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Women’s volleyball dominates Oregon schools, improves win streak
Sophomore Kathryn Plummer (above) led the Cardinal in the win against Oregon on Sunday with 14 kills. (AL CHANG/isiphotos.com)

Women’s volleyball dominates Oregon schools, improves win streak

Stanford’s No. 2-ranked women’s volleyball team cannot be stopped. Over the weekend they crushed Oregon State (17-9, 7-7 Pac-12) and No. 16-ranked Oregon (15-7, 8-6), improving their record to 21-2 and remaining undefeated in the Pac-12 with a 14-0 record. They are still riding a 16-game winning streak that doesn’t show any signs of stopping.

In their two weekend matches, the Cardinal didn’t give up a single set. They didn’t even let their opponents score more than 18 points in any set. They dominated the opposing teams on the court from start to finish and closed out both games in clinical fashion, with incredible offensive performances from a variety of players.

An enormous amount of the Cardinal’s success comes from their offensive versatility. Every single attacker on the team is a fearsome opponent at the net. In both matches against the Oregon schools, the Cardinal had three players with 10 or more kills.

On Friday night against the Beavers, the offense ran through sophomore middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris. Fitzmorris’ slide hitting was unstoppable, as she collected a team-high 11 kills with a .667 hitting percentage. She was also a force all along the net, collecting a team-high 6 blocks.

Fitzmorris’ presence in the middle of the court opened up room for senior opposite hitter Merete Lutz to knock down 11 kills from the outside, with a .409 hitting percentage. Redshirt freshman Michaela Keefe saw significant playing time on the wing in this game after missing much of last year with an injury and took advantage of the opportunity to put up 10 kills and a .348 hitting percentage. The Cardinal as a whole hit well throughout the match, boasting a cumulative .424 hitting percentage.

Fitzmorris spoke to how the Cardinal’s diversity on offense helps their game plan: “We have an incredible amount of attackers, a lot of versatility, which really helps us because we can adjust to different teams. If they have one great hitter, then we can put up a different kind of block and attack different parts of their court.”

Fitzmorris had an enormous amount of help from her other teammates as well, particularly the superstar sophomore duo, setter Jenna Gray and libero Morgan Hentz. Hentz had a ridiculous 21 digs on the night. Every time the ball was spiked by Oregon State, Hentz was waiting in the gap for the reception. Gray put up 45 assists and notched two service aces, two kills, three digs and four blocks, assisting the team in all aspects of their game as they closed it out 3-0.

Sunday’s game against the Ducks featured a recognition ceremony for now retired head coach John Dunning. Dunning coached the Cardinal for 16 seasons and led them to three national championships, including one last year. He was honored after the second set with a volleyball signed by the 2016 team.

Dunning was liked and respected by his peers and players throughout his years of experience. Current Cardinal head coach Kevin Hambly remarked, “What I really respect about him is how he carried himself, and how he treated others and how eager he was to have a conversation about volleyball with anybody … He was a great ambassador for our game, and he set the standard in that way.”

During the match, sophomore ace Kathryn Plummer caught fire after her relatively quiet game on Friday, leading the offense with 14 kills and a .385 hitting percentage. The most impressive part of her game on Sunday was her five service aces, each one dazzling the crowd.

Plummer was as impressed as the crowd with how well her serve went over in the game. “It’s a new serve this year; Kevin [Hambly] has been working on it with me really hard in practice. To be able to integrate it into a match like this is cool because it’s like ‘Oh, it’s actually working?’”

The rest of the Cardinal offense was as productive as ever. Lutz put up 13 kills and a massive .688 hitting percentage. Freshman wing Meghan McClure stepped up in all stages of the game, clocking in 10 kills and two service aces but also playing well on defense. In a game where Hentz wasn’t as dominant with only nine digs, McClure assisted the team by picking up seven digs of her own and keeping plays alive.

The Pac-12’s most efficient hitter, junior middle blocker Tami Alade was perfect on the day, knocking down all five of her attacks for five kills down the middle. Alade is an incredible decoy, ready to strike on every single play and jumping for every ball so that when Gray does decide to feed her the ball it goes in nearly every time.

Fitzmorris also joined in from the middle, grabbing seven more kills and a .636 hitting percentage in addition to a team-high five blocks. Stanford’s strength at the middle blocker position makes them a truly fearsome opponent. The team as a whole clocked its second highest hitting percentage of the year, a cumulative .519.

The team has six more games left on its schedule, all of which come from within the Pac-12. The Cardinal will look to continue their 16-game win streak on Wednesday, when they travel to take on the Washington Huskies. The game begins at 7 p.m. PST.

 

Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada “at” stanford.edu