The No. 1-ranked Stanford men’s volleyball found itself facing two top-25 teams on the road this past weekend, and the Cardinal was unable to transform its success at home to success away from Maples Pavilion.
The Cardinal lost to No. 6 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Friday in five nail-bitingly close sets, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23, 29-31, 15-11. It was the first loss of the season for Stanford, who beat UCLA in its season opener earlier this month. Stanford also lost to UC-Santa Barbara on Saturday in five sets, 25-13, 21-25, 12-25, 25-23, 15-12.
The Cardinal (3-2, 0-2 MPSF) and UCLA (5-1, 2-0) were about as closely matched as possible, with the fourth set going back and forth until Stanford finally pulled through 31-29. John Kosty’s squad managed to overcome four match points, coming from behind and pushing UCLA into a fifth set. Stanford outhit UCLA .310 to .296 and performed slightly better on the defensive side, with a 54-51 advantage in digs. Once again, senior outside hitter Steven Irvin paced Stanford’s offense with 22 kills, a .356 attack percentage and 13 digs. Senior outside hitter Brian Cook led the Cardinal in blocking, with four blocks on the night.
But in the end, it was not enough to overcome the Bruins and their home-court advantage. Senior outside hitter Robart Page had an outstanding performance for UCLA both on offense and defense, with 26 kills and nine digs. Though Stanford had a strong performance, the team was unable to overcome the confident and hungry Bruins, who were looking for redemption after losing to the Card in its season opener.
On Saturday night, Stanford looked for redemption after Friday’s loss but found itself in a similar position — in a five-set battle with UCSB (3-0, 2-0) that it ultimately lost. The Cardinal lost the first set by more than 10 points, falling 13-25. Stanford, who seemed overwhelmed by the Gauchos’ fast and aggressive start to the match, was able to regroup and win the second and third sets. The Cardinal offense was led by Cook for the second consecutive match, who recorded 17 kills to go along with seven digs and three blocks.
The two teams switched roles in the fourth set, with UCSB prevailing 25-23. The Gauchos were able to come out fast in the fifth and final frame, keeping a steady lead throughout as Stanford was unable to force a tie and lost the final set 15-12.
This weekend Stanford will head back out on the road, playing No. 8 BYU on Friday at 6 p.m. The Cardinal will then travel back to California to face Cal Baptist on Saturday in Riverside, Calif.
Contact Eliza Thompson at elizat ‘at’ stanford.edu.