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Women’s volleyball heads south to take on UCLA, USC
Defensive specialist Morgan Hentz is leading the Stanford team in digs. Hentz will have to continue her stellar performance in order to help the team defeat ranked opponents UCLA and USC. (AL CHANG/isiphotos.com)

Women’s volleyball heads south to take on UCLA, USC

No. 14 Stanford women’s volleyball (11-5, 5-3 Pac-12) will travel to Los Angeles this weekend to take on two ranked opponents, No. 15 UCLA (14-4, 5-3) on Friday and No. 25 USC (13-6, 5-3) on Sunday.

With seven teams (including the Cardinal, Bruins and Trojans) tied for second place in the Pac-12 with a 5-3 conference record, this weekend’s matchups should provide some clarity to the standings.

The two matches will be tests for the Cardinal to prove themselves, especially after tough losses to Utah and Arizona in the last two weeks.

UCLA will prove to be a challenge both in the offensive and the defensive fields of play. The Bruins have had an overall successful season, but, much like the Cardinal, have dropped some tight games against opponents such as San Diego and Arizona.

Despite these losses, the UCLA offense has dominated several games utilizing its well-balanced team. The Bruins have managed an impressive 977 kills this season, allowing them to start off the year with a seven-game winning streak and to continue their strong play thereafter.

The Cardinal too have been able to secure wins due to a strong attacking end that has tallied a sum of 898 kills.

Every member of the Stanford squad has contributed to these efforts, but fifth-year senior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku (172 kills), freshman opposite Kathryn Plummer (168), freshman middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris (163) and senior blocker Merete Lutz (152) have made big strides for the Cardinal.

Stanford defense has been a great source of security as the team has relied on it during major games. Sporting a total of 925 digs (14.2 per set) and 222 blocks (3.4 per set) the Cardinal have been able to come out of tricky situations and rely on their offense to gain the lead back.

Leading the pack in digs is freshman defensive specialist Morgan Hentz with 283 (4.35 per set). Following behind her is senior setter Kelsey Humphreys who has totaled 114 digs (1.75 per set) and freshman setter Jenna Gray with 101 digs (1.55 per set).

After the UCLA game the Cardinal will face a quick turnaround as they prepare to take on another ranked opponent, USC.

The Trojans have a more offensively focused team, giving the Cardinal the opportunity to focus more efforts on its offensive end and take control of the match.

USC has dominated opponents with 971 kills, outpacing the Cardinal in both kills and attacks. The Trojans have posted 250 more attacks than the Cardinal team, giving them the chance for more kills.

The USC team has also had many digs, but its ability to block suffers in comparison to the rest of their successes. Averaging 2.3 blocks per set, USC has totaled 161 blocks this season. Although very strong, this small weakness might give the Cardinal offense a bit more leeway in tallying more kills and tipping the game in its favor.

This weekend will prove tough, and the Cardinal will have to be resilient and determined if they plan on beating both of these tough foes.

Friday’s game against UCLA will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network at 8 p.m., and Sunday’s matchup with USC will be televised on ESPNU at 2 p.m.

Contact Laura Sussman at laura111 ‘at’ stanford.edu.