Making her season debut, redshirt senior Merete Lutz helped guide No. 4 Stanford women's volleyball to a 25-23, 25-23, 25-22 win over Illinois, Friday, in front of a sellout crowd of 4,152 at Huff Hall.
Stanford (5-1), which improved to 8-0 all-time against Illinois (6-1), spoiled the previously undefeated Illini's home opener. The Cardinal hit .414 in all three sets, holding off Illinois which hit at a .409 clip for the match.
Sophomore outside hitter Kathryn Plummer led Stanford with 14 kills on a .440 attack percentage to go with four digs, three blocks and an ace. Sophomore middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris hit .636 with eight kills and four blocks.
Sophomore setter Jenna Gray dished out 40 assists and matched her career-high with six kills, including one on match-point. The Shawnee, Kansas native also had a season-best eight digs and tied her career-high with two aces.
In a competitive first set, which had 16 tie scores and nine lead changes, Stanford found itself down 23-21 and forced to call timeout. Out of the break, Fitzmorris went to work, notching a kill, while a service ace from freshman Kate Formico tied it at 23-23. Fitzmorris tacked on another kill and teamed up with Michaela Keefe for a block to seal the 25-23 win for Stanford.
Stanford trailed again late in the second set, 22-20, before utilizing a 5-1 run to capture a 2-0 lead in the match. Plummer tallied two kills down the stretch while Illinois was hurt by unforced errors.
Illinois was led by junior middle blocker Ali Bastianelli, who finished with 15 kills on a .619 hitting percentage and six blocks. Outside hitters Beth Prince and Jacqueline Quade recorded 13 and 11 kills, respectively.
Illinois fans graciously welcomed back Cardinal head coach Kevin Hambly, who spent eight seasons at the helm of the Illini program.
Stanford has a quick turnaround, playing No. 3 Penn State on Saturday at 3 p.m.