Just as Stanford's women's volleyball match with host Washington was getting under way, Arizona was putting the finishing touches on an upset of top-ranked and previously undefeated -- in Pac-12 Conference play -- USC on Sunday.
Washington outlasted Stanford, 14-25, 25-21, 25-11, 22-25, 15-12, giving the Huskies a second key for the penthouse.
The Cardinal (6-2 in conference play, 13-4 overall) can still be thankful to the Wildcats, since USC handed Stanford its previous conference setback.
Stanford doesn't really move much in the standings. They lost a share of second place, though, and are officially in third. The beauty of this year's schedule gives the Cardinal a second chance against the Trojans and Huskies in the friendly confines of Maples Pavilion. Stanford will be wary of that trip to Arizona later in the season.
The next challenge arrives in the form of Oregon, which visits for a Wednesday affair at 7:30 p.m. The Ducks and Arizona are tied for fourth place, a game behind Stanford. The Wildcats helped tighten the race significantly in the Pac-12.
Eight teams are within three games, or less, of first place, including Utah, California and Colorado, all of which are 4-4 in conference play and own an overall winning record. In fact, until the Buffaloes knocked off Oregon State on Sunday, all 12 teams had a record of .500 or better. UCLA, which moved into a tie for ninth place, is at 11-7 on the year.
A five-set match between Washington and Stanford is more commonplace than one would think. The past three trips to Seattle have gone the distance and even prior to that, the two teams have played some memorable five-set matches.
Even in the loss, Stanford players recorded a few milestones, with senior Carly Wopat recording her 1,000th career kill and joining teammate Rachel Williams with that distinction. Inky Ajanaku, a sophomore, collected her 400th kill.
Sophomore outside hitter Brittany Howard led the Cardinal with 14 kills and 11 digs, her fourth double-double of the season. Williams recorded her team-best seventh double-double of the year with 13 kills and 12 digs.
Sophomore outside hitter Jordan Burgess finished with 13 kills and 10 digs for her second double-double of the year. As a team, Stanford outhit Washington, .287 to .210.
Ajanaku finished with 11 kills and five blocks in the match, while Wopat had five kills and six blocks. Wopat is the 14th Stanford player since 1986 to reach that plateau.
Sophomore setter Madi Bugg notched her fourth double-double of the season with 49 assists and 14 digs. She also tied her career high with five kills. Junior libero Kyle Gilbert recorded a match-high 25 digs and a season-high seven assists.
Palo Alto High grad Melanie Wade had seven kills, two aces, two digs and three block assists for Washington.
There's nothing usual about the Pac-12 when it comes to volleyball. Every year seems to bring its own twists and turns. This year, for example, after USC's 17 overall wins, Washington, Arizona, Utah and Washington State are all tied with 15 wins.
It's just something else to dwell upon as Stanford prepares to meet Oregon in a match to be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
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