This weekend, the No. 8 Stanford men’s volleyball team was on the road, taking on No. 4 UC-Irvine and UC-San Diego. The Cardinal was fresh off an impressive turnaround win over Pacific last Tuesday but was unable to keep the win streak going, falling in three sets to Irvine before sweeping UCSD.
The Anteaters (20-6, 17-6 MPSF) had swept the Cardinal (14-11, 11-11) in their past meeting and were looking to repeat that in front of their boisterous home crowd. Stanford, however, was looking for some revenge and certainly looked as if they would get it, cruising to an early 8-4 lead.
Irvine, however, was not intimidated. The Anteaters unleashed a seven-point run, featuring three aces from sophomore opposite Zack La Cavera, turning the four-point deficit into a three-point lead.
The Cardinal still refused to be cowed and stayed close, pulling the game even at 14 apiece. At that point, however, Irvine began to pull away from Stanford, ultimately taking the set 25-20.
The second set saw Irvine get off to a quick start, taking an early 8-3 lead. Again, the Cardinal was able to slowly work itself back into contention, pulling within two as late as 20-18. The Anteaters, however, proved too powerful, winning the second set 25-20.
Stanford needed to capture the third set to avoid its second straight sweep at the hands of Irvine. The Cardinal took the first point of the set but was unable to maintain the lead as the Anteaters cruised to a 25-19 set victory.
Stanford was completely outperformed by Irvine on the offensive end, hitting just .194 while the Anteaters hit .375. Junior opposite Brian Cook and junior outside hitter Steven Irvin continued their strong production, combining for 17 kills. Their fellow junior, middle blocker Denny Falls, had another impressive performance in his return to the starting lineup, posting five blocks and chipping in four kills on .571 hitting.
Following the loss, Stanford traveled down to sunny San Diego to take on the Tritons (7-20, 4-18). Stanford had defeated UCSD in their previous meeting and looked as though they would do so again, coming right out of the gates with three straight points.
The Tritons hung tight, even pulling within three late in the set, but Stanford was able to escape with a 25-20 victory behind four kills each from Cook, Falls and junior middle blocker Eric Mochalski.
The Tritons fought back in the second set, starting with a quick five-point run that put them ahead 5-2. The game turned into a cat-and-mouse affair, with both teams exchanging points and neither able to get the advantage over the other.
UCSD held the set point at 24-23, but a kill from junior opposite Daniel Tublin squared the game at 24. Stanford then had a set point opportunity of its own, but UCSD answered with its own kill. Finally, on Stanford’s second chance, Mochalski crushed a ball down the line for the set-winning kill.
Stanford had to win just one more set to earn its second straight sweep over the Tritons. From the outset, it was clear that UCSD had no intentions of letting that happen. The Tritons started on a 4-0 run that quickly put Stanford in a large hole. Down 19-14, the Cardinal needed to put forth a massive effort to get itself back in the game.
Stanford slowly began to close the gap, but was running out of time as UCSD neared 25 points. The Tritons earned their first game point at 24-22, but Stanford countered with four straight points, closing with a powerful kill from Cook that gave the Cardinal a 26-24 victory.
Cook would finish with 10 kills and six digs, while Irvin added 12 kills, two aces and nine digs. Mochalski had one of his best games of the season, with 10 kills on .533 hitting, as well as four blocks. Falls continued his strong play out of the middle, adding four kills and eight blocks.
With the win, Stanford moved up to seventh in the MPSF, a full game ahead of Cal State-Northridge. The Cardinal needs to stay within the top eight to secure its spot in the MPSF playoffs and ensure a chance at a national championship.
Next weekend, Stanford closes its regular season at Maples Pavilion with rematches against Cal Baptist and BYU.
Contact Anders Mikkelsen at amikk “at” stanford.edu.