By James Hemker
With just 66 sets played in her Stanford career, sophomore outside Kendall Kipp was, by far, the Cardinal’s most experienced college volleyball player on the court against Arizona (1-4, 1-4 Pac-12) Friday night. Fielding an all-underclassmen roster, seventh-ranked Stanford (0-1, 0-1 Pac-12) struggled to keep pace, losing 3-0 in its season opener.
Senior outside Meghan McClure, junior middle Holly Campbell and junior opposite Mackenzie Fidelak were all unavailable to play due to COVID-19 protocols.
Stanford dropped the 25-17, 25-16, 25-14 match primarily due to its poor offense, which stemmed from the overall lack of team experience. Hitting .058 as a team, the outing is the program’s worst in the 25-point rally scoring era, which began in 2008. On the other side of the floor, Arizona, playing in its fifth match of the season, attacked at a .298 clip.
The Cardinal’s inexperience manifested as communication and passing errors. Stanford’s back line was unable to consistently deliver clean balls to sophomore setter Selina Xu. Most passes pulled Xu off the net towards the 10-foot line, limiting her setting options. The long, telegraphed sets gave Arizona’s front plenty of time to adjust and set up a block. Other out-of-system passes forced Stanford’s pins to take awkward shots that either resulted in attacking errors or digs for Arizona. Xu concluded the match with 20 assists and two of the team’s three service aces.
Though she is listed as an outside, Kipp played opposite for the night, finishing with a team-high 11 kills at a poor .156 clip. Redshirt freshman outside Caitie Baird got her first start and put away eight kills. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, those kills came at the price of eight attacking errors. On defense, Baird paced the team with three blocks and seven digs.
However, when the passing was clean, Stanford’s young team was able to work efficiently. Kipp and Baird, standing at 6-5 and 6-3, respectively, were able to turn quick sets into punishing shots off the block, cross court, or down the line. The two started the night with four kills a piece and just a single error between them. The Arizona announcers constantly reiterated the Wildcats’ fortune in playing Stanford now rather than in a month.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, all players wore masks during the game, even when on the court. Additionally, teams did not switch sides after each set. It is currently unclear when Stanford’s upperclassmen are expected to return. A minimum 10-day quarantine period is required without any new positive tests.
The two teams will return to the court on Sunday, Feb. 7 at 10 a.m. PT.