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Men’s volleyball cruises into MPSF finals with 3-0 win over Pepperdine

Stanford men’s volleyball swept Pepperdine in a near-perfect performance on Thursday, earning the Cardinal a spot in the MPSF championship match this weekend.

Senior hitter Brian Cook (above) led the Cardinal attack with 17 kills against Pepperdine. (ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)

Senior hitter Brian Cook (above) led the Cardinal attack with 17 kills against Pepperdine. (ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)

In terms of seeding, the victory for No. 3 Stanford over No. 2 Pepperdine may have been an upset, but with Stanford’s dominant performances lately, the win was no surprise. Thursday’s win increases the Cardinal’s winning streak to 13, during which they have only lost nine sets. Such a long winning streak, especially in the talented MPSF, is truly an incredible accomplishment.

Stanford looked stronger than ever in the semifinal match. The team came out with confidence and drive, controlling the match from the very beginning and never looking back.

“I think we played Stanford volleyball tonight,” said head coach John Kosty. “We passed well and didn’t give up too many unforced errors. We had a solid all-around game and played to our potential.”

Stanford’s win was the third this season against Pepperdine and completed a season sweep of the Waves. And while the Waves are a very strong team, the Cardinal outperformed Pepperdine on almost every level throughout the match. Stanford outhit Pepperdine, recording a .474 hitting percentage on the night, the second-best performance for the team this season. Perhaps more impressively, Stanford held Pepperdine to just .114 in the same category. No Pepperdine player had more than 6 kills on the night, with Nikola Antonijevic leading the Waves with six and a .400 hitting percentage. Stanford had 10 blocks on the night and senior libero Grant Delgado finished with six digs.

Stanford’s offense was led once again by senior outside hitter Brian Cook, who had 17 kills and hit .667 for the match. Many of the recently named AVCA All-American’s 17 kills came during crucial points during the match, providing the Cardinal with momentum.

“Brian dictated the action on the court tonight. His hitting numbers reflect that,” Kosty said. “But, I thought it was a nice performance overall. Everyone contributed.”

Stanford never trailed Pepperdine by more than two points, and won each set by at least six. In the first set, Stanford started out aggressively and jumped out to an early 14-8 lead. Pepperdine took a pair of timeouts before the set hit the halfway mark, and the Cardinal went on to win the first set 25-16 with impressive performances from Steven Irvin and senior Eric Mochalski. Stanford is 19-3 on the season when it wins the opening set.

Pepperdine stepped up its game in the second set and was even outhitting the Cardinal .375 to .222 at one point. The set was tied at 6-6 and again at 11-11 but Stanford started to build a lead after that point. However, it was clear the Waves were not going to go away without a fight, and they managed to cut the Cardinal lead to a single point a few more times during the second set. Stanford won set two 25-19, the closest of the three sets.

Stanford really turned it into high gear in the third set. It was clear that the Cardinal, who are undefeated in three-set matches, wanted to close out the match and not give Pepperdine an opportunity to rally back.

Stanford’s offense was in prime condition during the beginning of the set, with everything working well for the Cardinal. The Waves, however, were struggling to find a rhythm and had a couple critical errors down the stretch that gave Stanford an advantage. Cook got five of his kills in the last half of the third set, dominating the court and providing confidence that the rest of the team fed off.

Everyone stepped up in major ways to close out the match, with junior Spencer Haly getting an impressive kill at 17-11 and later Conrad Kaminski and James Shaw getting a late-set block at 22-14. For the night, Irvin had 9 kills and Mochalski had 7. Shaw was the key to the controlled and consistent offensive performance with 39 assists. It seemed that Stanford’s entire roster stepped up and worked together to produce a near-perfect offensive performance.

Stanford will face BYU, the winner of the other semifinal match, on Saturday with the MPSF title on the line.

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