No. 9 Stanford men’s volleyball (3-0) started the season strong, going undefeated in three matches at the UCSB Asics Invitational on Friday and Saturday. The Cardinal notched wins against Mount Olive (0-3) and Quincy (0-2) on Friday before closing out Saturday with a sweep of McKendree (0-4). This final tune-up before the home opener showcased Stanford’s offensive depth as well as its trademark defense.
The 2017 season opener on Friday morning produced a resounding 25-15, 25-15, 25-19 sweep of the Mount Olive Trojans. Senior middle blocker Kevin Rakestraw led the team with 11 kills and five blocks while fifth-year senior outside hitter Gabriel Vega and sophomore outside hitter Jordan Ewert each chipped in with seven kills.
Stanford’s standout freshman class, which was rated No. 1 in the nation by VolleyballMag.com, made their collective collegiate debut against the Trojans. Freshman setter Paul Bischoff, a first-team high school All-American, directed the offense with 32 assists. The freshmen showed great potential for the season to come.
In the second match of the Friday doubleheader, Stanford dropped the first set, before taking down the Quincy Hawks 20-25, 25-11, 25-22, 25-14. The Cardinal had a strong service game, racking up 13 aces in the match. Sophomore opposite Matt Klassen dominated behind the line, leading the way with five aces. Ewert, Rakestraw and senior outside hitter Colin McCall each reached double-digit kills in a balanced offensive effort. Junior Kyle Dagostino led Stanford as setter, guiding the offense with 40 assists.
With two wins heading into the final day of the tournament, the Cardinal delivered a shutdown performance against McKendree, sweeping the Bearcats 25-17, 25-21, 25-21. Stanford hit .427 in the match — its highest of the weekend — as Vega (15) and Ewert (11) combined for 26 of the team’s 44 kills. Bischoff notched 37 assists in his return as setter, and the team again reached double-digit aces, this time with 11.
Stanford will play host to defending national champion Ohio State next Friday in a tough test that will gauge the Cardinal’s readiness for the start of the season. If the team can bring the balanced attack and staunch defense of its first three games to Maples Pavilion, it could prove competitive against the Buckeyes.
Stanford will open at home against Ohio State on Friday at 7 p.m. The two teams will play again on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Burnham Pavilion. Friday’s match will televised on Pac-12 Network.
Contact Laura Anderson at lauraand ‘at’ stanford.edu.