It didn’t take long for the No. 4 men’s volleyball team to get on track in its season-opening match against the University of the Pacific. After battling back and forth throughout the first set, a pair of kills by sophomore Steven Irvin gave Stanford some breathing room over the No. 15 Tigers and the Cardinal didn’t look back — UOP didn’t breech the 20-point mark again as Stanford picked up a 3-0 road sweep on Wednesday night.
The Cardinal (1-0) came into the match with some momentum from two wins over visiting Thompson Rivers of Canada over the weekend, but those came in exhibition matches, and Pacific posed much bigger problems with All-MPSF selection Taylor Hughes.
In the first set, Hughes looked like he might prove to be a problem for the Cardinal defense, notching four kills and a block. But the Tigers’ offense went ice cold in the second set, finishing with just nine kills on 27 swings with four attack errors — a .185 hitting percentage.
Conversely, Stanford’s attack really started to press the net in the second frame. After hitting .265 in the first set, the Card hit .367 in set two, as sophomore outside hitter Brian Cook turned in one of the best performances of his young career. The Santa Cruz native had 13 kills on the night and just two attack errors, a .478 hitting percentage to go with his two service aces.
And after pounding Thompson Rivers’ defense for 15 kills in the last exhibition match, sophomore opposite Steven Irvin expanded on what has been a solid offseason with eight kills.
With senior outside hitter Brad Lawson — a two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association First Team All-American — chipping in 11 kills, and senior libero Erik Shoji — himself a three-time First Team All-American with a chance to become the Cardinal’s first ever four-time All-American — recording 12 digs, the rout was on.
Stanford jumped out to a 10-4 lead and didn’t look back, finishing off the set with a kill by sophomore Denny Falls.
A run of three straight points to open up the third set allowed the Cardinal to work through its offense without too many problems. Senior setter Evan Barry spread the ball around, finishing with 36 assists, as Stanford pushed its lead to 20-12 late in the third.
Although a late three-point run by the Tigers reenergized the scattering of fans watching the match at the Alex G. Spanos Center, a timeout by Stanford coach John Kosty settled the Cardinal, and a Cook kill ended the night with 25-19 set.
With four returners from last year’s team that finished No. 7 in the final national poll, Stanford has one of the more experienced teams in the country. But Kosty chose not to go to the bench much against Pacific, as only two players saw action outside of the six starters.
When the team returns to action against visiting Juniata at Maples Pavilion on Friday night, expect to see more substitutions as the Cardinal looks to open its offense up against the perennial Division III title contenders.