The No. 3 Stanford men’s volleyball team, fresh off an impressive sweep of UC-San Diego, hit the road this past weekend to face two very tough teams: No. 8 Cal State Northridge and No. 4 Long Beach State. It was certainly a tale of two matches, as the Cardinal rallied past the Matadors on Friday before being overpowered by the 49ers in three sets on Saturday.
Stanford (9-5, 6-5 MPSF) entered its matchup with Northridge (7-5, 5-5) just 1-3 in road matchups this year and thus was looking to make a resounding statement in the first game of a tough road trip.
Neither team was able to take a distinct advantage over the other in the first set, trading points back and forth. The Cardinal held a slight 21-20 lead, but back-to-back errors by Stanford gave Northridge a lead it did not relinquish, as it took the first set 25-22.
The second set, however, was all Stanford, as the Cardinal offense was absolutely dominant. Stanford hit .778 in the set, led by junior outside hitter Brian Cook, who posted eight of his 21 kills in the second as the Cardinal won 25-16.
The powerful Stanford attack continued in the third, as Stanford hit .619 and took the set 25-17, while holding Northridge to just .115 hitting.
Stanford entered the fourth set with momentum on its side, ready to win its second straight game. The Cardinal started hot, with a 6-3 opening run, taking an early lead and refusing to be challenged throughout. Behind six kills from Cook and four each from junior outside hitter Steven Irvin and senior opposite Jake Kneller, Stanford took the set 25-21.
Irvin posted 14 kills on the match, hitting .522 while also recording eight digs. Junior middle blocker Eric Mochalski, back in the starting lineup, chipped in 10 kills on .533 hitting along with two service aces. Freshman setter James Shaw also had a remarkable game in his return to the lineup with 52 assists, four kills, five digs and three blocks.
Mochalski credited the impressive performances from Shaw and junior libero Scott Sakaida as the catalysts for the offensive explosion, highlighting “great passing and setting, allowing for easier opportunities on the offensive end.”
After a big win, Stanford entered its next-day matchup with Long Beach State (11-4, 9-3) feeling confident but could not live up to its tenacious performance against Northridge. A day after hitting a season-high .466, the Cardinal hit a season-low .152.
The 49ers started off hot, taking a quick 9-3 lead. Stanford fought back, however, countering with a 6-1 run of its own to pull within one. The Cardinal even took a brief lead at 19-18 before Long Beach regrouped, riding a 6-2 run to a 25-20 set victory.
The Cardinal countered to start the second, taking a 6-2 lead. Long Beach fought their way back into the game, however. Holding a slim 16-15 lead, the 49ers never looked back, scoring five straight points to put the set out of reach for the Cardinal.
The third set was all Long Beach, as the 49ers lead from start to finish, dominating Stanford and winning 25-11. Cook had 10 kills to lead Stanford, while Mochalski chipped in six kills on .308 hitting, as well as an ace.
The road continues for Stanford next weekend, with the Cardinal traveling to take on No. 1 BYU and No. 11 Cal Baptist.
Contact Anders Mikkelsen at amikk “at” stanford.edu.