Stanford is returning to Maples Pavilion this weekend after four games on the road, a stretch during which Stanford went 2-2, had great success and lost in a heartbreaking ending. No. 5 Stanford (10-6, 7-6 MPSF) is set to face No. 4 Pepperdine (8-5, 8-5) on Saturday and No. 9 USC (3-8, 3-8) on Sunday. The Cardinal hopes to avenge its two early road losses against both teams.
Stanford is coming off a very tough loss against No. 2 BYU, in which the Cardinal lost in five close sets. Though it will be recorded as a defeat on Stanford’s record, the team showed tremendous improvement and strength during the match. The young squad, which had been struggling on the road, demonstrated that the Cardinal can perform at high levels on the road and earned confidence that it can be competitive with the top teams in the nation.
This confidence will be very valuable to the Cardinal this weekend, and Stanford will have at least one other key advantage in both of its games: Maples. Stanford is 7-1 at home this season, and has an 11-game win streak at Maples. Furthermore, USC has played at home for the last four matches, making Stanford’s home advantage even stronger.
Over the weekend, Stanford saw strong offensive performances from its middle blockers, juniors Denny Falls and Eric Mochalski. The two players hit a combined .680, adding to the list of key offensive players who can play leading roles in the games this weekend. Fellow juniors Brian Cook and Steven Irvin also continued to demonstrate their consistency over the weekend, both posting 23 kills against BYU.
Keys to a Stanford win against Pepperdine will be starting off aggressively and having a strong hitting performance, considering that the Waves are also a strong offensive team. Freshman setter James Shaw, who had a career-high 60 assists in the BYU game, is one of the main reasons why the offense has been playing more consistently. Shaw will be critical this weekend and must find a way to bring his recent success on the road back to Maples.
Stanford should try to capitalize on Pepperdine’s shaken confidence, as the Waves dropped their first home game last weekend to UCLA. The Cardinal defense will need to focus on shutting down sophomore Josh Taylor, who had a strong performance in Pepperdine’s loss to the Bruins. Stanford has matured as a team during its struggles on the road and should be better prepared to face the Waves.
Stanford also lost to USC on the road earlier this season. The Trojans have been struggling in recent weeks, however, losing seven of their last eight games.
USC’s last four losses have been at home and they have not traveled for two weeks, so Stanford is in a better position than it was when it lost to the Trojans earlier in the season.
Stanford should focus on limiting the offensive of Tanner Jansen and Joey Booth, who have been averaging double-digit kills in recent games. Josh Kirchner is also a strong blocking power whom Stanford hitters will need to work around.
Overall, the Cardinal needs to try to find a way to carry its recent improvement on the road into its matches at Maples. The offense has found consistency, leadership and perseverance in recent games, coming from behind and gutting out close victories. The defense has also proven that it can control top offenses.
Stanford hopes to extend its home winning streak to 13 and regain a winning record in conference play. The Cardinal squares off against Pepperdine at 7 p.m. this Saturday, while its contest with USC is slated for a 7 p.m. start time on Sunday.
Contact Eliza Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.