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Cardinal clinch Final Four berth after sweep of Erskine

The No. 3 seed Stanford men’s volleyball team swept the No. 6 seed Erskine in its NCAA play-in match on Tuesday night, clinching a spot in the Final Four with the 25-14, 25-16, 25-15 win. The win sets up a showdown against conference rival No. 2 seed BYU in the semifinal match, the only team to which the Cardinal have lost in over two months.

(SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

Senior outside hitter Brian Cook  (above) had a match-high 12 kills and hit .526 in Stanford’s sweep over Erskine in its NCAA play-in on Tuesday. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

“We are excited to earn the right to play in the Final Four,” said head coach John Kosty after the match. “Erskine is a solid team. They run their program well and they fought hard.”

Erskine, in just the second year of its men’s volleyball program’s existence, earned an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament by capturing the Conference Carolinas championship. Though Erskine has quickly established itself within the volleyball world, it is still a young and inexperienced team that has faced much weaker competition in conference than Stanford, which took on the nation’s top-ranked teams in the MPSF. The Cardinal, which have made the postseason the last seven seasons, had an advantage at the outset solely from having experience playing in high-pressure matches.

Stanford came out with high intensity and played to its full potential from the start of the match, not giving Erskine any chances to feel comfortable. After struggling to maintain control and momentum in Saturday’s MPSF final loss to BYU, Stanford captured an early 18-11 lead in Tuesday’s match, forcing Erskine into catch-up mode. Stanford out-hit its opponent .545 to .111 in the first set, taking the set 25-14.

In the second set, Stanford once again busted out to an early advantage and dominated in blocking. The Cardinal held the Flying Fleet to a -.069 hitting percentage in the second set, forcing more errors (seven) than the team had kills (five). Senior Eric Mochalski had a big role in the frame, hitting .700 in the 25-16 win. And the third set proved to be much of the same, as Stanford finished off the sweep with a 25-16 win.

The Cardinal hit .423 in the match and held Erskine to just .043 for the night. The offense was led by senior All-American outside hitter Brian Cook with 12 kills and a .526 hitting percentage. Cook has had a phenomenal season for the Cardinal and came out swinging from the beginning. Senior Steven Irvin and Mochalski also had impressive nights, tallying nine and seven kills respectively.

“We just wanted to play Stanford volleyball tonight,” said Irvin. “We had to serve and pass well and the offense would take care of itself.”

Though the Cardinal still has room for improvement in their serving game, they had just 12 service errors in the match, compared to the 17 errors in the loss to BYU, their first in 14 matches.

As a team, Stanford completely dominated the undersized Flying Fleet at the net, out-blocking them 13-2. Sophomore middle Conrad Kaminski had a match-high six blocks. Senior libero Grant Delgado also had a match-high 11 digs, balancing Stanford’s performance with a dominant defensive effort.

Erskine was led by freshman outside hitter Roberto Perez Vargas, who had nine kills and four digs in the match. Sophomore outside hitter and Conference Carolinas MVP Michael Michelau was also at the center of the Flying Fleet’s offense with eight kills and eight digs.

With the win, Stanford will play in the Final Four for the first time since 2010, when the team won the program’s second NCAA title. The Cardinal will face BYU, a familiar, yet difficult opponent that has beaten Stanford three times already this season. Yet both teams play similar styles, and Stanford will be looking for revenge against the team that ended its 13-match winning streak. First serve in the national semifinal is set for 4 p.m. on Thursday at Gentile Arena in Chicago.

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

  • Harold Jones

    I believe that BYU has beaten Stanford three times this year, not two.