Cardinal volleyball takes down the Trojans

Oct. 1, 2018, 2:03 a.m.

No. 13 ranked USC women’s volleyball (10-4, 2-1 Pac-12) didn’t stand a fraction of a chance from the moment they entered Maples Pavilion on Friday night. The absolute juggernaut that is the No. 2 ranked Stanford Cardinal (12-1, 4-0 Pac-12) cruised to yet another 3-0 sweep of the opposition as they claimed their ninth consecutive victory.

Adding to its long list of streaks and records, Stanford has now won a nation-high 25 straight home matches, in addition to taking five straight against the Trojans. This victory was on display for the world to see as the game was broadcast nationally on ESPN.

The name of the game for the Cardinal on Friday was stifling defense, as they limited the Trojans to hitting just .158 on the night, including a stifling .031 in the first set. The Cardinal set up an impenetrable defense at the net, out-blocking USC by a total of 13-5.

Every block for Stanford was the result of coordination and teamwork in assignment. The top combo was junior opposite Audriana Fitzmorris and her positional replacement, freshman middle blocker Holly Campbell, who each contributed seven blocks on the night. Also present in the block party were senior middle blocker Tami Alade with six blocks and sophomore wing Meghan McClure with four. The defensive prowess was a concerted team effort.

Of course, you can’t discuss the Cardinal defense without bringing up the unbelievable junior libero Morgan Hentz, who continues to make play after play on the court, racking up a match-high 18 digs in the backcourt. The highlight of the night was a diving dig into the scorers’ table near the net to save a ball that came tipped off the Cardinal block. It is nearly a fact at this point that Hentz is the top libero in college volleyball.

While Hentz was responsible for nearly half of the Cardinal digs, the team’s true superstar, junior ace Kathryn Plummer, saved her fair share of balls as well, coming up with nine digs. And, as usual, Plummer was the main facilitator on offense, hitting 29 balls for 18 kills and a .379 kill percentage. Effortless as usual.

I’ve made allusions to the terrifying nature of the Stanford volleyball team a number of times in my coverage. This team has absolutely zero weak spots, besides their tendency to rack up errors, which was minimalized in this game as they gathered only 13 as a unit. The only people capable of taking down Stanford are its own players.

As an example of how well built and unstoppable this squad is, consider McClure. On basically any other college volleyball team in the country, she would be a number one offensive weapon. Her ability to produce at the net both offensively and defensively is outstanding, and she should most certainly be landing on the 1st team All Pac-12 this year. In this game, her stat line was 14 kills, an absolutely absurd team-high .619 hitting percentage, four blocks, two digs and one assist, just filling up the box score. She manages to get that production all while being the number two option at the outside hitting position. Why is she the number two option if she’s that good, you might ask? Oh, only because she plays behind the best player in college volleyball. Most teams don’t have one wing as good as Meghan McClure. Stanford has two.

And, lest we forget, the Cardinal still have the best setter in college volleyball calling the shots at the net as well. Junior Jenna Gray did it all again on Friday, offering up 44 assists and adding two blocks and four digs. A masterful performance as usual.

The Cardinal look to continue their winning ways as they hit the road next weekend, taking on Utah and Colorado on Friday and Sunday respectively. I’d expect their nine-game winning streak to extend to 11.

Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada ‘at’

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