In what was certainly a dramatic weekend for the No. 3 Stanford men’s volleyball, the Cardinal played 10 hard-fought sets against the Hawaii Warriors, barely coming away with a win Friday night before dropping a heartbreaker on Saturday.
Hawaii (4-7, 3-5 MPSF) was in control for much of the first set on Friday. Midway through, the Cardinal (7-3, 4-3) faced a 15-11 deficit but refused to give in. Stanford uncorked a 6-0 run, quickly seizing control of the set. While the Warriors kept it close, Stanford was able to win 25-23.
The Warriors again started the next set off strong, with Stanford struggling to play catch-up. Down 22-17, the Cardinal again made a strong push, cutting the lead to one behind a Hawaii error and three kills from junior outside hitter Steven Irvin.
This paved the way for the important third set, which proved to be one of the most dramatic Stanford has played this season. Both teams fought hard but struggled to gain an advantage over the other. Hawaii seemed in position to squeak out a win, but the Cardinal absolutely refused to give in. Stanford faced eight set points and managed to fight off each one of them.
With Hawaii up 31-30, the Cardinal tied the match back up on a kill from senior opposite Jake Kneller. Irvin followed that with a kill of his own, before a Hawaii error sealed the unbelievable 33-31 set victory for Stanford. Irvin played a crucial role in the win, hammering eight of his career-high 27 kills in the set alone.
There was still volleyball to be played, however, and Hawaii made it clear they were not about to concede victory, leading from start to finish and taking the fourth set 25-20.
The fifth set was all Stanford, however. The Cardinal started on a 5-2 run before putting the game out of reach behind back-to-back-to-back kills from Irvin. The junior absolutely killed the Warriors in the final set with four kills and two aces. Irvin, who hit an unbelievable .548 for the match, had three aces on the match, as well as eight digs.
Irvin’s fellow junior outside hitter Brian Cook also had an impressive day, with 20 kills and eight assists. At the same time, freshman setter James Shaw had 53 assists while Kneller had a double-double with 10 kills and 14 assists. Junior libero Grant Delgado continued his strong defensive play of late, chipping in a career-high 15 digs.
After all the drama from the first night, there was still more volleyball to be played on Saturday. Stanford controlled the first set from start to finish, winning 25-20, and seemed prepped to do the same in the second before the Hawaii offense woke up. The Warriors unleashed an 8-1 run, turning a 19-14 deficit into a 22-20 lead, shocking the Cardinal and taking the first set 25-23.
As a result, for the second-straight day Stanford and Hawaii entered the third set tied, and again Stanford managed to come out with a victory. This time, however, little drama unfolded as the Cardinal led almost the entire way, winning 25-21.
This gave Stanford the opportunity to put the Warriors away then and there, and Irvin certainly seemed determined to do so. The junior added seven of his match-high 22 kills in the set, putting Stanford in position to take the set.
An ace from Irvin gave Stanford its first match point, 24-23, but Hawaii opposite JP Marks was able to answer with a kill of his own, tying the score at 24. An Irvin kill again gave Stanford the match-point opportunity, but Marks again tied the game up. The Warriors then converted the next two points, taking the fourth set 27-25.
The game again came down to a decisive fifth set. After its incredible rally, however, the momentum was firmly in Hawaii’s camp, as the Warriors led all the way, taking the final set 15-11.
With the exception of Irvin, the Cardinal had a poor night on the offensive end, hitting a season low .203. Despite this, the defense was smothering, holding Hawaii to a .187 hitting percentage.
Stanford will return home to Maples Pavilion this weekend, with matches against No. 2 UC-Irvine and No. 13 UC-San Diego.