By Divine Edem
This weekend, No. 14 Stanford men’s volleyball (10-16, 7-13 MPSF) will enter arguably its most intense set of matches since the beginning of the season. The Cardinal’s matches against No. 12 UCLA and No. 9 UC Santa Barbara will determine their stake within the end-of-season playoffs.
Stanford holds the advantage of playing on its home court, in which the team holds an 8-6 record. Despite the advantage, the team’s competition will still be tough, as both UCLA and UC Santa Barbara swept Stanford 3-0 earlier this season.
However, the Cardinal possess some of the strongest hitters within the league. With three hitters having the ability to hit over 10 striking kills, the Cardinal need to play off the massive strength of the offensive lineup in order to gain early dominations for each set.
In the previous game against UCLA earlier in the season, Clay Jones and James Shaw helped keep Stanford alive before the inevitable loss due to the Bruins’ 16 kills and 25 digs. However, in order to be on top of Friday’s game, Stanford needs to distribute and increase the number of hits among the front row hitters in order to prevent heavy reliance on very few players.
Stanford has a good chance of beating the Bruins, seeing that the final scores of the previous game were an extremely close 25-27, 22-25 and 21-25. Daniel Tublin and Gabriel Vega, two of the team’s top scorers, will play a crucial role in the patterns of the game, in addition to the defensive efforts of the Cardinal’s passers.
In the earlier matchup against UC Santa Barbara, the Gauchos appeared much more aggressive, evidenced by the 14-25, 20-25, 19-25 loss for Stanford. For this match, the Cardinal will need to take an even more aggressive approach in hitting tactics and defense mechanisms. Considering that UC Santa Barbara won several points from premeditated defensive plays, front-row players will be key players in Saturday’s match.
This upcoming weekend serves as the make-or-break point for the men’s volleyball season as a redeemer for some of its low points. With at least one victory over the weekend, Stanford will head to the playoffs to fight for the title of MPSF champion.
Contact Divine Edem at dedem ‘at’ stanford.edu.