It seems unreasonable to describe anything as a challenge for the No. 2-ranked Stanford women’s volleyball team. After all, the Cardinal have absolutely steamrolled their way through conference play, dropping only seven sets over the course of 14 matches. However, if there was one team that could stand in the way of an undefeated conference season, it may be No. 11 Washington, who Stanford plays Wednesday as part of a trip to the Pacific Northwest, where they will also face Washington State on Saturday.
The Huskies are another of the Pac-12’s top teams and one of the few that has played Stanford close this year. In their previous matchup on Oct. 19, the Cardinal prevailed in a five-set back-and-forth thriller. Courtney Schwan, the reigning Pac-12 player of the year, led the Huskies in that match and will need to play a big role on Wednesday if the Huskies have any chance of handing the Cardinal their first conference loss.
Sophomore wing Kathryn Plummer dominated the Huskies with 20 kills in their previous meeting and is currently riding a hot streak after recording 14 kills in Stanford’s win against Oregon on Sunday. Senior opposite Merete Lutz was named the Pac-12 offensive player of the week after the Cardinal’s performances against the Oregon schools. She recorded 24 total kills in the two matches. Both of these players will be instrumental in the upcoming games.
The victory Sunday against the Ducks was one of the Cardinal’s more dominant performances this season, as they dismantled the 16th-ranked team in the country with a combination of efficient hitting and strong defense from the front line. The Cardinal had 50 kills and a .519 hitting percentage.
Stanford should have plenty of confidence heading into Wednesday as they look to win their 17th consecutive match, but there is no doubt that the Huskies will put up a fight with their home crowd behind them.
Saturday’s matchup with Washington State should be less of a challenge, although no trip to Pullman should be overlooked. The Cardinal swept the Cougars in their first meeting, but Wazzu played tough and showed they can compete against the Pac-12’s best. In their previous matchup, the two teams played a close first set before Stanford turned up the defense and pulled away. The Cardinal will look to come out of the gates roaring on Saturday to extinguish any hope of an upset for Washington State. The Cougars head into Saturday’s match reeling after dropping their past three matches without winning a single set.
While the Cardinal are definitely the stronger team, Saturday’s match could be somewhat of a trap game as big matchups with USC and UCLA loom on the horizon for a Stanford team that is just six matches away from completing its perfect conference season.
Keeping the 16-game winning streak that the Cardinal are currently riding, and their perfect conference record, alive aren’t major considerations for the team. Head coach Kevin Hambly remarked after Sunday’s game that “All we’re trying to do is win the match in front of us and win as many as we can, and that’s all we’re focused on.”
Both the Wednesday game and the Saturday game start at 7 p.m. and will be streamed live on Pac-12 networks.
Contact Gregory Block at gblock “at” stanford.edu