The Pac-12 is stacked with great volleyball programs but, historically, one team stands above the rest.
The No. 7 Stanford Cardinal (8-2, 1-0 Pac-12) have six NCAA championships, more than any Division I university.
Stanford’s only losses this season were against reigning national champion and then-No. 6 Texas and then-No. 8 Florida.
ASU volleyball (12-1, 1-0 Pac-12) coach Jason Watson said playing against Stanford is always a good gauge of how a team is doing.
“How you match up with Stanford is going to tell you a lot about your team,” Watson said. “They’ve got history. They’ve got tradition. They’ve got success. I’ve always thought that they’re the marquee program in the Pac-12.”
The No. 16 ASU Sun Devils will get that test Friday night in their first conference road game in Stanford, Calif.
ASU and Stanford will play on short rest, as both won midweek games against their respective rivals, UA and Cal.
Stanford defeated Cal 3-1 in “The Big Spike” Wednesday evening, continuing its six-game winning streak, while ASU defeated UA 3-0 Tuesday evening.
Across the net from Watson will stand Stanford volleyball coach John Dunning, owner of 4 NCAA titles, tied for second all-time.
“For me what makes (this team) special is that they’re really interested in having us be a team,” Dunning said. “They work their hardest every day, and that just means that you have a chance to keep getting better.”
The Cardinal have historically dominated the Sun Devils, leading the all-time series 62-4 since the two teams first met in 1979.
ASU dropped both matches in 2012, but Dunning said the Sun Devils didn’t go down easily.
“We had two tough matches with (ASU) last year,” Dunning said. “The one at ASU could have gotten away easily.”
Much of Stanford’s recent success can be traced to a uniquely diverse offense: Five Stanford players average more than two kills per set.
ASU would like to mimic that playing style, utilizing not only its outside hitters but also its middle blockers to create a more dynamic hitting core.
“It would be really nice if we could create some balance on Friday night,” Watson said.
Leading the way for the Cardinal is senior middle blocker Carly Wopat, whose .513 hitting percentage before the California game was third in the nation.
Orchestrating the offense and giving Wopat opportunities is sophomore setter Madi Bugg, who was second in the conference before Wednesday, with 11.37 assists per set.
If ASU wants to compete Friday night, the Sun Devils will have to perform better from the service line: They recorded seven service errors against UA.
“We would get on some runs (against UA), and we would end them with service errors,” Watson said. “I hope we can be a lot cleaner in that phase of the game.”
Dunning said the Cardinal offense is starting to synchronize, and thus Stanford wants to focus on the defensive side of things when they host ASU.
“On the other side of the ball, simply serving, blocking, creating more pressure on our opponents, I think we still have more work to do,” Dunning said.
The game begins at 6:00 p.m. Friday at the Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif.
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