The Stanford women's volleyball team heads into this weekend as the nation's top-ranked team. The Cardinal has plans on staying there for some time.
A sweep of three matches at the Stanford Invitational should keep Stanford on top. The Cardinal (4-0) will host No. 20 Duke on Friday (7 p.m.), followed by matches against Penn(11 a.m.) and Santa Clara (7 p.m.) on Saturday in Maples Pavilion.
Ajanaku averaged 1.00 blocks, 3.00 kills and 3.50 points per set, while hitting .442 in a pair of five-set wins. She was named the MVP of the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge.
She now leads the Pac-12 and ranks 14th nationally with a .474 hitting percentage this season. She also ranks sixth in the conference with 1.25 blocks per set, eighth with 3.38 kills per set and ninth with 4.03 points per set.
Ajanaku joins classmates Jordan Burgess (694), who is six kills away from 700, and Brittany Howard (620), who have already reached the 600-kill plateau.
Stanford took over the top spot in the AVCA poll this week for the first time since being No. 1 from Oct. 29 to Nov. 18, 2012. Texas moved up to No. 2, while Penn State, Wisconsin and Washington round out the top 5. Seven Pac-12 squads are ranked in the top 25 (No. 6 USC, No. 15 Arizona State, No. 18 Oregon, No. 21 Arizona and No. 25 UCLA), while California and Oregon State are receiving votes.
Duke enters the weeks ranked No. 20 in the AVCA poll, coming off a five-set win over then-No. 14 Michigan State on the road. Senior outside hitter Jeme Obeime leads the squad with 3.74 kills, 3.98 points and 1.88 digs per set. Sophomore middle blocker Alyse Whitaker adds 2.29 kills and 1.04 blocks per set for the Blue Devils. Sophomore libero Sasha Karelov anchors the defense with 5.25 digs per set.
Stanford holds a 3-0 all-time record against Duke. Most recently, the Cardinal posted a four-set win over the Blue Devils at the 2011 Stanford Invitational in Maples Pavilion.
Penn has opened the season 2-1 with sweeps over Colgate and Cleveland State. Stanford and Penn will be meeting for the first time.
Santa Clara is 6-1 to start the year and hitting .369 as a team. Directing the offense for the Broncos is freshman setter Kirsten Mead, a Palo Alto native who is posting 12.00 assists per set. She prepped at Valley Christian in San Jose. Sophomore outside hitter Sabrina Clayton averages a team-best 3.59 kills per set on a .345 attack percentage.
Stanford is 27-1 overall against Santa Clara, sweeping the Broncos at the 2012 Stanford Invitational. Santa Clara's lone win came in the second round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament, held at Maples Pavilion.
For the fifth time in six contests, No. 4 Stanford will play a ranked opponent, and this will be a top-five matchup. Fresh off its 2-1 victory over then-No. 2 Florida State, No. 6 Florida will make its first appearance at Stanford since 2002, on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Stanford's homestand continues Sunday when Dayton, the 2013 Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season champion, arrives for a 1 p.m. match.
Stanford brings a 4-0-1 record to the weekend after battling visiting Notre Dame to a scoreless draw on Sunday.
Stanford has opened with five consecutive shutout victories, tying a school record for the beginning of the season, and has not allowed a goal in 489 minutes, 35 seconds, dating to last year. Stanford returned nine starters and 70 percent of its goals from a 15-6-1 season that ended with its eighth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance. However, Stanford's 2013 goal total of 37 was its lowest since 2006.
The Cardinal is averaging 1.2 goals per match, and it's been enough to beat No. 4 North Carolina, No. 18 Duke, and No. 14 Portland to open the season, all on the road.
Senior forward Chioma Ubogagu has scored three of the team's six goals including winners at North Carolina (in overtime) and Portland, in 1-0 victories. Goalkeeper Jane Campbell has four shutouts, following the Cardinal's draw against Notre Dame.