No. 10 Stanford men’s volleyball (4-2, 1-0 MPSF) opened up conference play with a 3-1 (29-27, 25-16, 13-25, 26-24) win against No. 7 Pepperdine (2-2, 0-1 MPSF) on Friday in Malibu, CA.
Outside hitter Jordan Ewert led the Cardinal with a career-high 21 kills. The sophomore also racked up seven digs, two blocks and two aces in the match. Stanford’s well-rounded offense featured senior middle blocker Kevin Rakestraw, who collected 11 kills and a match-high five blocks, and sophomore opposite Matt Klassen, who reached double-digits with 10 kills.
Stanford’s defense shined throughout the match, tallying 46 digs to just 30 by Pepperdine. Freshman setter Paul Bischoff picked up his first career double-double with career highs of 45 assists and 11 digs. Bischoff guided the Cardinal offense to a .252 hitting percentage while holding Pepperdine to .207. Junior libero Evan Enriques put up a season-best 13 digs to lead a strong defensive corps.
Pepperdine controlled the opening set, out-hitting the Cardinal .368 to .286. However, Stanford rallied late, thanks to crucial kills from fifth-year senior outside hitter Gabriel Vega, which gave Stanford a 27-26 lead on the way to stealing the first set. Vega would end the match with six digs and eight kills for Stanford.
The Cardinal improved immensely in the second frame, hitting .300 while forcing Pepperdine to -.030 hitting. Ewert impressed, collecting nine of his 21 kills as the Cardinal offense gained momentum.
Still, Stanford was unable to lock down the sweep in the third set. The Cardinal hit .069 as a team while Pepperdine came back strong with a .421 team hitting percentage. Despite coming off of a strong second frame, the Cardinal floundered in the third set, producing nine attack errors and a dismal 13 points.
However, in the fourth set, the Cardinal hit a second resurgence. The offense came back with a vengeance in the fourth, limiting itself to five attack errors while producing points reliably throughout the frame. Tense moments came when, after going up 22-19 late in the set, the Cardinal allowed a 3-0 run by Pepperdine to tie the match at 22-all. Back-and-forth points hinted at a potential match-deciding fifth set, but a timely block by Ewert and freshman middle blocker Stephen Moye and a winning kill by Rakestraw clinched the match.
After a rough two-loss start to the regular season against the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, the Cardinal rebounded impressively against Pepperdine. The team looks to improve on offensive consistency, but players showed defining moments of dominance, especially in the second set. Stanford’s defense remains a bright spot of the season, and the Cardinal freshmen have asserted themselves in these early games, increasing depth on both sides of the ball.
Stanford will return home next week with matches against USC and Cal Baptist on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Both matches will be played in Maples Pavilion, and the face-off against USC will be televised on Pac-12 Network.
Contact Laura Anderson at lauraand ‘at’ stanford.edu.