No. 8 Stanford women’s volleyball (7-2, 1-0 Pac-12) will have another chance to make up for a shaky start to the season when it takes on No. 3 USC (13-0, 1-0 Pac-12) this Sunday.
Coming off an impressive 3-1 win in the Big Spike against Cal, the Cardinal will hope to establish some momentum in conference play. With trips to No. 7 Arizona State and No. 14 Arizona looming, a win over USC could do a lot to show the volleyball world that Stanford is still the team to beat in the Pac-12.
Earning such a victory will not be easy. The Trojans have lost just two sets so far over 13 matches, a figure bested only by defending national champion Penn State. USC has shown a tremendous amount of depth in its opening run, with true freshmen such as Alyse Ford and Baylee Johnson wonderfully complementing senior Samantha Bricio and the team’s more veteran players.
The Trojans are fresh off a strong victory of their own, a 3-0 away sweep of UCLA at a loud and crowded Pauley Pavilion. USC never looked troubled by its crosstown rival, never trailing in the match and holding the Bruins to an astoundingly low .056 hitting percentage.
Stanford, however, should prove a much more difficult opponent for the Trojans. The Cardinal haven’t lost a match at Maples Pavilion since they played USC in 2013, and the team is working hard to learn from its early mistakes.
Stanford has made multiple adjustments to adapt its style of play to work more toward its strengths, and the results have been apparent. Senior setter Madi Bugg has become more of a direct attacking threat with 7 kills over the past two games, and freshman outside hitter Hayley Hodson has quickly become more of an offensive focal point, picking up 18 kills against Cal.
These players have combined with senior outside hitters Jordan Burgess and Brittany Howard to lend the Cardinal a sizable attacking advantage in all of their last four victories.
“Some of the parts of the preseason were kind of tough for us, but we’ve had some great responses out of a lot of players,” Burgess explained after the Cal victory. “A lot of new people on the court are doing an amazing job.”
The Cardinal’s ability to work the ball around USC’s big front may prove crucial this weekend. The Trojans have averaged over 10 blocks per game in its last five matches, an especially impressive figure considering that all but one of these matches have been decided in three sets.
Watch Stanford take on USC this Sunday at 4 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.