On August 31, Stanford women’s volleyball travelled to Utah and played against Brigham Young University in a match that went five sets, and eventually ended with Stanford falling just short in the fifth.
Fast forward two months, and now the No. 2 ranked Cardinal (18-1, 10-0 Pac-12) haven’t lost a single game since that day in August. Sixteen straight wins and a perfect conference record later, they sit at the top of the Pac-12, and the country, with a seemingly unbeatable roster. But they still aren’t number one. That spot belongs to the BYU Cougars, who are the only remaining undefeated team in the nation. Stanford now has its eyes set on just one goal: getting revenge on BYU in Minneapolis this December at the NCAA Final Four, and claiming a second national championship in three years.
The team is demolishing everything that stands in its way of achieving that goal. This weekend, that unfortunate target happened to be the Oregon State Beavers (10-12, 0-10) last Friday and the No. 16 Oregon Ducks (13-7, 6-4) last Sunday.
The Beavers still have not won a single match within their division. However, that did not stop them from knocking a set off of the Cardinal, as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead, winning the set 26-24. Their victory was led by the massive errors of the Cardinal and the excellent hitting of their outside Amy Underdown, who finished the match with 15 kills and 10 digs.
11 of the Beaver’s 26 points came from Stanford mistakes, including four service errors and seven hitting errors, by all members of the team. High unforced error counts have been common among Stanford volleyball performances, with the team performing well when it matters, but shakier at times.
Freshman middle blocker Holly Campbell rode the bench during Friday’s contest, a surprising decision, but one that didn’t end up making that much of a difference. Her replacement, senior middle Courtney Bowen had the game of her career in the starting lineup, making the most of her opportunities.
Bowen set career highs in kills and blocks with 14 and nine respectively, as she knocked down balls efficiently, ending with a .500 hitting percentage.
Stanford dominated the next three sets, winning 25-10, 25-18 and 25-23 to take down their opponents. The second set was particularly brutal, as Stanford hit .481 as a team and held the Beavers to .000 hitting.
This was primarily due to the preposterous Stanford blocks, which were out of control. Stanford out-blocked Oregon State 21-9 through the match, led by Bowen and fellow senior middle Tami Alade, who picked up a career-high 13 blocks. This is the best blocking performance by a Stanford volleyball player since 2013.
Junior opposite Kathryn Plummer was, once again, the focus of the Cardinal offense. She ended with a match-high 19 kills and picked up 11 digs, good for her fifth double-double of the year. She ended the fourth set with a service ace, one of two on the night, contributing in all aspects.
The team was assisted by a strong defensive showing from junior libero Morgan Hentz and sophomore defensive specialist Kate Formico. Hentz grabbed 20 total digs, and Formico set a season high with 13. Sophomore opposite Meghan McClure also found herself on the floor quite a bit, as she ended with more digs than kills, 11 and nine respectively.
The team left Corvallis with the win and headed on to Eugene for Sunday’s contest, another 3-1 victory that began with a poorly-played set.
Oregon entered the game at full steam, and the Cardinal defense wasn’t able to react in time. With the Ducks hitting at a .412 clip in the first set, Stanford wasn’t able to keep up, particularly as they were limited by errors to hitting .147. Oregon made a statement, taking the set 25-16.
Stanford retaliated. The next three sets belonged to the Cardinal, and they made no mistake about making that clear to their opponents. They won quickly with scores of 25-21, 25-17 and 25-15. There were some sloppy plays, but make no mistake, the Cardinal got the job done.
Throughout the match, Stanford out-hit Oregon .331 to .289. After the first set, the Cardinal were never out-hit again, as they became more and more efficient. They absolutely tore into the opposition, hitting .419, then .333, then a resounding .448.
They also dominated in the service game. The serve is a heavy point of emphasis for head coach Kevin Hambly, and it truly showed in this game. The Cardinal amassed 10 total service aces through the match, outclassing Oregon’s solitary ace.
Plummer and Formico led the team with three apiece, followed by McClure and junior setter Jenna Gray with two each.
Gray set another excellent game, as steady and composed as usual. She set down 41 assists, three digs and dumped off two kills. She continues to be a solid foundation for this team.
Plummer once again led the team with 19 kills on an efficient .333 hitting, adding four digs and a single block on the night. The offense was supplemented heavily by the middle blockers, with Campbell back in the lineup for Bowen. Campbell and Alade each finished with nine kills on the night. Alade’s came on .615 hitting as she only committed one single error.
The Stanford volleyball team looks unstoppable, and seems to have sole control of the Pac-12 locked up as the NCAA tournament looms closer and closer. Their high ranking all but guarantees them the opportunity to host the tournament for the second straight year.
The Cardinal will hit the road once again next weekend, as they head south to Los Angeles to play USC and UCLA.
Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada ‘at’ stanford.edu