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Women’s volleyball upsets third-ranked Minnesota in opening weekend of surprises
Fifth-year senior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku (left) returned to action in the Cardinal's season opener against University of San Diego. Ajanaku, a three-time All-American is poised to play a key role in Stanford's upcoming season. (ROGER CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Women’s volleyball upsets third-ranked Minnesota in opening weekend of surprises

No. 11 Stanford women’s volleyball (1-1) kicked off its 2016 campaign with an exciting opening weekend slate. After dropping their opening match to West Coast Conference-favorite University of San Diego (1-1) on Friday, the Cardinal bounced back, upsetting No. 3 Minnesota (1-1) in a 3-1 victory at Maples Pavilion on Sunday.

After going up 2-0 against USD on Friday night, Stanford’s offense failed to overcome the Toreros’ shutdown defense despite strong performances across the board. After tallying 23 kills in the first two sets, the Cardinal managed just 34 kills in the last three as USD took the match 22-25, 19-25, 25-18, 25-21, 15-11. This marked just the second time Stanford has lost its season opener in the 16 years John Dunning has served as head coach.

Despite the loss, Stanford saw the arrival of a familiar face, as well as the debuts of four new team members. Fifth-year senior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku returned to the court after sitting out the 2015 season with a torn ACL. The three-time All-American recorded 11 kills and 8 blocks in her homecoming, hitting .429 on the night. Four of the Cardinal’s freshmen saw their first collegiate action, as middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris tallied 11 blocks, opposite Kathryn Plummer managed 12 kills, setter Jenna Gray registered 25 assists and libero Morgan Hentz led the team with 15 digs.

Two of Stanford’s returning members started the season out on the right foot, recording double-doubles in Friday’s opener. Sophomore outside hitter Hayley Hodson tallied 13 kills and 11 digs, and senior middle blocker Merete Lutz recorded 10 kills and tied a career high with 10 blocks.

Sunday’s win came on the back of stellar performances from freshmen Fitzmorris, Plummer and Gray. Fitzmorris and Plummer paced the squad with 13 kills apiece, and Gray recorded her first career double-double with 31 assists and 15 digs. The Cardinal led Minnesota in every major statistical category except digs and dominated with a 25-23, 25-15, 25-27, 25-19 victory.

It was a team win for the Cardinal, as six players registered 9 or more kills, six recorded at least 3 block assists and every player had a dig. Overall, Stanford outhit the Gophers .233 to .142.

Stanford will look to maintain momentum as the team travels to Colorado for the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge next weekend, which will feature matchups against No. 14 Illinois on Sept. 3 and No. 9 Penn State on Sept. 4.

 

Contact Olivia Hummer at ohummer ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Olivia Hummer

Olivia Hummer '17 is a managing editor of The Daily's sports section and writes about volleyball, football and baseball. When she's not filling in as an emergency copy editor, she can be found curled up in a ball bemoaning the misfortunes of her beloved Seattle Mariners or cursing the misuse of the Stanford Athletics logo. Olivia is a senior majoring in history from Covina, California, and can be reached at ohummer 'at' stanford.edu.