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Volleyball completes consecutive sweeps at Maples

Stanford men’s volleyball had an impressive weekend, decisively winning two critical matches at home. After struggling on the road, Stanford has been regaining its momentum, fighting its way back towards the top of the national rankings and finding its place in the MPSF.  The No. 7 ranked Cardinal is now 7-4 overall and 4-4 in the MPSF after sweeping both UC San Diego and defending national champion UC-Irvine.

(ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)

Senior outside hitter Steven Irvin (12) led the Cardinal offense with 14 kills against UC Irvine. His 7-of-7 hitting in the first set foreshadowed Stanford’s dominance in the rest of the match. (ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford is currently on a three-game winning streak, having swept its last three opponents at Maples Pavilion. Maples is proving to be more and more of an advantage for the Cardinal due to the loyal fan base that rallies behind the team and creates an unfriendly environment for the opponent. The Cardinal has looked very confident as a team in the last few weeks, working through some of the issues it struggled with at the start of conference play, when it lost its first three MPSF matches.

Stanford faced UC-San Diego in its first match of the weekend. The Tritons had yet to win a match this year and Stanford made sure to keep it that way, beating UCSD by almost 10 points in each set. Stanford was comfortably in the lead the whole match, winning 25-14, 25-16, 25-16. The Cardinal had its best defensive performance of the season, holding UCSD to a .100 attack percentage and out-blocking the Tritons 8.5 to 2. The Cardinal once again demonstrated its ability to use the service game as an advantage with 12 aces for the match. Stanford used the match as an opportunity to spread out playing time among 14 different players, including sophomores Madison Hayden and Joe Ctvrtlik.

Stanford had to rest up after Friday’s match for the earlier-than-normal start time of 12:30 p.m. on Saturday against UC-Irvine. The Cardinal used its momentum from the night before, continuing its strong teamwork and consistent hitting. Stanford won the match 25-20, 25-21, 25-19, coming from behind in the back-and-forth second set. Stanford had a powerful offensive performance against the No. 9 Anteaters, hitting .381 and recording only 11 attack errors.

Senior outside hitter Steven Irvin once again led the team with 14 kills and a terrific opening set in which he hit 7-of-7 to push the Cardinal to an early lead. Senior Eric Mochalski also had a dominant performance with 12 kills and a .526 hitting percentage. Both players have showed leadership so far this season with their ability to consistently perform well.

Stanford was also able to limit the Anteaters’ normally-powerful hitting performance, out-blocking UC-Irvine seven to four. No player for UC-Irvine hit in the double digits, with Junior Zack La Cavera recording a team-best nine kills. While UC-Irvine has not had as impressive of a season so far this year as its national championship season last year, the win is still an important one for the Cardinal, as it is trying to establish itself as a serious threat in the MPSF.

“It was huge for us to win both of these matches this week,” Mochalski said to GoStanford.com. “We had a bit of a rough start to the conference. We’ve started to figure some things out. I think we are playing really well. That is a very good Irvine team that we just beat. We are going to go into next week with a lot of confidence.”

Stanford will face Pacific this Wednesday on the road but will return to Maples to play No. 4 BYU on Saturday. Saturday’s match will be on Pac-12 Networks at 7 p.m. for what will be a high-stakes match for the Cardinal.

Contact Eliza Thompson at elizat ‘at’ stanford.edu.