STOCKTON — Pacific freshman outside hitter Emily Baptista gained more trust from her setter and teammates.
The Hilmar High graduate had a match-high 15 kills, the most she’s ever had in a three-game match, but No. 12 Stanford’s size was too much and the Tigers lost 25-21, 25-22, 25-17 to wrap up the West Coast Conference/Pac-12 Showdown on Saturday in front of 1,334 fans at Spanos Center.
Pacific (6-6) opens WCC play against Portland at 7 p.m. Thursday at Spanos Center in the seventh match of their eight-match home stand, which concludes Sept. 24 against Gonzaga.
Baptista and redshirt sophomore setter Andie Shelton worked well together against the Cardinal’s starting lineup that stood 6-foot, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4, 6-6 and 6-8. The Tigers have faced some big teams this season but nothing quite like this group from Stanford, led by former Pacific coach John Dunning.
“It’s hard at times, but I think us setters can make it more difficult on ourselves,” said Shelton, who had a match-high 37 assists. “We have hitters like Emily who can hit around 6-4 and 6-8. It’s definitely manageable, it’s doable. But their size was a little different than what we’re used to.”
The match included several long rallies where the point could have gone to either squad. Stanford (6-2) did a better job earning points in extended sequences.
“It showed us we have a long way to go to be where we want to be,” Tigers coach Greg Gibbons said. “Our girls played hard, but it’s about converting and getting points and we didn’t do well there.”
Both teams are young and learning. The Cardinal started two freshmen and had two more contribute prominently off the bench. Pacific started three freshmen and a redshirt sophomore. Dunning, who’s in his 16th season at Stanford after spending 16 years at Pacific and has earned two national championships at each university, said he never has coached a more inexperienced team.
And as he discovers more about his players with every match, on Saturday, his players learned more about him. Prior to Saturday’s practice at Spanos Center, a couple Stanford players asked Dunning how he felt coaching inside his former home arena.
“It’s been a lot of mixed-up emotions every time I come, and it was this time, too,” said Dunning, who hadn’t brought the Cardinal to Stockton since the 2004 season. “Obviously, I love the (Pacific) program and it’s hard.”
But Saturday wasn’t nearly as awkward as in 2002, when Dunning brought Stanford to Spanos Center during his second season on the Farm.
“Early, right after I left and came back, I dreaded it. Now, it’s great,” said Dunning, whose daughter Lisa and her husband and their two children reside in Lodi. “Greg has their program going in a great direction. They’re getting better every year, and so let’s play and see. It’s a good test for us.”
Ivanka Vanjak led Stanford with 10 kills and the Cardinal hit .421 for the match. Michaela Keefe, daughter of former Stanford basketball player Adam Keefe, Inky Ajanaku and Merete Lutz each had eight kills.
Pacific senior Lexi Elman had 10 kills and 15 digs for her eighth double-double this season and the 37th of her career.
— Contact sports editor Bob Highfill at (209) 546-8282 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at recordnet.com/sportsblog and on Twitter @bobhighfill.