No. 15 Stanford women’s volleyball (12-7, 7-4 Pac-12) began its desert road trip Friday evening, matching up against Arizona (13-9, 5-6 Pac-12) at McKale Memorial Center. The Cardinal got off to a slow start and never recovered, losing to the Wildcats in straight sets.
In the teams’ Oct. 3 matchup at Maples Pavilion, Stanford was nothing short of dominant. The Cardinal hit .380 as a squad and rolled to a 25-15, 25-18, 25-17 straight-set victory.
This time around, Stanford was missing three starters: junior opposite Kendall Kipp, sophomore defensive specialist Alex Lougeay and freshman setter Kami Miner. With these absences on offense, defense and at the setter position, the Cardinal had their work cut out against the Wildcats.
Filling in for Lougeay, freshman defensive specialist Taylor Beaven started the match on a strong note with a service ace. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, this 1-0 lead would be their only advantage of the set. Arizona immediately responded with three straight points and was off to the races.
Stanford struggled to contain Arizona’s sophomore outside hitter duo of Jaelyn Hodge and Sofia Maldonado Diaz. Hodge registered five of her seven kills in the first frame, while Maldonado Diaz recorded six, including on the final two points of the set. In the end, Arizona took the set 25-19.
Stanford’s hopes that the first set was an anomaly were quickly brushed aside as Arizona leapt out to another lead in the second. Hodge and Maldonado Diaz continued to do damage as the Cardinal struggled to kickstart their offense.
By the time head coach Kevin Hambly called a timeout, Stanford was down 6-10. Following the break in the action, the Cardinal crept within two points thanks to a service error from Hodge and an ace from junior setter Selina Xu. However, Arizona responded with a quick 5-1 run.
After another Stanford timeout, a 6-0 Wildcat spree all but closed out the second set. The Cardinal survived the first set point after redshirt sophomore outside hitter Caitie Baird and senior middle blocker Holly Campbell assisted on a block. On the following play, a service error by Baird clinched a 25-14 Arizona victory.
Stanford gained some momentum at the beginning of the third set, as junior outside hitter Natalie Berty and freshman outside hitter Sami Francis helped put together a 3-0 run.
However, the underlying story of the third set was the same: the shorthanded Cardinal struggled to keep up with the Wildcats offense.
Arizona jumped out to a 13-6 lead, before Baird responded with back-to-back kills. From that point forward, the Arizona lead fluctuated between two and five points until Arizona earned three match points.
On the first two match points, Francis connected for kills off assists from sophomore setter Malia Tufuga. The Cardinal had a chance to even the score at 24, but on the final match point, Francis appeared to collide with the net on a block attempt. The referees quickly blew the whistle for a violation.
With nothing to lose, Hambly challenged the final play, but the replay review confirmed what the players on the floor already knew: Arizona had won the third set and the match.
On a night where so little went right for the Cardinal, redshirt sophomore middle blocker McKenna Vicini’s play was a bright spot. Vicini, who leads the Pac-12 in blocks, stepped up offensively in the absence of Kipp and Miner. For the match, she collected five kills on a .625 hitting percentage.
Baird led the Cardinal with eight kills and four blocks, while Francis tallied seven kills of her own.
Stanford women’s volleyball will look to rebound from back-to-back straight-set losses when the team takes on Arizona State on Sunday afternoon. First serve against the Sun Devils is scheduled for 1 p.m. PT in Tempe, Ariz.