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Men’s volleyball wraps up home slate against Pacific, Cal Baptist

Stanford men’s volleyball (16-7, 13-7 MPSF) is set to play its last two home matches of the season this week against Pacific (2-21, 1-16) today and California Baptist (4-20, 2-18) tomorrow. The Card enter the contests on a seven-match winning streak, not having lost a match since Feb. 28. Undefeated in the month of March, Stanford is now ranked fourth nationally and is in a strong position heading into the postseason.

John Kosty’s squad defeated No. 3 Pepperdine and No. 7 USC last week at Maples, improving its conference record to 13-7. With only four matches left in the regular season, Stanford is looking to continue its winning ways and gain more momentum heading into the conference tournament on its quest for a national title.

Sophomore setter James Shaw

Sophomore setter James Shaw (above) has been a crucial part of the Cardinal’s offensive attack this season, accounting for 962 of the team’s 1128 total assists. (MIKE KHEIR/The Stanford Daily)

But before Stanford can turn its attention to the postseason, it must focus on the last four matches of the season. Thursday, Stanford will face Pacific for the second time this season and the final time in the foreseeable future. While the two teams have a long-standing series, the Tigers’ athletic department recently announced that this would be the school’s final season of men’s volleyball. The two neighboring schools have consistently played each other and are in the same conference, but Pacific has not beaten Stanford in years and was swept by Stanford earlier this season.

Stanford’s strongest tool is its strong and consistent offense. Sophomore setter James Shaw is at the center of this offense, providing consistent passing that allows for dominant net play. The Card is third nationally in both hitting percentage and kills per set, connecting for 13.71 kills per set while hitting at a .334 clip.

Senior outside hitters Brian Cook and Steven Irvin have led the hitting attack. Cook averages 3.67 kills per set while Irvin 3.36 kills per set and both provide critical experience and leadership to the team. Both players have experience closing out a season and know how to head into the postseason with the right mindset. If the two seniors play well and demonstrate their leadership and poise in the upcoming matches, Stanford will continue to be successful and gain even more confidence heading into the postseason.

Another key to the Card’s recent success has been its service game. Stanford has capitalized off aces, averaging 1.43 per set — seventh in the nation. If the Cardinal continues its hot-serving ways, the Tigers and Lancers stand little chance at Maples Pavilion this weekend.

For Pacific, freshman outside hitter Thomas Hodges leads the team with an average of 3.32 kills and 1.14 blocks per set. Another key factor for Pacific’s offense is junior middle blocker Tommy Carmody, who averages 1.85 kills per match on a .315 hitting percentage. Stanford’s defense so far this season has been very strong in limiting teams to fewer hits than normal, consistently forcing opponents into more errors and poor hitting percentages. If Stanford can achieve these things, Pacific’s offense will have no answer. More importantly, if Stanford plays with the same high intensity and strong hitting power it has displayed throughout the second half of the season, it should dominate the Tigers’ defense.

Stanford will host Pacific today at 7 p.m., with the match against Cal Baptist also at 7 p.m. on Friday in its final two home matches of the season.

Contact Eliza Thompson elizat@stanford.edu.