Women’s volleyball dominates first-, second-round opponents in NCAA tournament

Dec. 5, 2018, 1:01 a.m.

Stanford women’s volleyball (30-1, 20-0 Pac-12) continued its unstoppable march to Minneapolis and the NCAA Final Four this weekend, smashing its first- and second-round opponents without dropping a single set. The No. 1-seeded Cardinal rolled past the lowest-seeded team in the tournament, the Alabama State Hornets (23-18), on Friday night before taking down the Loyola Marymount Lions (21-10) on Saturday.

The team has won 28 consecutive matches, now tied for the longest streak in school history.

With its performance, the team has now qualified for their NCAA Regional, making the Sweet 16 of the tournament bracket. As the highest-seeded team in their region (and the bracket as a whole), the Cardinal will play host to three other teams this coming weekend: No. 16 Washington State, unranked Washington and No. 8 Penn State.

A team with the misfortune to draw Stanford in the early stages of the bracket must have some idea that its days in the tournament are numbered. Neither the Lions nor the Hornets stood a chance against Stanford, and Friday night’s dominance over Alabama State featured head coach Kevin Hambly putting in bench players (who had not seen the floor all year) during the third set.

The Cardinal are the strongest team in the country by a large margin and have only dropped one game this entire season against the No. 4-seeded Brigham Young University. The team has been racking up the regular season awards as of late, and most recently, six total Stanford players were named to the Pacific AVCA All-Region team.

Friday night’s match against Alabama State saw the Cardinal post their best hitting percentage of the year, posting a .446 clip on the Hornets and absolutely shredding their defense. The Cardinal also tied their season high in service aces with 10 total on the night, split fairly evenly among several players.

Leading the team through the entire weekend was the excellent play of sophomore outside hitter Meghan McClure, who contributed two of those service aces against the Hornets. McClure also notched a match-high nine kills, on .444 hitting. She displayed continued defensive excellence on the night as well, grabbing nine digs and one block for the Cardinal.

But Friday’s game was truly a team effort. Superstar junior outside hitter Kathryn Plummer only needed to play two sets and, along with two service aces, only contributed four kills on the night (not that the team was in dire need of any more).

Three other Cardinal players contributed four kills, including freshman outside hitter Mackenzie Fidelak, for whom this number was a career high. Fidelak has not seen much playing time this season, but she made the most of it when her number was called on Friday night.

The rest of the offense was provided by the big bodies of Stanford’s rotation. Freshman middle blocker Holly Campbell and junior opposite Audriana Fitzmorris had four kills each, senior middle blocker Courtney Bowen had five kills, and senior middle blocker Tami Alade had seven.

The team also finished with eight blocks, with Bowen providing four and Campbell contributing three. Any ball not blocked was scooped up by junior libero Morgan Hentz, who matched McClure’s total with nine.

The match went as one would expect it to go, with Stanford taking consecutive sets, 25-10, 25-17, 25-15. It was never close.

Saturday’s match with LMU was no different, as Stanford found no difficulty in taking down the Lions. Hambly did choose to stick with a tighter lineup, however, and kept his starters in the rotation for the entire game.

Kathryn Plummer reminded everyone in the crowd why she is the reigning AVCA player of the year and the best player in college volleyball by absolutely tearing Loyola apart. She went off for 16 kills and 10 digs, her eighth double double of the season, on an astounding .519 hitting percentage. She also added three blocks to Stanford’s total of 11.

This game was just as imbalanced as the previous night’s contest. The Lions never had half a chance in this game. McClure popped off once again to the tune of 12 kills on .440 hitting and six digs. There isn’t a better 1-2 punch of outside hitters in the country than McClure and Plummer. The duo combined for 28 of Stanford’s 46 total kills in the match (nearly two thirds).

Morgan Hentz led the team on the defensive side of the ball, amassing 13 digs on the night, helping to keep the Lions contained to .144 hitting. Stanford hit .438 on the night, nearly matching its performance against Alabama State.

Once again, the scores were not close. Stanford won three consecutive sets by scores of 25-20, 25-15, 25-17.

With very little stopping them from reaching the toughest competition in the country in Minneapolis, the Cardinal will return to Maples this Friday to take on No. 16 Washington State, whom they beat twice already this year in Pac-12 play. If they win this game, they will take on the winner of No. 8 Penn State and unranked Washington on Saturday.


Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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