The second-ranked Stanford women's volleyball team won twice Saturday at the Long Beach State Invitational, beating Iowa, 25-23, 25-16, 25-10, in the morning and then topping Wright State, 25-19, 25-11, 25-21, in the afternoon.
It will get decidedly tougher next weekend in College Station when the Cardinal (3-0) meet No. 6 Penn State (3-0) on Friday in the opener of the Texas A&M Tournament.
Stanford and Penn State are at an interesting juncture of their rivalry. They are the only two schools to have appeared in every NCAA tournament and they share the record for most national championships, each with a half-dozen.
The Nittany Lions own a slight 10-9 edge in the all-time series, though they will meet at least twice this year. Stanford is scheduled to play Penn State in the Pac-12/Big 10 challenge on Sept. 9.
While first-year coach Kevin Hambly has yet to experience the rivalry from Stanford's point of view, he has a thorough understanding of the Penn State from his years at Illinois. Don't expect the intensity to waver just because Hambly is new to Stanford.
Call the match against Iowa a warmup for the Nittany Lions.
The Hawkeyes hung with the Cardinal in the opening set, knotting up the score five times.
Stanford hit .333 and recorded nine blocks, while holding Iowa (1-1) to a .111 attack percentage. The Cardinal also served tough with nine aces.
Sophomore Kathryn Plummer led all players with 16 kills on .542 hitting and matched her career-high with three aces. Freshman Meghan McClure was on fire early, recording all eight of her kills in the first two sets. The rookie also secured three digs, two blocks and an ace.
Stanford seemed to get stronger as the match went on. The Cardinal utilized a 14-3 run to take a commanding lead in the third set. Sophomore middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris notched four of her match-beset five blocks in the final frame. The Overland Park, Kansas native was also productive on the offensive end with seven kills on .400 hitting.
Redshirt freshman Michaela Keefe came in to add seven kills on a .385 attack percentage, while junior middle blocker Tami Alade finished with three kills and four blocks.
Sophomore setter Jenna Gray controlled the offense with 33 assists, while also registering five digs, four blocks and tied her career-best with two aces. Sophomore libero Morgan Hentz finished with three aces and six digs. It was the first time in her career that she did not reach double-digit digs in a match.
Against the Raiders, Gray directed the offense to a .349 attack percentage, tallying 31 assists. She also got in on the action, recording four kills and two service aces.
Stanford's defense was solid as well asserting its physicality at the net with 12 blocks. Both teams collected 37 digs, while the Cardinal held a 7-3 advantage in aces.
Plummer and McClure each turned in nine kills to lead Stanford. Plummer added six digs, five blocks and an ace, while McClure secured four digs, three blocks and a career-high three aces.
Freshman defensive specialist Kate Formico racked up a team-high 10 digs, while Hentz finished with seven.
Middle blocker Alexis Froistad returned to the court for the Cardinal for the first time since 2015, and freshman Sidney Wilson also made her debut against Wright State.
Kelsey Bing matched her career-high of 10 saves, but an early goal proved to be the downfall of the Cardinal as No. 13 Stanford fell 1-0 to No. 14 Northwestern Saturday in a neutral-site game.
The Wildcats (1-0) came out of the gate hard in the first, peppering the Cardinal (0-2) with nine shots in the half to Stanford's two. NU's Puck Pentenga and Kirsten Mansfield wasted no time setting up Eva van Agt in the second minute of the game with a shot into the left corner of the cage.
The Cardinal offense woke up in the second half, outshooting the Wildcats with ten attempts, forcing the Northwestern goalie to post five of her six saves on the day. Penalty corners also played a factor with NU amassing 10 to Stanford's four.
The Cardinal was awarded a corner at the end of the game and closed the game with a flurry of shots, but the Wildcat defense was able to hold and close out the win.
Stanford hosts Harvard in home opener on Friday at 4 p.m.