Stanford senior setter Madi Bugg was taking out her frustration when she decided to slap the ball over the net instead of setting it to one of the powerful hitters on the court. Whatever the motivation, it worked.
Bugg's only kill of the night put the 11th-ranked Cardinal women's volleyball at match point and helped lift No. 11 Stanford past visiting Washington, 24-26, 25-19, 16-25, 25-20, 15-13, in a Pac-12 Conference match Wednesday night.
"I'm bad at knowing the score and that's not a good quality," Bugg said. "I've been a hitter for so long that I tend to be an aggressive setter. That was just something I needed to do. It didn't feel gutsy at the time."
Bugg allowed fellow senior Brittany Howard to pound home the winning point in the fifth set, ending a match that had as many lows as highs and which spoiled Palo Alto grad Melanie Wade's final visit to Maples Pavilion.
Wade, a member of the Vikings' state championship teams in 2010 and 2011, can still complete her college career with a national championship. The fourth-ranked Huskies (17-2, 7-2) are as good as it gets in the country and it's no stretch to see them in the Final Four.
Wade recorded five kills, an ace and was in on four blocks for a total of eight points.
Stanford freshman Hayley Hodson had a match-high 29 points on a career-high 25 kills, three aces and a pair of block, showing why she was considered the nation's top recruit out of high school.
"I think we just decided we had enough of this," Hodson said. "We talked about getting on the path we want for the rest of the season. We could not take a loss."
Hodson referred to Stanford's crazy season to date and being down a set and behind by five points in the fourth set. Something just seemed to collectively click after two consecutive Cardinal service errors allowed Washington to grab a 16-11 advantage.
"All we can do is find out who we are," Cardinal coach John Dunning said. "It's all about getting better and I feel we're improving."
It's been a frustrating season for Stanford, beginning with a summer injury to All-America Inky Ajanaku, out for the season. Merete Lutz and Jordan Burgess have been dealing with injuries and nearly the entire roster has been asked to play out of position.
That's why a victory over Washington is important for the Cardinal, which helped narrow the gap between the top four teams. Stanford remains in fourth place heading into Friday's 7:30 p.m. match against visiting Washington State, a half-game behind UCLA and a game behind the Huskies. A lot of things can still happen in the Pac-12.
Bugg had 55 assists, moving into third all-time with 4,477. Lutz added 13 kills, Halland McKenna recorded 14 digs and Burgess had 10 kills.
"We needed her and she knew it," Dunning said of Burgess, who appears as healthy as she has been all year. "She had to step up. That doesn't mean doing the same things; she had to do more."
Stanford looks like it's capable of doing more.