WSU volleyball continued its run back to glory on Friday night, with the 17th-ranked Cougars defeating the No. 9 Stanford Cardinal 3-2 (25-15, 17-25, 26-24, 26-28, and 15-8).
The win came in front of the largest Bohler Gym crowd in 14 years (2,522) and was the third consecutive win for the Cougs over a top-10 opponent after they beat then-No. 4 Washington and then-No. 9 UCLA last week — both on the road.
The Cougars proved last week was no fluke by storming the Cardinal early, easily rolling to the first set victory. But Stanford, being an annual volleyball powerhouse, regrouped as those kinds of teams usually do to claim set two.
After the break, the third set started well for the Cougs, who raced out to a 5-0 lead. But Stanford again came back, scoring 17 of the next 23 points to take a 17-11 lead — the sort of lead that the Cardinal don’t usually give up. A kill by Inky Ajanaku made Stanford’s lead 23-18, and it appeared the Cardinal were fully ready to take control of the match.
Last year, the Cougs might have wilted under that pressure. Not this year: A kill from Kyra Holt, followed closely by a block and a trio of kills from Taylor Mims, fueled a 7-1 run to give WSU a 25-24 lead. Another block from the Cougs on the ensuing set point — this time by Claire Martin and Hailey Bethune — gave WSU command of the match at 2-1.
WSU again fell behind in the fourth set, trailing 15-11. But, again, the Cougs fought back, eventually securing a match point at 26-25. It appeared the Cougs might have won the match on yet another Holt kill, but the referee ruled that Stanford did not touch the ball at the net. Video replay suggested it was touched, but a close call nonetheless. Two points later, Stanford had forced a fifth and deciding set.
The Cougs weren’t about to let this one slip away. Holding a narrow 8-7 lead, the Cougs ran off seven of the next eight points — fueled by three kills by Holt and series of attack errors by Stanford — to claim their third consecutive upset.
"It feels absolutely amazing," senior setter Haley MacDonald told WSUCougars.com. "Fifth sets were not our thing last year and previous years so to come out and stay poised and when in the fifth set is awesome. Great victory."
However, “upset” might not be the right term anymore when you’ve beaten three consecutive top-10 teams. Maybe the Cougs are just the better team.
"It is a huge win against a really good Stanford team," WSU coach Jen Greeny told WSUCougars.com. "I felt that our team was really resilient tonight. There were some ups and downs but we stuck with it. And to get it done in five, it is just a tremendous victory for this team, and another step in the right direction."
While Holt came up huge at the end and was her typical all-around stud self, it was Mims whom you probably could call the match MVP. She had a ridiculous .462 hitting percentage with 13 kills while leading the team with eight blocks.
Last week, WSU volleyball jumped up from the “others receiving votes” category in the top 25 poll to No. 17. That would seem like a pretty fair jump ... except for the fact that it might seem a little low after defeating two top-10 opponents — on the road.
With a win on Sunday against Cal — currently 0-3 in the Pac-12 — maybe WSU can crack the top 15??