No. 19 Stanford women’s volleyball (12-9, 7-6 Pac-12) returned home to host No. 18 Oregon (17-6, 8-5 Pac-12) at Maples Pavilion Thursday night. Despite a solid team effort, the Cardinal fell to the Ducks in straight sets.
In the two teams’ first match of the season in early October — a five-set thriller in Eugene — Oregon prevailed. Thus, the Ducks’ win on Thursday secured them a season sweep over the Cardinal, their first in program history. It was also Oregon’s first three-set victory over Stanford since the teams first played in 1986.
Stanford entered Thursday’s match missing two starters: junior opposite Kendall Kipp and sophomore defensive specialist Alex Lougeay were both sidelined with injuries.
With two openings in the starting lineup and the Cardinal on a three-game losing streak, Coach Kevin Hambly decided to shake up the rotation. Sophomore Elena Oglivie, the regular starting libero, took the court at outside hitter, while junior Natalie Berty, traditionally an outside hitter, played the defensive specialist position. Further, freshman Taylor Beaven, who often plays defensive specialist, started at libero.
The Cardinal took a moment to settle into their new positions, going down 3-1 to Oregon to begin the match. But from that point onward, the first set was neck-and-neck.
With the score tied at 22, redshirt sophomore middle blocker McKenna Vicini connected for a kill off a pass from freshman setter Kami Miner to give Stanford the lead. Oregon outside hitter Brooke Nuneviller quickly responded with a kill to even the score at 23. Then, Oglivie found a hole in the Oregon defense to give Stanford a 24-23 advantage and set point.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal, it would be their only set point of the match. Oregon evened the score and four plays later pulled off a 27-25 victory.
The first set ultimately came down to errors by Stanford. The Cardinal recorded nine attack errors, five service errors and two net violations in the opening set alone. Stanford also struggled to contain Nuneviller, who tallied five kills on just 11 swings.
Stanford opened an 11-8 lead in the second set before a 5-0 run from Oregon forced Coach Hambly to take a timeout. The Ducks maintained their slim lead, eventually going ahead 23-21.
A service error from redshirt sophomore outside hitter Caitie Baird gave Oregon a 24-21 advantage and three set points. On the first set point, Vicini placed a tip perfectly to keep the Cardinal alive. Then, after a long rally, an Oregon attack error made the score 24-23. Oregon took a timeout to regroup.
On the Ducks’ third and final set point, they finally executed, and another kill from Nuneviller gave them a 25-23 win.
The third set was a similar story for the Cardinal: they took an early lead but ultimately could not hold on.
Senior middle blocker Holly Campbell’s fourth kill of the match put Stanford ahead 16-12. The Cardinal lead later stretched to five points, following an Oregon service error.
Stanford went up 23-21, but it was all Oregon from there. The Ducks won four straight points to close out the set 25-23. Fittingly, the match ended with back-to-back kills from Nuneviller.
Although each set was close, Oregon posted consistently better numbers than Stanford for the match. The Ducks hit .240, compared to the Cardinal’s .196 hitting percentage. Oregon also had more blocks, digs and aces than Stanford.
Freshman Sami Francis, who played opposite against Oregon, led Stanford with 12 kills. Baird chipped in eight kills on 32 swings. Returning from an injury, Miner recorded a double-double with 29 assists and 10 digs.
Oglivie, in just her second appearance at outside hitter, played a well-rounded match. She collected seven kills, six digs and an ace.
“It has been a little bit challenging,” Oglivie said of her transition to outside hitter. “But I did play outside in high school and for Team USA, so it was a little bit in my back pocket.”
Stanford has now lost four straight matches, which marks the program’s longest losing streak since 2000. The Cardinal have also fallen to sixth place in the Pac-12 standings. There has been a silver lining during this tough stretch, though: several Cardinal players have gained valuable experience at new positions.
“I think we’re definitely growing,” Oglivie said. “I think a lot of people had to step up and had opportunities to really showcase their talents. It was really cool to see my teammates grow and people who don’t usually get to play got to play.”
Stanford women’s volleyball will look to snap its losing streak, as it hosts Oregon State (3-19, 1-11 Pac-12) on Sunday. In 66 previous matches, Stanford has never lost to Oregon State. First serve against the Beavers is scheduled for 12 p.m. PT at Maples Pavilion.