By James Hemker
This past weekend, No. 9 Stanford men’s volleyball team (7-3) traveled across the Pacific for a double-header against No. 2 Hawaii (5-0). The Rainbow Warriors backed their ranking with their play, sweeping the ninth-ranked Cardinal in three sets on both Friday and Sunday night.
The matches brought Stanford, who opened the season 7-2 with five ranked wins, back down to earth. The team has proper young talent that will need to be honed and focused before they break into the upper echelon of volleyball teams.
In both matches, the Cardinal defense was overwhelmed by Hawaii’s artillery offense, while Stanford’s offense was unable to find a rhythm and get around the blocks.
On Friday, senior outside hitter Jordan Ewert was the sole bright spot on offense. Ewert paced the Cardinal with 14 kills, and he also chipped in the sole service ace of the night. On defense, Ewert was able to rack up 10 digs, recording his second double-double of the season.
The Cardinal were unable to capitalize on Ewert’s momentum, as the offense stalled — hitting just .256 on the night. Sophomore Jaylen Jasper, normally the jewel of the offense, was limited to only seven kills on .130 hitting. Jasper, who did not play volleyball his last two years of high school, had his raw talent shut down by the complex strategies of the Hawaii defense. The Hawaii big men were oppressive, and they out-blocked Stanford 8-1.
Represented by that single block, the defense failed to slow down Hawaii’s offense, which hit .364 during the match. Hawaii’s opposite Rado Parapunov terminated a weekend-high 17 kills at a .375 clip. Four Rainbow Warriors hit north of .350 on at least seven attempts.
There were a few bright spots for the Cardinal during this match, including the second set which ended after multiple set points, 25-27. As the game moved into the 20s, Ewert gave the Rainbow Warriors significant trouble as he crushed multiple pipe sets from junior setter Paul Bischoff.
On Sunday night, it was clear that Hawaii was the better team on the court, as the Cardinal were defeated 15-25, 18-25, 16-25. The Cardinal hit worse than on Friday (.236), and the Rainbow Warriors dramatically improved (.544).
Every ball hit by Hawaii seemed to blow by Stanford, while each Stanford hit was dug up by the Rainbow Warriors. The statistics tell the story the best, with just 15 digs for the Cardinal and 29 for the home team.
Jasper was able to find more of a presence Sunday night, tallying a match-high 13 kills. The issue was that Ewert (11 kills) was the only other Cardinal over three kills. The Rainbow Warriors continued to cast their shadow over the net, creating nine more blocks. Stanford managed only a single block again.
The most impressive performances came out of Hawaii’s offense. The lowest hitting percentage on the night among the ‘Bows was .444. Five different players contributed at least five kills.
It is still early in the season, and Stanford will have to take the games as a learning experience. The Cardinal will continue their road trip this coming week. Two more highly ranked conference opponents are on tap with No. 4 UCLA (8-2) on Thursday and No. 5 Pepperdine (6-2) on Friday evening.
ContactJames Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.