Long Beach State’s Walter Pyramid, the eighth wonder of the collegiate world, had been anything but wonderful to the Stanford men’s volleyball team in recent visits. On Friday, the Cardinal took in the architectural anomaly with winning spirit.
No. 4 Stanford (9-2, 6-1 MPSF) eked out a five-set victory in one of the nation’s most thrilling sagas, beating the No. 4 49ers 18-25, 25-17, 22-25, 25-20, 15-12. The victory snapped the Card’s three-match losing streak to Long Beach State and continued Stanford’s recent dominance.
Stanford coach John Kotsy was impressed by his team’s performance, particularly those of his middle blockers, Eric Mochalski and Gus Ellis. The two combined for 16 kills on .625 hitting, a phenomenal line symbolic of a careful team effort.
“It was an indication of our passing,” Kotsy said. “When the middles hit at a high percentage, it means we’re passing pretty well.”
Senior Brad Lawson added a team season-high 21 kills for the Cardinal, who battled back from a 2-1 deficit to grab a crucial road win. Sophomores Steven Irvin and Brian Cook joined Lawson in the double-digit-kills club, adding 15 and 10, respectively.
The win was the fifth in a row for the Cardinal, but the team went into instant-recovery mode in preparation for another tough road test less than a day later. And while Stanford had little time to recover for another huge contest against a ranked MPSF foe, it continued its winning ways against No. 11 Cal State-Northridge (4-7, 2-5) the next day.
The Cardinal walked away from the Matadome with its fifth consecutive road victory after a 25-22, 18-25, 25-22, 25-19 win, mostly thanks to a career night from Cook. The sophomore followed up his strong night against Long Beach by recording a career-high 26 kills against the Matadors — the most kills by any player on the Cardinal this season.
Cook’s 26 kills surpassed his previous career-high of 20 kills and contributed his biggest kills when the Cardinal needed him most. Tied 1-1 after two sets, the Santa Cruz native threw down eight kills in the third set to help win the set and swing the momentum in the Cardinal’s direction. In addition to Cook’s crazy night, Lawson was his typical outstanding self once again, recording 19 kills of his own.
With just two games left on its 40-day quest away from the Farm, Stanford has now compiled a 6-2 record with the only blemishes coming against UCLA and Penn State. Kotsy said that solid record, as well as Stanford’s current five-game win streak, indicated that the Cardinal is starting to gel at the right time.
“We see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “We’re learning how to win on the road. That’s the lesson here. Those are how conference champions are made. You make it a routine; you get in a groove.”
After earning its second consecutive weekend sweep, the Cardinal will wrap up its epic 10-game road schedule next weekend at UC-Irvine and UC-San Diego, but the bulk of the tough MPSF schedule still lies ahead. With 13 games left against conference foes, Stanford is currently in second place in the MPSF, but it will need to continue its hot play to stay in the heart of the race against a league stacked with solid competitors. However, the Cardinal will play 11 of those 13 conference games at home over the last three months of the season.
Stanford continues its quest for an MPSF title on the road this weekend in Irvine and San Diego, with the first match against the Anteaters at 6 p.m. on Friday.