Passing, serving and distribution were different in Palo Alto than they were in Seattle
- #5 Stanford def. #3 Washington 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-22)
- next: #3 Washington @ #23 California | November 22 | 6PM | Pac 12 Networks
[11.21.13 | 11:25AM: CORRECTED to reflect Oregon's 2011 victory at Stanford in 2011]
As Pac-12 volleyball teams know, Stanford and Washington are tough places to win. Since 2005, only 11 opposing conference teams have won in Seattle’s Hec Ed Pavilion. Over that same stretch, just 11 have won in Stanford’s Maples Pavilion.
Wednesday night, Stanford continued its home-court dominance, defeating Washington in Palo Alto for the sixth straight year. The 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-22) loss trims Washington’s lead in the Pac-12 title race to one game with three matches remaining.
When the teams met October 20 in Seattle, Stanford middles Carly Wopat and Inky Ajanaku had a combined 38 attempts in five sets. But in Palo Alto, the two had 39 chances in just three sets. Washington’s serving—so deadly much of the season—did little to rattle the Cardinal the second time around. When passers are on target, many more sets will go to middles, especially at Stanford.
The Huskies’ middles, Lianna Sybeldon and Melanie Wade, had just 28 attempts between them Wednesday, resulting in just 5 kills. Again, it was an indication of Washington’s uncharacteristically poorer passing, especially by Krista Vansant, who was aced three times.
Throughout the first two sets, Washington outscored Stanford whenever Vansant was in the front row. But when Vansant—the defending National Player of the Week— moved to the back rowthe Cardinal were unstoppable. In the first two sets, the Huskies scored 8 points off their serve to 5 for Stanford with Vansant in front. But that was overwhelmed by a 20-7 Cardinal advantage in sets one and two when Vansant was in the back.
If there was a change in strategy or attitude after the second set break, it made a difference, but in an odd way. In the third and final set, UW scored 3 points off its serve to none for Stanford when Vansant was in back, but was outscored 9-5 when she rotated to the front. The key point of the set came with the score tied at 20. Stanford scored three in a row, including two during rallies when the Huskies too often opted to hit soft shots that the Cardinal dug easily.
For the match, Washington ran more than half its offense through Vansant (36 attempts) and Kaleigh Nelson (32 attempts). By comparison, all five of Stanford’s hitters had 17 or more attempts, and the hitter with the fewest attempts, Rachel Williams, had the most Stanford kills, 11.
Washington now travels across the Bay Bridge to Berkeley, where it’s had much more success over the years than in Palo Alto. Both Stanford and Washington have three conference matches remaining—both play Cal and Washington State; UW also plays last place Oregon State; Stanford must travel to Arizona, which upset USC in Tucson a few weeks ago. The Huskies, then, control their destiny, and—with that one-game lead—can all but assure themselves at least a share of the title if they win at Cal.