No. 8 Stanford women’s volleyball (17-4, 12-1 Pac-12) returned home to defeat Utah (13-11, 6-7 Pac-12) on Friday. Though the Cardinal had the upper hand for much of the match, the Utes still managed to force a fourth set. Ultimately, however, senior opposite Kendall Kipp and the Stanford squad ended the night with a 3-1 win.
Stanford was missing a regular starter in sophomore middle blocker Sami Francis, who remained on the sidelines for the third straight match. This is the second run of absences for Francis this season, as she missed several matches last month as well. Her spot on Friday was once again filled by junior middle blocker Annabelle Smith.
Play was tight in the first set. With the score tied at 10, sophomore setter Kami Miner connected with redshirt junior middle blocker McKenna Vicini for a powerful slide attack to left back. This energy was contagious for the Cardinal, allowing for five consecutive points on kills by Kipp, redshirt junior outside hitter Caitie Baird and freshman outside Elia Rubin. Junior libero Elena Oglivie was all over with nine digs in set one, spearheading a strong defense. The team fended off a late offensive surge from Utah to win the set 25-22.
Stanford executed with three aces in set two, including one from Rubin that trickled over the net, frustrating Utah. The Cardinal maintained their strong momentum from the first set, going on an eight point-run to claim the second with ease, 25-15.
In the break between sets two and three, Stanford recognized the 50th anniversary of Title IX by bringing alumni of the women’s volleyball program onto the court. The alumni represented the Cardinal’s first national semifinal and championship teams from 1982 and 1992, respectively.
The Cardinal had their lowest hitting percentage of the match in the third set, at .061. Even so, the two teams battled it out and the score remained close. With Stanford down 17-18, freshman setter Kelly Belardi served an ace to tie it at 18. But despite the Cardinal’s efforts, the Utes took the set 25-22 and avoided the sweep.
Stanford found its groove again in set four, and refused to take its foot off the pedal. The Cardinal hit their best of the match at .522, while the Utes had no response, hitting -.148. With the score 14-6, a pass into the net was saved by Miner and sent over the net by Belardi for one of the night’s most exciting rallies. A block by Vicini and Baird secured the point for Stanford. Already comfortably in the lead at 18-9, Stanford continued to be a force at the net, going on a 6-0 run to find set point at 24-9. Kipp and Smith ultimately teamed up to block Utah for the set, 25-11, and the match 3-1. The victory marked the Cardinal’s eleventh straight match win.
Kipp dominated on the court in Maples Pavilion, leading the Cardinal with 21 kills while hitting .378. Vicini had an astounding .800 hitting percentage with eight kills. Miner posted 39 assists and added a season-high five blocks. Oglivie performed defensively just when the team needed it, recording 18 digs.
The Cardinal will once again have home court advantage, facing off against Colorado (16-7, 8-5 Pac-12) Sunday at 12 p.m.