 21-8, 21-6 margin. Burgess and her partner, sophomore Merete Lutz, faired nearly as well in the three, taking their point convincingly with set scores of 21-11, 21-13. This paved the way for senior Lauren Birks and junior Brittany Howard to clinch the match from the No. 1 spot.
Stanford’s top pair took its first set against the Gaels’ Dalas Dodd and Alexis Salmons with relative ease. Dodd and Salmons came back strong in the second set, however, and had a chance to tie things up after building a 20-19 lead. Howard and Birks quickly dug in, and won three of the next four to set up a match point of their own. Howard then hit a dramatic kill on a well-placed pass from her partner, taking Stanford’s third point and sealing the fate of St. Mary’s.
“This is our 12th or 13th match this year so you get into [tight] situations a lot and you begin to feel them better,” said head coach John Dunning after the game. “You have a little more control and keep yourself a little more calm when your making decisions and things. I think that’s what happened.”
Even with the outcome already determined, Stanford remained tough in its final two games, sweeping both matches impressively to avoid conceding a single set to its opponents. Junior Inky Ajanaku and sophomore Grace Kennedy finished first in the five spot after giving up just 19 points, while junior Madi Bugg and freshman Ivana Vanjak survived a back-and-forth battle in the two to close things off.
Stanford now looks forward to final home game of the year against Santa Clara this Thursday. The team will then conclude its season on Sunday with a faceoff against rival California in Berkeley.
Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.