Stanford earned a much-needed 3-0 win on Tuesday against Pacific, snapping a four-game losing streak and entering a three-game road trip on a positive note.
Stanford needed to find the intensity and teamwork it had been lacking of late, and it did just that. The No. 8 Cardinal (13-10, 10-10) beat Pacific for the 11th consecutive time on the road, ending the Cardinal’s longest losing streak since 2007. Prior to Tuesday’s win, Stanford had lost to both No. 2 Long Beach State and No. 10 Cal State Northridge, ending its winning streak at Maples.
While Stanford has dropped from No. 6 to No. 8 in the NCAA national rankings, its win against Pacific could prove to be a much-needed positive turn as the Cardinal prepares to face both No. 4 UC-Irvine (18-6) and UC San Diego (7-18) on the road this week. Stanford only has four more matches, all on the road, before the MPSF Tournament. Only the top eight teams in the MPSF go to the tournament and get the chance to play for an automatic bid in the NCAA tourney. Currently, the Cardinal is in a three-way tie for sixth, so winning the next matches is crucial if the Stanford wants a place in the postseason.
In order for the Cardinal to be successful this week against the Anteaters and Tritons, the team needs to continue the strong team effort and aggressive offense that it had against Pacific. Pacific is a very strong defensive team—third in the MPSF in blocking and second in digs—and therefore Stanford’s road win against the Tigers’ defense was a great offensive accomplishment.
Senior Steven Irvin proved the leader of the offense once again with his second consecutive double-double. Junior Brian Cook also had 13 kills and redshirt sophomore Daniel Tublin added to the offense with 10 kills.
The team looked stronger, more confident and very consistent. It was just the type of win needed going into the final stretch of the regular season.
UC-Irvine’s defense is very similar to Pacific’s, both strong and dependable. Stanford must look to be aggressive against UC-Irvine, focusing on strong hitting to overcome the Anteaters’ strong net defense. Stanford can also look to take advantage of UC-Irvine’s recent struggles, as the Anteaters have lost three of their last six.
Stanford will need to control UC-Irvine’s leading hitter in Kevin Tillie, a first-team All-American last season, while it looks to revenge its loss at home against the Anteaters earlier in the season.
UC-San Diego, on the other hand, has been experiencing recent success and improvement, despite being last in the MPSF. The Tritons lost at Maples earlier this season and are overall weak offensively. If the Cardinal can start out aggressively and build a fast lead, it should be able to keep UC-San Diego from avenging its loss against the Cardinal.
The Tritons, however, have proven they can pull out a win during a five-set match.
Stanford is faced with a critical point in its season. It has the opportunity to build off its victory against Pacific and overcome a difficult losing streak in order to guarantee a place in the MPSF Tournament. On Tuesday, the team looked like it had used its recent struggles as a learning and improving experience and looked stronger than ever as a team unit. The Cardinal’s seeming improvement will be put to the test this week against UC-Irvine on Friday and UC-San Diego on Saturday.
Contact Eliza Thompson at elizat “at” stanford.edu.