No. 14 Stanford women’s volleyball (3-2, 0-0 Pac-12) opened play at the Big 10/Pac-12 Challenge on Friday, taking on No. 13 Minnesota (2-3, 0-0 Big 10). The Cardinal struggled to find their rhythm on offense and ultimately lost to the Golden Gophers in four sets.
Coming off its first loss of the season against No. 1 Texas, Stanford looked to make a statement in the opening set against Minnesota. However, the match began slowly, as neither team was able to gain more than a one-point advantage through the first 15 points.
Minnesota finally found some breathing room, rattling off five out of seven points to take a 13-9 lead.
After a timeout by head coach Kevin Hambly, redshirt sophomore outside hitter Caitie Baird cut into the lead with her fourth kill of the match. Then, junior outside hitter Natalie Berty notched back-to-back kills to make the score 14-12.
The teams battled back and forth as the first set came down to the wire. Another kill by Baird, followed by an attack error from Minnesota, brought the score to 23-22.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal, the first set was decided by unforced errors — junior opposite Kendall Kipp’s service error and Baird’s attack error on the ensuing set point clinched a 25-22 victory for Minnesota.
The second set began in a manner similar to the first, as neither team took a commanding lead. The score was level at three, seven and 15 before the Cardinal went on a run led by Baird.
First, Baird registered a kill off a picturesque pass from freshman setter Kami Miner. Then, after a Minnesota attack error, Baird delivered three consecutive aces to give Stanford a 20-15 lead. This lead proved to be insurmountable, as the Cardinal rolled to a 25-19 second set victory.
As it turned out, the second set was the high point for the Stanford offense. The Cardinal hit .346 as a team in the second frame, compared to a season-low .199 for the match.
In the final two sets, Stanford could not keep up with Minnesota’s offense; the Golden Gopher trio composed of redshirt seniors Stephanie Samedy and Airi Miyabe and sophomore Jenna Wenaas was too much to handle. The three combined for 51 kills in the match and were integral to Minnesota’s 25-16 third set and 25-17 fourth set victories.
In the end, Baird led the Cardinal with 17 kills, while Berty and Kipp had 11 and eight, respectively. Miner posted her second double-double of the season, recording 38 assists and 11 digs.
Stanford women’s volleyball will look to rebound from back-to-back losses on Saturday against No. 18 Penn State (5-2, 0-0 Big 10). First serve is scheduled for 4 p.m. PT at Matthew Knight Arena.