On the calendar, Wednesday’s routine regular season matchup between the No. 2 ranked Stanford women’s volleyball team (11-1, 3-0 Pac-12) and No. 18 ranked UCLA (6-4, 1-2 Pac-12) looked like just another notch in the team’s normal schedule. Yet what transpired in Maples Pavilion during the Cardinal’s 3-0 sweep of the Bruins was anything but normal. It could have been an overwhelming sense of school spirit, it could have been a desire for the free T-shirt they were distributing at the doors, but whatever it was, Stanford students showed up in droves to support their fellow classmates.
The student section filled up in moments, with the Band nearly at full strength and the bleachers seating row after row of enthusiastic cheerleaders sporting Cardinal paraphernalia. Stanford students ended up filling basically half of the lower bowl of Maples Pavilion. This crowd would have been big for a home football game, for a volleyball game, it was astronomical.
The atmosphere was electric. Between the constant fight songs and intermission tunes, the shouts at the opposing team during their hits, and the gasps and cheers that followed every big dig, massive kill and extended rally, the crowd’s support was palpable.
“It was really fun, it made it a lot more fun for sure just knowing that there’s actually people I know in the crowd, that was really cool,” said freshman middle blocker Holly Campbell, whose outstanding performance in the game stole the spotlight and stood out even amid the overall beatdown Stanford was serving the Bruins.
“I’m in Soto and they texted in our group chat like ‘Go to Holly’s game tonight!’ and they made me a little sign, it was so cute.”
It’s possible Campbell was showing off for her freshman dormmates, because she put on an absolute clinic during the game. She set a new career high in kills with 14, the second most on the team, and added a team-high six blocks to that performance as well, all while hitting .400 on the night. Her slide hit looked polished and clean during the victory, exposing holes in the UCLA defense on nearly every attack.
“Me and Jenna [Gray] have really been working on our connections, so I think it’s really improving a lot and hopefully it can keep getting even better as we keep going on in Pac-12,” Campbell said of her relationship with the Cardinal’s junior setter, the aforementioned Jenna Gray.
Speaking of Gray, her performance was textbook as always, dishing out 49 assists to her teammates and backing them up with seven digs and one block. She also spiked a free ball down UCLA’s throats when they were least expecting it, causing an uproar from the crowd.
Gray had some absolutely insane bump sets throughout the night, including one on the first set where she ran to the back of the court and set the ball in motion right to junior ace Kathryn Plummer for a back attack. The play caught the Bruins defense completely out of position.
Plummer led the team with six errors, but also led the team with 17 kills and 38 attacks, hitting .289 on the night (she also had nine digs). At the end of the day, if there’s a question on the court, you get the ball to Kathryn Plummer. In the majority of free spike situations, she is completely unstoppable, even when opponents begin trapping her on blocks.
And, if you manage to trap Kathryn Plummer, you still have to deal with the rest of the Cardinal offense, specifically with sophomore wing Meghan McClure and junior opposite Audriana Fitzmorris, who piled on 12 and five kills, respectively. There are no holes in the Stanford attack.
But the massive crowd’s favorite player, by a large margin, had to be junior Morgan Hentz, the superhero libero who has a chance of digging any ball, anywhere on the court. She finished the night with a game-high 18 digs, each one of them jaw dropping and physics-defying, eliciting massive gasps and applause from the student crowd.
The actual gameplay against UCLA was only a formality. When they’re firing on all cylinders, this Stanford team is legitimately unstoppable. And that’s a terrifying prospect to square off against.
The Cardinal take on No. 12 ranked USC tonight at 8 p.m.
Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada ‘at’ stanford.edu.