After going 2-2 on its recent road trip, including 3-0 losses against Hawaii and Long Beach State, the men’s volleyball team found comfort in its home arena of Burnham Pavilion last night, where No. 4 Stanford defeated Pacific, 3-1.
After a tight first set that could have gone either way, the Cardinal appeared to be on its way to a resounding sweep with a dominating second set. The two teams traded the first few points, but a seven-point run put the set out of reach early at 11-4. Stanford (6-2, 4-2 MPSF) pulled away and finished off the Tigers (4-5, 1-4) 25-12 to go up two games to none in the match.
After leading for the first half of the third set, Stanford cooled down. In the first two games, the Cardinal was hitting .613 as a team, led by junior outside hitter Brad Lawson and his 13 kills. However, the third set saw a Stanford attack that more closely resembled the losses to Hawaii and Long Beach, when the passing game fell apart and too many attack errors ended up being very costly.
To their credit, the Tigers fought hard and got an outstanding effort from outside hitter Taylor Hughes. The redshirt sophomore had 22 kills, five blocks and five digs, as well a team-high hitting percentage of .357.
With Stanford up 22-19, Pacific reeled off six straight points to take the third set, 25-22—four of the points came off of Stanford attack errors.
After Pacific used its newfound momentum to jump out to an early 3-1 lead on three straight kills by Hughes, it looked like Stanford may be in trouble. But the Cardinal battled back, led by six Lawson kills, from a 17-14 deficit to tie the score at 20. That’s when freshman Brian Cook took over, notching two kills, including the match-winner, to seal the victory.
Lawson finished the match with 23 kills and just four errors—an impressive hitting percentage of .487. Junior setter Evan Barry also had a big game with 50 assists and six digs while running an efficient offense that ended up hitting .363 for the match.
“I thought we played really well tonight,” Lawson said. “After Long Beach we said it’s time to buckle down and we started to work on things we really needed to improve.
“Tonight I was just taking the ball and hitting it high and hard,” he added. “I think I kind of got away from that these past two weekends so it was on me to be aggressive and just go out and take my swings, which I think helped me tonight.”
The match was a brief rest from the road, as Stanford heads right back out to play at Lewis University and Loyola Chicago this weekend, where the wind chill is 20 degrees below freezing and the crowd is “really intense and hostile,” according to head coach John Kosty.
“This was a big win, because it’s the MPSF, every win is big,” Kosty said. “You’re playing for a national championship every match because any match can kick you out of the national title hunt, and everyone knows it. But that’s why everyone loves playing in the MPSF.”