One player does not by herself make a great team, as Stanford reminded all Friday night at Matthew Knight Arena.
Playing without two-time national player of the year Kathryn Plummer, out with an injury, No. 3 Stanford (8-3 overall, 2-1 in the Pac-12) dropped the first set to Oregon and then took over for a 21-25, 25-11, 25-19, 25-18 volleyball victory, its 14th in a row over Oregon dating back to 2011.
All the 25th-ranked Ducks (5-7, 1-2) could look back on with any satisfaction was that first set, when Brooke Nuneviller’s six kills got Oregon off to a promising start.
“Then we backed off,” UO coach Matt Ulmer said. “They got much more aggressive and we didn’t respond well when they got aggressive.”
Attitude is one thing but Stanford also isn’t exactly bereft of talent, even minus the nation’s top player. The lineup still consists of last season’s Pac-12 libero and setter of the year, and five Cardinal players were on the preseason all-Pac-12 team.
On this night, the slack of Plummer’s absence was picked up by 6-foot-6 senior Audriana Fitzmorris with 16 kills and a .500 hitting percentage and 6-5 freshman Kendall Kipp with another 16 kills and a .306 hitting percentage.
“Kathryn is definitely very good but they still have four all-Americans without her,” Nuneviller said. “They’re still very talented.”
Nuneviller, who finished with 15 kills and 22 digs, felt Oregon “took advantage of (Plummer’s absence) in the first set but after that it was more what was on our side of the net than their side of the net.”
By that, she said she meant “I can feel when our team is kind of drifting apart ... one point turns into four points for the other team. We have to come together more in those runs.”
The first set went back and forth, with Stanford running off five points to lead 10-8 only to see the Ducks answer with five consecutive points to go up 13-10. Three Stanford errors helped the Ducks into a 19-15 edge and Oregon scored its final two points of the set off mishits by the Cardinal.
Stanford showed its potential to dominate a match in the second set. The Cardinal scored the first four points, later had runs of seven and four points and finished the set with a 4-1 run on the Ducks. Stanford had a .333 hitting percentage in the set while holding the Ducks to a negative .030.
The third set was more competitive, but the Ducks never led and the last tie was at 5-5 before a 6-1 spurt by the Cardinal. After that, Oregon never drew closer than four points as Stanford had another .333 hitting percentage.
The final set was even until a video review reversed the original decision of an Oregon kill by Nuneviller to a ball not touched by a Stanford player before going out of bounds. That started a five-point run by the Cardinal, who later broke from the final deadlock at 13-13 to take control.
“We didn’t get that touch call and from there we started to press,” Ulmer said.
The schedule hardly eases up for the Ducks. They play host to No. 19 California on Sunday at 1 p.m. and then are on the road next weekend to play at No. 24 Washington State and No. 8 Washington, which recently ended Stanford’s 26-match winning streak against Pac-12 opponents.