The Stanford men’s volleyball team entered Tuesday’s matchup with No. 4 UCLA having had just one day of rest after a brutal road trip. As it turned out, one day’s rest was all the team needed, as the weary Cardinal imposed its will upon the Bruins, pulling out a 3-1 victory in front of a boisterous home crowd.
The Bruins (6-4, 2-2 MPSF) led for much of the first set, but the Cardinal (5-2, 2-2 MPSF) stayed calm and refused to bow to UCLA pressure. Down 20-16, Stanford broke out, unleashing a 6-2 run that tied the game at 22. After failing to convert on two set points, the Cardinal finally sealed the set 27-25 with a powerful three-way block by junior outsider hitter Brian Cook, sophomore middle blocker Spencer Haly and freshman setter James Shaw.
Set two was all UCLA, however. While the Cardinal kept it somewhat close, Stanford never led, dropping the set 25-19.
At first, the third set seemed as though it was destined to be a battle. The loud pro-Stanford crowd, however, began to get inside the Bruins’ heads, causing a number of careless mistakes that the Cardinal was only too happy to capitalize on. The Cardinal had particularly strong defense at the net, with six blocks in the set alone, as Stanford blew UCLA out, 25-14.
The fourth set was more of the same; UCLA became more and more flustered by the Stanford attack. The Bruin defense was simply unable to handle the powerful Cardinal offense, with important contributions coming from all Stanford players.
Junior outside hitter Steven Irvin was especially dominant, uncorking three of his match-high four aces in the fourth set. Fittingly, the Cardinal ended UCLA’s misery on one of Irvin’s aces, capturing the set 25-12. Irvin also finished with 14 kills and eight digs, while hitting .480.
Shaw had yet another impressive match, with 36 assists, seven digs and three blocks. He even contributed five kills, sneaking the ball over the net with attacks that UCLA had no chance to recover.
Stanford hit .346 for the match, while holding UCLA to just .228 hitting. Each of the Bruins’ top four hitters hit below their season averages, with Dane Worley leading the way at .199.
Just two days after Stanford committed an egregious 25 service errors, the Cardinal showed incredible poise behind the line, with eight aces and just 10 errors.
All in all, it was an incredibly impressive victory for the young Cardinal team, putting Stanford back on the map and showing that it is a force to be reckoned with in the MPSF. Few teams can match the versatility of Shaw, outsider hitter combination of Cook and Irvin, or the sheer power of junior middle blocker Eric Mochalski. The Cardinal will certainly be trouble for any opponent it faces.
Stanford is back in action on Saturday night against UC Santa Barbara at 7 p.m. in Maples Pavilion.