Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 20, 2013

Stanford women's volleyball is getting back on track

Nationally No. 8-ranked Cardinal has won four straight while preparing for its Pac-12 opener at Cal next week

by Rick Eymer

The Stanford women's volleyball team take a four-match winning streak into its final nonconference tuneup match Friday. If Wednesday's sweep of visiting Cal Poly is any indication, the eighth-ranked Cardinal (6-2) is back on track.

Sophomore Inky Ajanaku did a little bit of everything and her teammates were nearly perfect in their attack in a 25-12, 25-10, 25-14 victory over the Mustangs.

Stanford hopes to keep the momentum going when St. Mary's visits Maples Pavilion for a 7 p.m. first serve on Friday.

Since hitting a bump on the road two weeks ago, losing to defending national champion Texas and No. 4 Florida at the Big Four Challenge in Austin, the Cardinal has not lost a set.

Stanford opens Pac-12 Conference play Wednesday with a visit to No. 23 California (7-1 entering last night's match with UC Davis) at 7:30 p.m.

The Golden Bears won their first seven matches before losing at home to Kansas State in five sets on Saturday.

The Cardinal plays five of its first eight conference matches on the road, including a trip to No. 5 USC and No. 11 UCLA. In a conference where seven teams are ranked among the top 25, the importance of winning on the road can be magnified.

Stanford, the defending Pac-12 champ, is scheduled to play 20 conference matches, playing every team twice, with the exception of No. 18 Arizona State and Arizona.

The Cardinal beat Cal twice last year, but was swept by the Golden Bears two years ago.

Senior Rachel Williams (3.28 per set) and sophomore Brittany Howard (3.15) share the team lead with 82 kills, with Howard playing in one more set. Senior Carly Wopat is third with 72 kills (3.00), followed by Ajanaku (2.23) with 58 and sophomore Jordan Burgess (1.96) with 51.

Wopat (33) and Ajanaku (30) are the team leaders in blocks, while sophomore Madi Bugg has developed into an elite setter, averaging 11.2 assists per set.

The Cardinal has five players with at least 53 digs, led by Kyle Gilbert with 113. Bugg is next with 65.

Against Cal Poly, Ajanaku recorded a team-high eight kills, with Burgess, and had a hitting percentage of .700, with one error in 10 attacks. She also had a team-high six blocks. No one committed more than two hitting errors as the Cardinal outhit the Mustangs, .453 to .054.

Stanford hit a combined .558 through two mistake-free sets to open the match. Wopat was 6 for 7 without an error, an .857 percentage, in two sets. She sat out the final set.

Field hockey

No. 8 Stanford will pursue its sixth consecutive victory as NorPac conference play opens against visiting California on Friday at 2:30 p.m.

Stanford (5-1) is the four-time defending West Division champion and has won 12 of the past 16 meetings against Cal (3-3), including a sweep of three games last year.

That reversed a trend of Golden Bears domination, who entered the 2007 NorPac Tournament title game having won 18 straight in the series dating to 2001.

Six of the last seven NorPac Championship title games have resulted in a Stanford-Cal match, with the Cardinal taking four of those contests.

Cal enters Friday's match looking to rebound after last weekend's 2-1 double-overtime loss against Northwestern and a 1-0 loss to Ohio the following day.

Stanford is riding a five-game winning streak after dropping its season opener in double-overtime to No. 4 Connecticut, 2-1, and has not allowed a goal in the past three games. The Cardinal last surrendered a goal on Sept. 6 in the second minute against No. 20 New Hampshire — a span stretching 278:39.

The Stanford defense has been almost impenetrable during the three-game shutout streak, allowing just eight shots. Dulcie Davies has been solid in the cage and holds a 0.80 GAA, which ranks fourth in the nation.

The Cardinal offense has been imposing and holds advantages over opponents in shots (100-28), penalty corners (54-13) and goals (16-5). Stanford ranks 10th in the nation with an average of nine penalty corners per game.

Stanford opened last weekend with a 1-0 victory over Central Michigan. The Cardinal held advantages in shots (23-3) and penalty corners (13-4) but was unable to get on the board until Clemence Couteau netted the game-winner on Stanford's 20th shot. It was Couteau's second consecutive game-winner after scoring the go-ahead goal against VCU on Sept. 8.

Of Couteau's three shots this season, two have been game winners. She was named the NorPac Offensive Player of the Week for her performance.

The Cardinal followed with another impressive victory on Sunday, knocking off No. 8 Iowa 2-0. It is the highest ranked opponent Stanford has beaten since a 3-0 win at No. 7 Michigan on Oct. 30, 2011. Courtney Haldeman scored the game-winner and Kelsey Harbin provided insurance, as the two joined Hope Burke with a team-leading three goals apiece.

Men's soccer

Stanford brings a two-match winning streak into this weekend's games against visiting College of Charleston on Friday at 7 p.m. and versus Colgate at 1 p.m. Sunday, a match that will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.

Zach Batteer and JJ Koval share the team lead in goals with two apiece as Stanford takes a 2-1-1 mark into the weekend.

Women's soccer

Fifth-year seniors Courtney Verloo and Aly Gleason had a shot at turning 100 on Thursday night and be very, very happy about it. That's because this 100 refers to the number of victories they have been involved with as part of the women's program.

Since Verloo and Gleason have been on the team, they have amassed a 99-4-5 record entering last night's nonconference battle with St. Mary's.

Verloo and Gleason also have seen Stanford attend the Women's College Cup the past four years. The Cardinal is seeking its sixth straight trip to the Final Four.

Second-ranked Stanford (5-0-1) also plays at Santa Clara on Sunday at 7 p.m., which will be televised by ESPNU.

The Cardinal is playing its final nonconference matches this week and was hoping to extend its 71-game home unbeaten streak against the Gaels, Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe's former team.

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