Women’s volleyball sweeps Arizona schools

No. 3 women’s volleyball (11-2, 4-0 Pac-12) continued its exceptional season with 3-0 wins against both No. 25 Arizona State (14-1, 2-1 Pac-12) and the University of Arizona (5-10, 0-4 Pac-12) on Friday and Sunday, respectively. With a remarkable team effort, the team ended the weekend on a five-game winning streak.

Starting their Friday game strong, the team took an early lead to the match with sophomore outside hitter Elia Rubin (11 digs and 12 kills on a .400 attack) and fifth-year opposite Kendall Kipp (three blocks, two aces and 15 kills on a .393 attack) leading with multiple kills each. The entire team communicated and smoothly hit point after point before a timeout.

The Sun Devils came back strong with three points until junior Sami Francis (five blocks and six kills on a .545 attack) scored two in a row, pushing Stanford’s lead to 22-17. With the final kill from Francis, the Cardinal ended the set victorious, 25-19.

Stanford’s biggest focus was Arizona State senior outside hitter Marta Levinska, but the Cardinal’s defensive reactions and communication quickly curbed her abilities. “We had a good defensive plan, and we keyed on her. It was good execution … we executed a good game plan,” said women’s volleyball coach Kevin Hambly.

Stanford came back to set two with the same tenacity as the first, following Kipp’s ace with three straight points to obtain a 6-2 lead. The two teams went back and forth on points for the rest of the set, but the Devils couldn’t pass the Cardinal. After scoring four consecutive points, the Cardinal won set two by a score of 25-18.

“It was a big team win. Everyone was focusing on their role,” said Rubin. The players alternated with their kills and digs, each adding another layer of success to the game. Redshirt senior Caitie Baird’s strong attacks were vital, earning the Cardinal three more points to solidify their set two lead.

Set three hit the nail into the coffin for the Sun Devils’ chances. The Cardinal scored six in a row at the beginning of the set, eventually holding the lead to 15-6. Despite the Cardinal’s strong performance, a scary situation occurred when key player Francis was taken out due to an injury. As of now, according to Hambly, it is unknown when Francis will be back on the court.

With a quick adaptation to this change, the team remained dedicated to picking up a win with senior libero Elena Oglivie’s powerful ace and additional points from Rubin, Kipp and redshirt senior middle blocker McKenna Vicini (three blocks adding to her 400th of her career and eight kills on a .462 attack). 

“No matter who’s out there on the court, any six of us, any combination, we’re all still very capable of getting as far as possible,” said Vicini.

After a final kill from Vicini, Stanford took home another win with a 25-14 final set score. 

Despite a four-game winning streak, Hambly said that the team is still taking it one game at a time.

“We go one at a time. We will be good for Arizona and figure [out] the next game,” she said. “You can’t look too far ahead and you can’t look back.”  

On Sunday afternoon, the team finished the weekend stretch successfully with a 3-0 win against the Arizona Wildcats. The game featured 20 kills by Kipp, 17 by Rubin and three by Vicini. Oglivie and Rubin each had 15 digs apiece while Kipp finished with an incredible 15 aces. 

The Cardinal dominated the first set, going on a 7-0 run after the first point to take an overwhelming lead. Stanford played incredible defense, holding the Wildcats to just five kills in the set. Set one finished with an incredible 17 point lead for Stanford (25-8).

Set two was more of the same: after Arizona held an early three point lead, the Cardinal were able to pull ahead thanks to the team’s defense and Kipp and Rubin’s offense. Rubin had perhaps her best offensive game of the year, hitting a career-high .593 on her swings.

Toward the end of the second set, senior Malia Tufuga made her presence known. Tufuga, who started in place of the injured Francis, tallied two kills in the final five points to help Stanford secure the set victory. 

The Wildcats put up a better fight in the final set, which was a back-and-forth battle until the finish. For most of the third set, Arizona maintained a one-to-two point lead over the Cardinal. But toward the end of the set, star players Rubin, Miner and Kipp began taking over the game, flipping the momentum in Stanford’s direction. A final kill from Kipp allowed Stanford to secure a 3-0 sweep of the Wildcats. 

The women’s volleyball team continues their season at Washington — facing the University of Washington on Oct. 6 and Washington State on Oct. 8 — and will return to host USC and UCLA the following week.