Pulling into second place of the most recent DI Women’s Volleyball Selection Committee’s in-season top 10, the Stanford hype train had just plowed through seven top-25 opponents and its first 11 Pac-12 foes, which all evidently paled to the powerful right arm of Marta Levinska.
The Latvian outside hitter notched a remarkable 17 kills as No. 21 Arizona State beat the Cardinal in straight sets (25-16, 25-21, 25-14) Saturday afternoon, marking ASU’s first sweep in the series since 1993 and handing Stanford its first loss in over six weeks.
Shannon Shields, who manned the Sun Devils’ distribution efforts with a whopping 28 assists, deceived the Stanford defense early with a pair of setter dumps to mark a couple of rare tallies in the kill column and get ASU on the board. The hometown senior quickly returned to her pass-first ways, assisting two Levinska kills that helped extend the Sun Devil lead to 10-5 and force a Cardinal timeout. The pleads of Stanford coach Kevin Hambly proved ineffective, as another Levinska kill stretched the home club’s lead to 20-10 and saw ASU cruise to a nine-point opening set victory.
The second set proved much more contentious — neither side managed to extend their lead beyond two — before Levinska forced Stanford into its second-consecutive attack error, prompting a timeout as Stanford trailed 21-18. Levinska and Shields later engaged in some Freaky Friday antics, as the Latvian assisted the Phoenix native this time to cap off a 5-0 run that brought ASU to the brink of a set two victory. Stanford clawed two back, prompting the Sun Devils to use a timeout of their own, but another Levinska kill cliched a 25-21 second-set win.
ASU returned to cruise control in the third set as a kill from Roberta Rabelo, the only other Sun Devil to crack five kills, gave her squad an 11-point lead and brought the afternoon to game point. And after Stanford notched a consolation kill, Maddie McLaughlin lept from the base of the pitchfork logo and delivered a thunderous, decisive spike that secured the Sun Devils’ second top-five win on the…