No. 15 Stanford women’s volleyball (12-5, 7-2 Pac-12) found itself on the brink of defeat against No. 22 Washington State (12-7, 6-3 Pac-12) in Pullman Friday night. After going down 2-1, the Cardinal eked out a fourth set win before dominating the fifth set to beat the Cougars 3-2.
The comeback win proved to be an important one for the Cardinal. Going into the match in a four-way tie for first in the Pac-12 standings alongside Washington State, No. 10 Washington and No. 17 UCLA, Stanford knocked the Cougars out of the running for top of the pack.
Led by redshirt sophomore outside hitter Caitie Baird’s 21 kills, Stanford recorded a season-high 74 kills as a team. Junior opposite Kendall Kipp and freshman outside hitter Sami Francis swung for 16 kills apiece.
Redshirt sophomore middle blocker McKenna Vicini led the Cardinal with nine blocks, while Kipp and Francis jumped for five each, including two solo blocks from Francis. Senior middle blocker Holly Campbell had three blocks to go along with 10 kills on a .588 hitting percentage.
Entering Friday’s Pac-12 showdown, Washington State outside hitter Pia Timmer was averaging 4 kills per set right, only behind Baird’s 4.09 kills per set in Pac-12 rankings. The Cougars’ middle blocker Magda Jehlarova averaged 1.38 blocks per set, right behind Vicini’s conference lead of 1.43 blocks per set. From the beginning of the match, these were the two Washington State competitors to watch.
In the opening set, Stanford went down 4-9 and called its first timeout after three kills from Timmer and two Jehlarova service aces.
Slowly, the Cardinal came back from this five-point deficit, with kills from Kipp and Campbell as well as two aces and a setter dump from freshman setter Kami Miner. The Cardinal found their first lead of the set at 18-17.
Down again 19-20, Baird struck three kills to bring the score to 22-21. The score was even at 25 and 26, until a Washington State kill and floating ace clinched a 26-28 win for the Cougars.
Following early kills by Francis in the second set, Stanford took a 4-0 lead. The Cardinal maintained their advantage, and by the time the score was 16-6, the Cougars were forced to call a timeout. A kill from Baird at 24-15 ended the set with .607 team kill percentage and a dominant win for the Cardinal.
Stanford led in the third set until a 4-0 Jehlarova serving run tied the score at 13. Miner served two aces in a 5-0 scoring run giving the Cardinal a 20-15 edge. Then, Washington State turned the tables for a 4-0 run of its own, culminating in Jehlarova and Timmer blocking Baird to even the score at 21.
Stanford lost the lead again, as Washington State pulled ahead 23-22. On the Cougars’ set point, Kipp went to serve as the Washington State crowd roared in the stands. Jehlarova connected for a kill, as the Cougars came back to win the third set.
Three kills in the beginning of the fourth put the Cardinal up 3-0, and they held the lead for the majority of the set.
But slowly, Washington State clawed its way back into the action. The Cougars added points until a kill to an empty spot in the backline and a service ace put them within one.
A kill from Jehlarova brought the score to 24-all. The Cardinal, determined to extend the match to a fifth set, stuck through draws at 25 and 26 until a kill from Campbell and a Miner setter dump won them the set 28-26.
Carrying its momentum forward, Stanford took a commanding lead in the fifth set. From 4-0 to 7-2 to 13-6, the Cardinal put the ball at the Cougars’ feet, until Kipp won it 15-8. With Kipp’s final kill, Stanford’s comeback was complete.
With the Cardinal’s win over the Cougars, they are now 7-2 in Pac-12 play and tied for first with UCLA and Washington.
Stanford will look to break this tie with Washington, as it heads to Seattle to take on the Huskies on Sunday. The match will be televised on Pac-12 Network, with first serve slated for 12 p.m. PT.