By James Hemker
A 3-0 sweep over No. 14 Ball State Cardinals (2-2) gives the No. 11 Stanford men’s volleyball team (3-0) its first ranked win of the year. The victory keeps the Cardinal undefeated, and marks the team’s third consecutive win against Ball State. The Cardinals fought to keep it close in the first set, but Stanford ran away with the match 25-22, 25-17, and 25-20.
Stanford’s offense was firing on all cylinders, as the team notched 38 kills while hitting at a .325 clip. Sophomore opposite Jaylen Jasper claimed nearly a third of the team’s total kills with 12. On his success so far, Jasper humbly said, “It’s definitely been the support of all my teammates. Last year, being a freshman, I had a bunch of nerves. The way they carry themselves gives me someone to look up to and it’s been great.”
Senior outside hitter Jordan Ewert picked up eight more kills, while junior setter Paul Bischoff was the most efficient weapon with five kills on as many swings. Bischoff was all over the floor, providing 28 of the team’s 36 assists.
The match started with an early 10-5 Stanford run where Jasper slammed four kills. After a critical timeout, Ball State clawed its way past Stanford with a 4-12 run that was only stopped with another Jasper kill.
Neither team could completely find its footing while the score tallied up to 22-22.
Two consecutive blocks by junior middle blocker Stephen Moye then brought the small crowd gathered in Maples to its feet. Bischoff rewarded their support with a service ace to claim the first set for Stanford.
Stanford attacked Ball State from the service line all night long, hitting a total of four aces and forcing 14 reception errors, knocking Ball State out of system. Head coach John Kosty said, “Our serving was nice and solid tonight, and we put a lot of pressure on them from the service line which gave us a lot of opportunities to score points.”
After the first set, there was a notable change in Stanford’s play, and Ball State never had another shot. Kosty remarked, “I was happiest with the fact that we improved as the match went on. We made some changes and we adapted to what they were trying to do, and it was successful. When you are trying to get a new team to gel, those are really good signs to see.”
Through the beginning of the second set, the Cardinal and Cardinals scrapped with each other to 13-13. Errors from Ball State combined with another Bischoff ace gave Stanford a solid 21-15 lead. An intense rally led to players on both sides of the net scrambling over the court until a rare Moye assist set Jasper up for an electrifying kill. Jasper then took a hint from Bischoff and ended the second set on a missile of an ace.
The latter half of the second set showcased the Cardinal defense led by senior libero Kyle Dagostino. Dagostino paced all players with eight digs, while Jasper and Ewert contributed seven apiece. Stanford kept a lid on the Ball State offense with nine total blocks. Sophomore middle blocker Kyler Presho had a team high four blocks. The defense continued to prove it is among the most suffocating in the nation by allowing the Cardinals to hit just .163 over the course of the night.
Entering the third set, Stanford held all of the moment. It quickly materialized as a 10-5 lead, with back-to-back blocks by Presho serving as the exclamation point. Ewert stretched the lead to six with a dipping serve that was simply unhittable. Bischoff and Ewert then took turns raining kills on Ball State as Stanford’s lead grew to 18-11.
As the win drew nearer, the team got ahead of itself and allowed Ball State a small run which brought the game to 24-20. The match concluded anticlimactically when Ball State’s serve sailed out of bounds, handing Stanford the set and the victory.
The start to the 2019 season is a dramatic improvement over last year, when Stanford dropped its first four contests. Jasper said, “Almost our whole team is back from last year, and it just feels like the chemistry, the way we play on the court, everything feels so much more tight-knit.”
Stanford will need to be a strong, cohesive unit to face No. 7 Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes are a perennial top team, and they have handled the Cardinal without much trouble the past three years. First serve is set for 7 p.m. PST, and this match will take place in Burnham Pavilion.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.