No. 9 women’s volleyball bests Washington in first home victory

Oct. 1, 2022, 12:57 p.m.

No. 9 Stanford women’s volleyball (7-4, 2-1 Pac-12) returned to Maples Pavilion on Friday for only their third home game of the year so far. After coming up short early, the Cardinal took control on their home court to claim a conference win over No. 17 Washington (10-3, 2-1 Pac-12) in four sets, felling the Huskies for the first time since 2018.

Notably absent from the Stanford lineup on Friday night was sophomore middle blocker Sami Francis. A regular starter, Francis has now missed the Cardinal’s last three games, all conference matchups, for undisclosed reasons. Unlike in their previous two games, Francis did appear in uniform on Friday and warmed up as normal alongside her teammates. But when gameplay began, her usual spot was occupied by junior middle blocker Annabelle Smith, who helped the Cardinal with a match-high seven blocks. 

The outing was tight from the beginning and saw no fewer than 27 tied scores in total. Late in the first set, Washington lost outside Madi Endsley to a leg injury. Endsley was helped off the court, eventually returning on crutches to watch the remainder of the match. 

Despite losing one of their starters, the Huskies fought back and a series of ties followed. Washington broke the final tie at 24 and then took the set 26-24.

“I think we came out really hard,” said senior opposite Kendall Kipp, who finished the night with 19 kills. “And I think we dipped a little bit in the middle, just lost some focus and got a little frazzled with the injury and everything going on.”

But in set two, Kipp said, Stanford set out to flip the script. Though the score was tight early on, the Cardinal edged out the Huskies to take a commanding lead. Redshirt junior middle blocker McKenna Vicini and freshman outside Elia Rubin teamed up to block Washington and take the set comfortably, 25-17.

Set three followed a similar path, but Stanford again managed to pull away. Kipp and Smith paired for a block to find set point. A couple points later, Kipp tooled the block to claim the third set for Stanford 25-20 and take a 2-1 lead in the match.

As the fourth set got underway, the Huskies seemed to rediscover the hitting and blocking they had been missing in the previous two sets. But Stanford again found its own tempo to take a late lead, helped by a number of lethal kills from redshirt junior outside Caitie Baird. A final kill from Rubin gave the Cardinal match point, and sophomore setter Kami Miner surprised the Huskies with a blind, over-the-shoulder attack on the second touch to clinch the set 25-21 and the match 3-1.

Along with Kipp’s 19 kills, Baird and Rubin each finished with 17. Miner had 49 assists and Baird led the team with 18 digs. Junior libero Elena Oglivie posted 17 digs of her own.

Head coach Kevin Hambly attributed a lot of his team’s performance to adjustments in hitting tactics. “You saw us maybe tip long, throw more and hit space,” Hambly said of sets two through four. “We were aware of what they were doing defensively, and I thought we took advantage of the things that they were giving us instead of just blasting away and hoping.”

Hambly specifically cited Rubin, the only freshman in Stanford’s starting lineup, as a player for whom these changes have made all the difference. Though earlier in the season, he said, “she was blasted away, and there was a lot of hope in the way she was attacking,” her versatility was on full display Friday night. 

“I think she played with a purpose in the way she attacked,” Hambly said. “It was really cool to see.”

This sense of purpose extended to the entire lineup, according to Kipp. “I think we were just hungry for our first home win of the season,” she said. “We knew that we hadn’t shown our best game yet at home, so we just wanted to really do that tonight.”

Stanford will remain at home for their next matchup against Washington State on Sunday, Oct. 2. First serve is set for 12 p.m. in Maples Pavilion.

Madeline Grabb is a desk editor for the sports section. She is a sophomore from Sagaponack, New York, planning on studying the humanities. You can find her pondering the human consequences of performance-enhancing drugs and the greater meaning behind the term "Friday night lights." Contact her at sports 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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