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Women’s volleyball takes down Utah

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No. 19 Stanford women’s volleyball (16-10, 11-7 Pac-12) traveled to Salt Lake City to play against No. 17 Utah (19-8, 12-6 Pac-12) on Sunday afternoon. With stellar performances from junior opposite Kendall Kipp and redshirt sophomore outside hitter Caitie Baird, the Cardinal defeated the Utes 3-1.

When the two teams clashed earlier this season at Maples Pavilion, much of the Cardinal’s defensive strategy focused on Utah’s star outside hitter Dani Drews. In that mid-October showdown, Drews, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year, still managed 20 kills.

On Sunday, Drews went for 19 kills, but the Cardinal took strides to curtail her efficiency. Drews recorded a .192 hitting percentage for the match, well below her season average of .270.

With Drews’s limited productivity, Stanford was able to outperform Utah offensively. For the match, the Cardinal hit at a .313 clip, compared to Utah’s .273.

In the first set, Stanford rode this offensive advantage to a 16-12 lead before the Utah offense caught fire. After trailing for the majority of the first set, the Utes finished on a 13-6 run to beat the Cardinal 25-22.

Drews led the way with six first set kills, while Kipp recorded five kills on just nine swings.

The second, third and fourth sets were all close and bound by a common theme: Stanford was able to edge past Utah when it mattered most.

After a tight start to the second set, the Cardinal opened up a 22-14 lead. The Cardinal were just three points away from winning the set and evening the match, but the Utes would not go down without a fight.

Utah rallied, surviving two set points to make the score 24-21. With the momentum back on Utah’s side, Baird shut the door. The outside hitter connected for a kill off an assist from freshman setter Kami Miner to give Stanford a 25-21 win.

The third set, like the previous two, came down to the wire. After a kill from Utah setter Stef Jankiewicz, the Cardinal trailed 21-23. In desperate need of a side-out, Baird and redshirt sophomore middle blocker McKenna Vicini forced an attack error from Drews to give Stanford the serve.

Baird capitalized on the side-out, finding the open court for a service ace on the following point. Then, freshman outside hitter Sami Francis gave Stanford its first lead of the set with a kill.

On set point, Francis and Vicini combined for a block to clinch a 25-23 victory.

The fourth and final set saw the two teams tied at 13 different scores, the last of which occurred at 19-all.

Kipp broke the tie with a kill off a pass from Miner, and sophomore libero Elena Oglivie followed with her second ace of the match. Five plays later, another Kipp kill gave the Cardinal a 24-22 lead and two match points.

But they would only need one. Vicini and Miner forced a Utah attack error to secure a 25-22 fourth set victory and the match.

Throughout the afternoon, both Kipp and Baird were a force to be reckoned with at the net. Both players recorded an efficient 19 kills. Kipp hit .385 for the match, while Baird hit .311. Kipp also recorded 10 digs to give her a second consecutive double-double.

Defensively, Oglivie recorded a match-high 17 digs, and freshman defensive specialist Taylor Beaven had 12. Miner, who ran the Stanford offense at the setter position, posted a team-high 49 assists.

With Stanford’s win against Utah, the Cardinal are now on a three-match winning streak. The streak includes victories over two ranked opponents: No. 21 Washington State and No. 17 Utah.

Stanford women’s volleyball will finish up its regular-season conference slate with matches against USC and Cal. First, the Cardinal will travel to Los Angeles to take on the Trojans. First serve against USC is scheduled for 4 p.m. PT on Wednesday.

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Gavin McDonell is a desk editor in the sports section. He is a sophomore from San Francisco, California who is studying Mathematical and Computational Science and Economics. His rooting interests include the San Francisco Giants, the Golden State Warriors, Max Homa and of course, the Stanford Cardinal. Contact him at gmcdonell 'at' stanforddaily.com.