9-4 | Act III begins

by Glenn on October 11, 2015

A photo posted by Stanford Women’s Volleyball (@stanfordwvb) on

Friday was a good night to be a Stanford Women’s Volleyball fan. The Cardinal executed well on their way to a 3-0 sweep of Oregon State. I was working late on Friday doing a manual labor sort of task, so it was distracted viewing, but at least it was viewing. (Couldn’t hang in there for the 1:00 am replay.) Stanford looked really sharp. It’s great to see your team play well. There were a couple of moments in games where Stanford was down a couple of points, but as I watched their level of play I accepted a Cardinal victory as a foregone conclusion.

Three things to delight in on Friday night:

1. The block was there and it was solid. Stanford routinely had pairs of hands above the net slowing the Oregon State attack. When you look at the stats, Stanford only had 2.5 more team blocks than Oregon State, but there was more machine-like precision to their coordination and there were plenty of tips that set up great passing and setting for the easy score.

2. Jordan Burgess looked like she feels better. I have no insider knowledge of the team, but it seems like Burgess has been playing hurt this season. Friday night she didn’t appear injured and some of her attacks were very quick. It’s exciting to see a senior perform at the level you’ve grown used to in previous seasons. It was the Jordan of old. That’s great. You can only wish her well as she finishes her senior year.

3. Hayley Hodson was unconscious. 16 kills at a .652 rate. That’s beyond efficiency. The future is bright for Stanford. And yet she wasn’t a one-woman show. Burgess with 10, Merete Lutz with 9, Brittany Howard with 6, and Ivana Vanjak with 5. Stanford had 48 kills to Oregon State’s 36.

Of course, Oregon State is an unranked team and, at the risk of sounding disparaging, there is a lack of quickness to their attack. Their sets are high and slow allowing for a block to set up properly. Yet, they were scrappy on defense so I don’t think you can call this an “easy win.” I am hoping this game marks the beginning of the third act for this season, where Stanford finds its stride. We’ll know more this evening when they play Oregon.

Act I

Act I was the opening 8 games, pairs of home games bookending four challenging road contests, including losses to Penn State and North Carolina. Stanford was 6-2 at the end of this act. They began with a #2 ranking and moved to #8 after the loss to North Carolina.

Act II

Act II began with the opening of the conference season—a win over California—which led into the week that was—three games in six days. It’s been a little hectic and I haven’t done any writing about these matches.

Re: USC—I wish Stanford would play USC again this conference season. Their one contest this season on Sunday 27 September was a loss, but it was a 5-set loss. Those two sets USC lost to the Cardinal were as many sets as they had lost in their previous 13 matches. Samantha Bricio is this year’s Micha Hancock. Like Hancock, Bricio unsettles opponents with a powerful serve and dominates games with offense (Hancock as both a setter and offensive threat; Bricio as an extraordinary attacker). Still, it was a match that could have gone the other way.

Stanford then traveled to the desert to play the two Arizona teams. They beat #14 Arizona and lost to #6 Arizona State.

Re: UA—The UA match went five sets. My notes show that Stanford was a second opponent for itself in that match. Any strings of points that Arizona had were largely the result of Stanford hitting errors—27, in fact, to go with eleven service errors. But a win is a win and you wish your team wasn’t struggling, but when they struggle and win, it’s a relief.

Re: ASU—The loss to ASU was hard to watch. Stanford had played so well against USC and it felt like they simply came up short. But here the Cardinal were dominated by Arizona State, including a 22-kill performance by Macey Gardner. (ASU is having a great season, although my understanding is that Macey Gardner was injured recently and I’m sure that is a blow. I always want my team to win. I don’t want my team to win because someone on the other team has been hurt.)

What was strange about this string of matches is that Stanford was ranked #8 going in and came out ranked #7. You lose two out of three matches and move up? I don’t know how that works, but we’ll take it. It’s notable that the rankings were accurate. #8 Stanford beat unranked California and #14 Arizona and lost to #3 Southern California and #6 Arizona State.

Act III

My hope for this third act is for seven wins to follow Friday night’s win over OSU. The matches against ranked opponents will be at home.

11 October | 5:00 pm | Oregon (#25 AVCA) at Stanford
16 October | 7:00 pm | Stanford at Utah
18 October | 1:00 pm | Stanford at Colorado
21 October | 7:30 pm | Washington (#6 AVCA) at Stanford
23 October | 7:00 pm | Washington State at Stanford
28 October | 7:30 pm | Arizona State (#5 AVCA) at Stanford
30 October | 8:00 pm | Arizona (#14 AVCA) at Stanford

***

Other thoughts:

1. I guess I thought that Washington would struggle this year with a departing head coach and a graduated Krista Vansant. Good for them that they are playing so well. I will be rooting that Stanford can outplay them here in a couple of weeks.

2. The conventional wisdom has been that Penn State was unbeatable this year and that we could save time and trouble by giving them the national title. While I was waiting for the Stanford/ASU match to begin, I saw a few minutes of the Nebraska vs. Penn State contest. What was remarkable was that Nebraska was down 0-2 on the road and came back and won. Beautiful to watch that kind of resilience.