Stanford gets a big assist from freshman | September 21, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 21, 2012

Stanford gets a big assist from freshman

Madi Bugg helps Cardinal end losing streak to Cal with 50 assists in Pac-12 opener

by Rick Eymer

Utah plays a significant role in the history of the Stanford women's volleyball program. Freshman setter Madi Bugg just may be the next big thing out of the state to make an impact on the Cardinal program.

Between Plano, Texas, where she was born, and Apex, N.C., where she attended Cardinal Gibbons, Bugg spent part of her childhood in the Salt Lake City area. That's her mother, Robin Maine Bugg, was coaching.

In the recent past, Olympian Logan Tom and Team USA member Kristin Richards came to Stanford from Utah.

Bugg said she was too young to play on any competitive teams at the time, but has credited her mother, who is in the Tennessee Hall of Fame as volleyball player, for teaching her the sport and how to persevere through troubled waters.

The Cardinal travels to Utah for a Pac-12 match Friday at 6 p.m., to be televised by the Pac-12 Network.

Bugg, also a member of Team USA, came to Stanford as one of the top setters in the nation. As senior Karissa Cook struggles with various ailments, Bugg is showing why many consider her the best.

Bugg recorded 50 assists (an extraordinary 16.7 assists per set) in No. 6 Stanford's 25-17, 25-17, 28-26 victory over visiting California on Wednesday night in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.

"I grew up with volleyball and I'm surrounded by players who are good," Bugg said. "Karissa talks with me a lot on the bench. She's a big part of how I play."

Bugg, who averages 9.54 assists per set on the year, is a member of what is considered the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. It would be difficult to debate, as four of the freshmen produced 35 of the team's 57 kills, 53 of the 55 assists, 29 of the 52 digs and combined for a hitting percentage of .408. "It's just a number, somebody's opinion," freshman Brittany Howard said. "I feel like we are co-existing with the other great players. We had a meeting with coach and asked him what his expectations were of us and he said there were no expectations, just come in and work hard."

It also helps to have junior Carly Wopat, a returning All-American, on the court with you. She's well on her way to another All-American season. She also beat Cal for the first time in her career.

"The goal is to step on the court ready to play at full speed," Wopat said.

Wopat and freshman Jordan Burgess combined to record 30 kills and hit at a .463 clip to pace Stanford's victory.

Freshman Inky Ajanaku added 11 kills and hit .562 as the Cardinal won its seventh straight after losing two in a row in late August.

"This was a good thing for us," Stanford coach John Dunning said. "They (Cal) have people who have taken it to us."

The Cardinal ended a four-match losing streak to California, coached by Palo Alto High grad Rich Feller. The Bears (0-1, 6-5), who were ranked 17th in the nation at one time, have stuttered a bit without three potential starters.

Junior Adrienne Gehan had 11 kills and 13 digs to lead Cal, which had a five-match winning streak snapped.

Stanford also has its share of injuries, with Cook and junior outside hitter Rachel Williams, an All-American last year, each nursing injuries. Williams, though, saw action against Cal.

The difference for the Cardinal lies in its No. 1 ranked recruiting class. Burgess, who had 16 kills, 13 digs and recorded a hitting percentage of .467, has stepped into a starting role along with Bugg, Howard and Ajanaku.

"We're thankful that we have five freshmen who decided to come here and who are mature on the court," Dunning said. "They've learned a lot of volleyball, can handle this level and add a lot of depth to the team."

Utah (0-1, 9-5) lost its Pac-12 opener at Colorado in three sets. USC beat visiting UCLA in a matchup of the nation's top two ranked teams and No. 9 Oregon topped Oregon State in other matches on Wednesday. Washington beat Washington State and Arizona bested Arizona State on Tuesday night.


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