Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pac-12 | What we learned from Washington volleyball’s loss to Stanford

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.

[11.21.13 | chart corrected to reflect Stanford's 2011 home loss to Oregon]

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.


  1. Ouch! That game should have put a lot of fear into the Huskies, they were owned across the board. Inky is a scary force and only a sophomore! They need to find a way to stop that right hand outside cross court kill she has. That was your wake up call ladies!

  2. Being able to pass Strickland was an enormous aid to the Cardinal. She didn't seem to be serving easy... Stanford just seemed to be able to get their hands on her atom serves. JMac's alternation of Strickland and Parker in the front row failed miserably... Parker's offense was easier to control than Strickland's, she didn't provide much blocking and the Cardinal usually sided out immediately after the sub, wasting it. At set point in set one, presumably short of subs, JMac tried a two person serve receive and Van Sant seemed so focused on the seeming canyon between herself and Orlandini that she stepped into it, shanking a serve aimed right at her. The only Pac-10/Pac-12 libero I've ever seen who left her two-person serve receive partner confident was magician Chrissie Zartman of UCLA.

    1. Stanford came out very confident, not the least bit intimidated,a model of efficiency and execution, not sure how Jim had the team prepared to play, but he saw alot of poor passing, dinks from our middles while wopat and ajanaku pounded away at will, more poor passing, set after set to Krista, where was Kylin, what happened to Cassie, where did the team I love go? because I sure hope they find them before the match with Cal

  3. Does anyone have an idea (assuming we win out) how this loss might affect our seeding? I wonder if the committee will find a way to send us to Lincoln, just for grins.


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