Stanford men’s volleyball continues its four-game road trip this weekend by heading first to Utah to face No. 2 BYU (9-3) before returning to California to take on No. 13 Cal Baptist (6-7).
The Cardinal (9-5, 6-5 MPSF) has struggled to find consistency away from home this season—the team’s away record is now 2-4 after splitting two road games last weekend. Stanford was able to hold off Cal State-Northridge to earn a 3-1 victory but fell short against No. 4 Long Beach State in straight sets.
In both matches, the offense was the deciding factor. The Cardinal offense dominated Northridge, hitting a season-high .456, including .788 in second set. Junior Brian Cook led the Cardinal with 21 kills on the day.
In the match against Long Beach, however, Stanford hit a season-low .152 and struggled against a powerful and aggressive 49ers offense.
“[Long Beach State] took us out of our system, and that’s when we struggled,” Stanford head coach John Kosty told GoStanford.com. “When we pass well, we’re good. When we don’t, we get fairly one-dimensional. We need to be more consistent.”
In the Cardinal’s game against Northridge, freshman setter James Shaw made a team-high 52 assists, which provided the offense with the groundwork to have a strong hitting night.
The Cardinal will need that kind of performance against a BYU squad that is one of the top blocking teams in the nation. The Cougars, led by senior middle blocker Russ Lavaja, have held opponents to a .237 hitting average, while hitting .325 themselves. The Stanford defense must also find a way to contain BYU junior hitter Taylor Sander, who had 23 kills against Pepperdine last week.
BYU is currently ranked first in the MPSF and will benefit from their home environment in Provo, Utah, where the Cougars are 8-2 this year. However, BYU is coming off a similar weekend to the Cardinal, as the Cougars first lost a five-set match to No. 5 Pepperdine before rebounding to beat No. 10 USC 3-1.
Stanford has not lost to BYU in the last six meetings between the teams, including four in which the Card was the underdog coming into the match. In the last matchup, the Cardinal knocked the Cougars out of the 2012 MPSF semifinals.
After the match with the Cougars, Stanford will meet No. 13 Cal Baptist on Monday, Feb. 25. In their first season in the MPSF, the Lancers are 6-7 on the year. Cal Baptist has also lost three of its past four matches, including four-set defeats to USC and Pepperdine last weekend. Last season, Stanford lost to the Lancers in five sets in the Cardinal’s first match after the spring break layoff.
Cal Baptist is led by senior outside hitter Levi Cabral, who is averaging 4.46 kills per set. Setter Brett Anderson has also recently emerged for the Lancers—the sophomore posted 43 assists against USC.
This weekend represents the midpoint of the MPSF season. With 13 matches to go, the Cardinal is currently ranked fifth in the conference, and two wins this weekend could certainly provide them with the opportunity to move up in the standings
“It’s a long process,” Kosty said. “At the same time, we’re at a stage where we’re still learning to put matches together.”
Contact Eliza Thompson at elizat ‘at’ stanford.edu