Sports

Stanford women still have chance at Pac-12 volleyball title

 

No. 12 Stanford made quick work of 19th-ranked Oregon in women's volleyball action at Maples Pavilion on Wednesday, sweeping the Ducks, 25-22, 25-11, 25-22, and securing a 20-win season for the 16th time in as many seasons under coach John Dunning.

The Cardinal remains a game out of first place, behind Washington, which beat UCLA, sending the Bruins into a tie for second with Stanford.


Inky Ajanaku
The Huskies meet Washington State on Friday. A Cougars win could make it a three-way tie for the title.

Stanford (20-7 overall, 14-5 Pac-12 Conference) again proved why it's one of the Pac-12's most efficient squads, hitting .356 while stuffing nine shots.

The last time Oregon (19-9, 13-6) beat the Cardinal was in 2011, a five-setter at Maples.

The Cardinal continued the Ducks' sliding trend, as the visitors fell to 0-9 when trailing in attack percentage and 0-6 when hitting under .200.

They finished hitting .196 compared to Stanford's .356, only the second time this season the Ducks' surrendered a percentage greater than .300 in 28 matches.

In the first set, the Cardinal turned a four-point deficit (11-7) into a three-point lead (20-17) behind Jenna Gray's steady distribution. She assisted on 10 of Stanford's 14 first-set kills.

The penultimate frame featured a pair of blocks by Inky Ajanaku and Merete Lutz which helped the Cardinal double-up Oregon, 20-10, while boat racing the visitors to take a 2-0 cushion. Ajanaku had a hand in four blocks in the set.

Stanford held Oregon to its lowest hitting clip on the evening in the second set, a .033 mark for a team that entered the match as the Pac-12 leader in hitting percentage (.275) and kills (14.32).

Kathryn Plummer, the reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Week and Offensive Player of the Week, held serve midway through the final stanza to flip a 12-11 hole into a 17-12 advantage. Stanford trailed by as many as three (7-4) before mounting the comeback.

However, the Ducks orchestrated a 5-0 run and the teams traded points until Stanford pulled away by winning six of the final eight rallies.

Plummer was one of two Cardinal with double-figure kills, totaling 10 along with Ajanaku.

Ajanaku needed just two blocks to pass Foluke Akinradewo for fourth place on Stanford's career chart. She got five. Akinradewo totaled 579 during her time on The Farm from 2005-08.

Morgan Hentz notched a match-high 12 digs, a few shades under her 4.65 season average, the fourth best single-season mark in program history.

Stanford will put the finishing touches on its regular season Friday when it plays host to Bay Area rival Cal. The match will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks beginning at 5 p.m. Ajanaku and Kelsey Humphreys will be honored prior to the match.

Oregon, four years removed from the program's most successful season when it fell in the national championship game against Texas, entered the year with its sights set on returning to the NCAA tournament for the sixth straight season. The Ducks are likely in and have another chance to boost their resume when they travel to Oregon State on Friday.

The tournament field will be announced on Sunday at 6 p.m. on ESPNU. Stanford looks to extend its postseason streak to 36 consecutive seasons, as the Cardinal is one of only two programs, with Penn State, in the nation to appear in every NCAA Tournament since the current format began in 1981.

— Stanford Athletics

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