Stanford men’s volleyball completed its eight game home-stand with a pair of wins over No. 15 Purdue Fort Wayne (4-4). The eighth-ranked Cardinal (7-1) dragged themselves to the finish line Friday night in an unpleasant 3-1 win. The team made adjustments and came back Saturday night to a much more solid 3-0 victory.
With Saturday’s win, Stanford eclipsed its total number of wins last season. One of the largest differences between the two seasons has been the team chemistry. Head coach John Kosty said, “This team has stayed together. Last year we started 14 different lineups throughout the season. We have been pretty consistent and consistency really helps in wins. We have senior leadership with sophomore power.”
On Friday night, the team came out looking flat footed in every set. The Mastodons run an offense that is much faster than Stanford’s offense, and the Cardinal were unable to control the tempo. The team also had to deal with a change in the starting lineup as junior outside hitter Eric Beatty was injured. Sophomore outside hitter Leo Henken replaced him in both games.
The first set started close, though Stanford was unable to gain the lead until a big block from junior middle blocker Stephen Moye and sophomore opposite Jaylen Jasper boosted the Cardinal to 7-6. The game remained tied to 13. The Cardinal offense then found some room, and Henken terminated a kill which forced a PFW timeout at 16-13.
The timeout was fruitless as senior outside hitter Jordan Ewert found three kills in Stanford’s last six points. On the third set point, Ewert was able to find the set-winning spike to avoid the deuce at 25-23. Despite 16 kills, the offense was only hitting .238, and its efficiency dropped over the next two sets.
Stanford drew first blood in the second set after a Moye kill, but then the Mastodons took over, running away with a 3-8 lead. Consecutive Ewert blocks and then back-to-back Jasper kills were able to dig the Cardinal out of their hole, bringing them to 12-12.
Representative of the offense, Jasper hit just .239 on the night, though he did tally a game-high 17 kills. In an offensive slump, Jasper focused on other aspects of his game, racking up a season-high 10 digs, which gave him a double-double on the night. Jasper also had a season-high five blocks.
“I tell myself that even though I might not be hitting as best I can, I can find other areas where I can excel in,” explained Jasper. “Blocking and digging were things I was focusing on. Once I get all that in order, my attacks will fall into line.”
The set stayed close until two blocks by sophomore middle blocker Kyler Presho extended the Cardinal lead to 22-18. In a theme that would become too common for PFW, a Mastodon service error gave set two away to Stanford, 25-22.
Set three marked the worst volleyball of the night for Stanford. PFW claimed the very first point, and it never let go of the lead. Stanford managed to tie the score only once at 1-1. The set seemed over at 12-18, but a last-effort timeout fired up the team. Ewert and Jasper traded kills as the lead shrank to just two points at 22-24. Ultimately, their efforts were in vain as the Mastodons secured the set on the next point.
“We wanted to get off to a quick start and try to stay consistent. PFW was able to get big leads on us in the beginning, and that was on us making a lot of errors,” reflected junior setter Paul Bischoff.
Again the Mastodons jumped out to an early 4-7 lead in the fourth set. An early timeout was called, and the Cardinal soon settled down as the score tied at 11. From that point on, neither team had a lead larger than a single point. Every blocked Stanford hit would be matched by a Mastodon service error.
Tensions rose with the score closing in on 23-23. The set featured 14 tie scores, which was as much as the past three sets. Defense played a huge role in the game, and the team dove for a season-high 52 digs. Senior libero Kyle Dagostino paced the court with his own season-high of 15 digs.
The big men also provided 13 team blocks, which was good for another season high. Presho’s seven blocks both led the team and were the most he has had on the season.
Moye was finally able to give match point to Stanford with a massive kill. A Mastodon attack error gave Stanford the biggest 2-0 run of the set and more importantly the game.
Afterwards, Coach Kosty said, “A win is a win, and we can pull some really good things out from this game. We passed really well. Leo stepped in and did a solid job passing for us. There are still some things to work on. PFW is a good, tough team, and I’m happy to get the win.”
Saturday night’s game was featured in Burnham Pavilion, a location the team preferred to Maples due to the energy and closeness of the crowd. Both teams made changes after Friday’s game, but it was unclear which school would emerge victorious.
Early into the first set, there was no doubt in the crowd’s mind that it would be a strong Stanford victory. Moye served up an ace, which Jasper followed with his own to give Stanford the 8-3 lead. Ewert then contributed another ace, and the lead extended 12-4.
The Mastodons gained ground after a timeout, and the lead narrowed to four, 16-12. Bischoff then snuck two kills by the PFW big men to re-extend the lead to 21-15.
Though the two points were his only kills of the night, Bischoff and the offense were in much better shape. The setter tallied 30 assists on the night. He also provide help on the other side of the net, pacing the floor with four blocks and leading the team with seven digs alongside Henken and Dagostino.
“Personally I felt more relaxed this game and more confident in my setting,” said Bischoff. “Friday I felt that there was a bit of a haze; everything was a bit off. I was able to change my mentality for today, and that made my setting better.”
Back-to-back kills from Henken, who played much better his second night, brought Stanford to set point, and the Mastodon gave the Cardinal the set on a service error. Henken finished the night with seven kills on 10 swings and just a single error.
The second set started much closer, and PFW was able to garner a 6-8 lead. More Mastodon service errors were able to bring the Cardinal back into the game, and a Henken ace followed by two Ewert kills gave Stanford a 17-15 lead.
Any Mastodon hopes were extinguished by the arms of Presho and Bischoff, who provided back-to-back blocks and a resounding kill. Jasper’s dunk then gave Stanford set point, and the Mastodons squandered their opportunity with yet another service error to give Stanford the second set.
The final set of the night brought back memories of the previous day with 15 tie scores and four lead changes.
The Cardinal tried to gain momentum after Moye recorded his sole dig of the night (his fifth of the season), which led to a Ewert assist that Jasper terminated for the lead, 6-5. The bench and the crowd lost their minds.
The momentum was short-lived, and neither team could gain a solid advantage over the other. Ewert then found a chink in the armor, and his kill provided Stanford with its first match point at 24-21.
Errors by the Cardinal hampered their efforts, and the Mastodons looked to force the game to deuce at 24-23. To the home crowd’s delight, they opted to serve the ball into the net for the third straight set, awarding Stanford its seventh win on the year.
“It was great to get a win today,” Bischoff said afterwards. “We’re sore, we’re beaten up from Friday, but I’m really proud of how we were able to come out and execute despite some setbacks. We maintained a lot more focus from Friday.”
Jasper agreed, “Today felt much better. We were able to pick up our game and start playing at the level we have been practicing at. There was a huge mentality change. We wanted yesterday’s game to hurry up and finish since we knew it wasn’t our best volleyball. Today we came in expecting the game to go to five sets, and we were much more ready.”
The team will travel to Hawai’i next weekend to face the second-ranked Rainbow Warriors. The meeting will be a double header with matches on Friday and Sunday night.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.