On Sunday afternoon, No. 12 women’s volleyball (3-1, 0-0 Pac-12) suited up for the toughest matchup of their young season thus far, hosting No. 1-ranked Texas (4-0, 0-0 Big 12) at Maples Pavilion.
Of the two teams’ six most recent meetings prior to Sunday, Texas was victorious just once, a straight set win over the Cardinal a year ago in Austin. But in the aftermath of Stanford’s NCAA dominance — claiming three national championships in four years between 2016 and 2019 — the Longhorns have emerged as a powerhouse all their own, going 27-2 last year before losing in the regional finals.
Texas lived up to their recent history and No. 1 ranking on Sunday, requiring just over 90 minutes to hand the Cardinal a straight set loss, Stanford’s first of the 2022 season.
Though Texas boasts a deep roster, perhaps the most lethal weapon in its arsenal is senior outside Logan Eggleston. And Eggleston, last year’s Big 12 Conference Player of the Year and an AVCA First Team All-American, was in on the action from the first point, which she quickly put away with a kill.
Stanford briefly took the lead at 4-3, but it would turn out to be for the first and last time. The Longhorns gradually increased their advantage to 14-10, and from there they never looked back. Eggleston ended the first game exactly as she had started it, with her kill giving Texas the set, 25-18.
The second set was much the same, with Stanford struggling to handle their opponents’ relentless attacks and score on a seemingly impenetrable defense. Senior opposite Kendall Kipp had the most success in getting past the near-wall of Texas blocks, with 14 kills on the day, but it was not enough. This time it was Longhorn redshirt senior Asjia O’Neal who sealed the set for Texas, winning once again by a comfortable 25-18 margin.
“They’ve got a lot of players who have played at a high level for a long time,” Stanford head coach Kevin Hambly said of Texas, whose roster this year includes a number of sought-after transfers like setter Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres and outside Madisen Skinner.
In set three, Stanford quickly found themselves down 7-1. And while the match looked to be slipping away from them, the Cardinal would not go down easily. They played some of their grittiest volleyball as the match neared its conclusion, including a standout performance from freshman outside Elia Rubin, who registered six of her seven total kills in that third set. But once again, they could not match Texas, and the Longhorns closed out the set 25-20 and the win 3-0.
Texas had held Stanford to a cumulative attack percentage of .192, while they themselves posted a comparably dominant .365. Eggleston led her team with a match-high 16 kills.
Simply put, said Hambly, “they out-executed us today for sure,” and exposed a number of areas, on both offense and defense, to work on when the Cardinal returns to practice.
“We didn’t pick up hitters in the right spot on the block,” said Hambly. “We didn’t put ourselves necessarily in the best spot on defense as possible.” He also pinpointed setting and hitting as areas the team will focus on.
Even so, Hambly points out that this is just the beginning of the season and that facing Texas provided an opportunity to improve and prepare for matches down the line.
“There’s like a million little details that we get to spend the rest of this year fighting for, which is great,” said Hambly. “I’m excited for them.”
Stanford’s challenging pre-conference schedule continues this coming week with back-to-back matches against Big 10 standouts No. 21 Penn State (6-0, 0-0 Big 10) and No. 4 Minnesota (3-1, 0-0 Big 10). First serve against the Nittany Lions is scheduled for Friday at 2:30 p.m.