The season’s toughest weekend thus far proved to be too much for No. 7 Stanford beach volleyball (14-7, 6-6 Pac-12). Snapping a program-record 13-match win streak, the Cardinal fell in four straight matches over two days at the Pac-12 North Invitational in Tuscon as No. 12 Arizona, No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 USC and No. 11 Cal each handed Stanford a loss.
Arizona was the Cardinal’s first challenger of the weekend and, as expected, was looking to avenge the tight 3-2 loss Stanford delivered them two weeks prior. The Wildcats cruised to victory in straight sets at the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 flights without letting a Cardinal duo break 20 points; the outcome handed junior Charlie Ekstrom and senior Sunny Villapando their fifth loss of the season as the Cardinal’s No. 1 duo.
Arizona’s dominance right out of the gate put the Wildcats up 3-0 to guarantee victory, but Stanford was not willing to go down without a fight. Freshman Emmy Sharp and senior Amelia Smith earned the Cardinal’s first point of the weekend with a 17-21, 21-14, 15-5 victory at the No. 5 flight, and freshman Maya Harvey and Maddi Kriz followed suit with a 21-19, 13-21, 15-12 win as Stanford’s No. 3 pair to leave the final score at 3-2 in favor of Arizona.
The outcome against UCLA Saturday afternoon was even less favorable for the Cardinal as the Bruins claimed a 4-1 victory. Only Harvey and Kriz could eke out a win, toppling UCLA’s Devon Newberry and Lindsey Sparks in a tight three: 22-20, 16-21, 16-14. Almost repeating Stanford’s morning match, UCLA snagged the first three points of the afternoon contest with wins at the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4. The Bruins pushed the score to 4-0 when Rileigh Powers and Jaden Whitmarsh defeated Smith and Sharp at the No. 5 flight, but Harvey and Kriz’s work helped the Cardinal escape a shutout.
Stanford was unable to rebound from its Saturday struggles on Sunday, when USC and Cal were on the agenda. The Trojans jumped out to a 4-0 lead after holding all Cardinal duos in the first four flights to fewer than 20 points. Sharp and Smith narrowly secured Stanford’s only point of the match at the No. 5 flight. The pair went 26-24, 18-21, 15-13 against USC’s Audrey Nourse and Nicole Nourse to prevent the shutout.
Bay-Area rival Cal was the Cardinal’s final test of the weekend, and the match — ultimately a 3-2 result in favor of the Golden Bears — remained up for grabs until the final moments. Harvey and Kriz put Stanford up 1-0 with a 21-10, 21-18 win as the No. 3 pair, but Hodel and Reilly again fell at the No. 2 spot to tie things up. Ekstrom and Villapando were the second Cardinal duo downed as Cal’s Mima Mirkovic and Caroline Schafer moved the score to 2-1 Cal with a 22-20, 21-17 victory at the No. 1 flight. Sharp and Smith earned Stanford a point at the No. 5 flight to even the score at 2-2.
The deciding point was left in the hands of No. 4 pair juniors Maddie Dailey and Jordan McKinney. Facing off against Maya Gessner and Maddie Micheletti, Dailey and McKinney were pushed to a third set after going 21-18 and 16-21. A 15-13, third-set victory by Gessner and Micheletti earned the Golden Bears the point and the win.
The Pac-12/WCC Challenge is Stanford’s next opportunity to regroup and continue its winning season. The Cardinal will play host to Cal, Saint Mary’s and Pepperdine in the event, which begins Saturday, April 17.