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Stanford clinches share of Pac-12 title with routine defeat of Arizona volleyball

The Arizona volleyball team huddles during a match against Washington State in McKale Center on Nov. 13, 2022.
The Arizona volleyball team huddles during a match against Washington State in McKale Center on Nov. 13, 2022.
Photo by Madison Farwell / Arizona Athletics

After a couple of tough years caused by the pandemic and injuries, Stanford volleyball is back where it's used to being. The Cardinal will have at least a share of the Pac-12 title after defeating Arizona in three sets (25-17, 25-19, 25-23) at Maples Pavilion.

The Wildcats failed to have a hitter break into double-digit kills with Sofia Maldonado Diaz and Jaelyn Hodge both going for nine kills. Meanwhile, the Cardinal had Kendall Kipp (17), Elia Rubin (13), and Caitie Baird (10) all break in double figures while McKenna Vicini had nine. Kipp did her damage while hitting .316 on a day when her team hit .275.

Hodge was efficient for the Wildcats, getting her nine kills on a team-high .296 hitting. She also had one total block for 9.5 points and added five digs.

Maldonado Diaz led Arizona with 10.5 points. In addition to her kills, she added three total blocks to break double figures in points. She also had six digs and an assist.

Setter Emery Herman continued her strong play, She had a double-double with 23 assists and 14 digs. She also had three total blocks (one solo), an ace, and two kills on .286 hitting. Her lone struggle was finding the floor with her seven swings. While she didn’t commit any errors, Stanford was more than ready for most of her dumps.

As is typical in a match against a top team, Arizona was able to stay with Stanford for the first 18 points of the opening set. From 9-9, though, the Cardinal started to pull away. Arizona could not put consecutive points together after that. Even before, the Wildcats had just two runs of 3-0 and 2-0.

Stanford’s biggest lead of the set was 21-16 before they ran away with it at the end. The Cardinal closed out the set on a 4-1 run for the final margin of eight points.

The home team took that momentum into the second set. Arizona won the first point of the second frame, but Stanford quickly marched on to a 10-3 lead.

The Wildcats finally put a run together when the Cardinal were trying to close out the second set. They saved four set points before eventually succumbing to the inevitable at 25-19.

The final set was the most competitive of the match. Part of that may have been due to changes in the Arizona rotation. The Wildcats started using a second defensive specialist to complement libero Kamaile Hiapo. Joy Galles, in particular, saw playing time that extended beyond simply coming in to serve.

Although Stanford started quickly, Arizona did not wait until the end to make a run. The Cardinal took a 9-5 lead, then the Wildcats started chipping away.

Arizona used a 4-0 run in the middle of the set to go up 17-16. From there, it was a back-and-forth affair. Neither team was able to go ahead by more than one point until Stanford reached match point at 24-22.

The Wildcats return home to face Colorado the day before Thanksgiving. They will then wind up their regular season at Arizona State on Saturday, Nov. 26.

While Arizona is not in consideration for the NCAA Tournament, there’s a possibility of making the NIVC if the team can put together a strong closing week and choose to accept another invite. The Wildcats participated in the secondary postseason tournament last season where they won in the opening round before losing to eventual champion UNLV in the second.

With a two-game lead in the standings and games against No. 11 Oregon State and No. 12 California left on the schedule, the win likely means an outright title for Stanford.