No. 14 Stanford women’s volleyball (6-3, 1-0 Pac-12) hosted Cal (7-5, 0-1 Pac-12) on Wednesday night in its Pac-12 opener at Maples Pavilion. After dropping a close first set, the Cardinal bounced back to defeat the Golden Bears 3-1.
The first set was neck-and-neck until the finish. The two teams were level at 11, 14 and 23 before a kill by redshirt sophomore outside hitter Caitie Baird gave Stanford a 24-23 lead. On Stanford’s ensuing set point, Cal responded with a kill to even the score. Two points later, the Bears eked out a 26-24 victory.
Overall, Cal outperformed Stanford offensively in the first set. The Bears hit .395, compared to the Cardinal’s .270 hitting percentage. However, the first game was the high point for Cal’s offense; the Bears hit below .200 for the remainder of the match, including registering a dismal .094 performance in the fourth set.
In contrast, Stanford’s offense improved throughout the match. Junior opposite Kendall Kipp and freshman outside hitter Sami Francis capitalized on their size advantage and dominated Cal on the front line.
In the second set, Francis was nearly unstoppable. She recorded seven kills and was an integral part of the team’s 20-9 start.
Although Cal responded with an 8-1 run, the Stanford lead proved to be insurmountable — the Cardinal cruised to a 25-20 win.
Kipp and Francis continued their offensive barrage in the third set, combining for 12 kills. Francis connected for a kill off an assist from freshman setter Kami Miner, making the score 21-20. Two points later, sophomore defensive specialist Alex Lougeay placed her serve perfectly for an ace. Then, a pair of kills by Baird and Kipp clinched a 25-22 third set victory for the Cardinal.
Unfortunately for Cal, the fourth set was less of a contest than the previous two. Stanford opened on a 10-5 run and never looked back, ultimately winning 25-14. On match point, Baird connected for a kill off Miner’s 60th assist of the night.
In the end, Kipp led all players with 21 kills on a .441 hitting percentage. Baird notched 17 kills of her own, while senior middle blocker Holly Campbell had six.
Defensively, redshirt sophomore middle blocker McKenna Vicini had a game-high five blocks and sophomore libero Elena Oglivie recorded a team-high 15 digs.
On a night of several strong individual efforts, Francis’ performance stood out. The 6-foot-6 freshman came off the bench for a career-best 19 kills.
Francis seemed to thrive in the spotlight and fuel off the energy from the rowdy student section at Maples Pavilion.
“I love hearing a really cheerful crowd,” Francis said. “That definitely helped with not just my own energy, but also the rest of the team.”
Stanford women’s volleyball will look to continue its winning ways at home, as it takes on No. 19 UCLA (8-1, 1-0 Pac-12) on Sunday. First serve is scheduled for 2 p.m. PT.