Stanford women’s volleyball (2-6, 2-6 Pac-12) fell in a close 3-2 loss to Arizona State (5-11, 5-11 Pac-12) on Sunday. The loss marked the first time the Sun Devils beat the Cardinal on The Farm since 1982.
The Cardinal won the first set 25-19, and it seemed like they were going to cruise to a weekend sweep of the Sun Devils. Arizona State beat itself in the first set, hitting zeroes and struggling to pass the ball.
Whatever words Arizona State head coach Sanja Tomasevic told her team at the break, they worked. The offense looked stronger, and the Sun Devils were more adept at handling hits from outside hitter Meghan McClure, who hit an abysmal -.118 in the first two sets. Without a strong performance from the team’s only senior, the Cardinal couldn’t build enough momentum to win the second set.
Down 19-22 in the second set, Stanford head coach Kevin Hambly called a timeout, which helped his squad go on a 4-0 run to take a 23-22 lead. Hambly’s team couldn’t close, however, and the set went beyond 25. With set point in the Sun Devils’ favor, McClure went for a kill that landed out of bounds and a challenge from Hambly was unsuccessful in finding a touch from an Arizona State defender to give the Sun Devils the win in the set.
After the 26-24 second set, the match was tied at one set apiece and it was Hambly’s turn to provide words to turn his team around.
Hambly said it took his team some time to bring a competitive spirit.
“You gotta compete. You can’t take any points lightly,” he said.
The passing problems returned for Arizona State early in the third set, which kept the Cardinal competitive, but Stanford’s offense couldn’t find the right rhythm to consistently earn kills. The twelfth point of the set was a long rally that featured several shots from McClure that were unable to find the floor. The point was initially awarded to Stanford to tie the set at 6-6 after a net violation, but it was awarded to Arizona State’s after review, making the score 7-5 in favor of the Sun Devils, who started to pull away.
Great defense at the net helped the Cardinal go on a four-point scoring run late in the set, which tied the score at 18, but it couldn’t stop the Sun Devils, who closed out the third set 25-22.
The match’s momentum shifted again to start the fourth set as Hambly’s team jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead. The run included two kills from McClure, who finally cracked a positive hitting percentage, but the Cardinal lead quickly evaporated and Hambly called a timeout with the score tied at 10.
Coming out of the timeout McClure and redshirt freshman outside hitter Caitie Baird continued to roll. They led an offense reminiscent of the match’s first set to give the Cardinal another 25-19 set win and force a tiebreaking fifth set.
The tiebreaker was closer to a heartbreaker. Hambly burned his first timeout of the set after the Cardinal dropped the first four points. The team couldn’t fight back from that deficit, and lost the final set by a four-point margin, 15-11.
Hambly said the team needs to execute better offensively to be competitive when the Cardinal visit Washington (13-3, 13-3 Pac-12) on Friday at 5 p.m. PT.