By James Hemker
Concluding a tough two-week road trip, No. 9 Stanford men’s volleyball team (7-5, 0-2 MPSF) was swept in three sets by No. 5 Pepperdine (8-2, 2-0 MPSF) on Friday night.
Despite the three-set sweep (21-25, 22-25, 21-25), this was a match the ninth-ranked Cardinal could have won. All three sets started close, but Stanford allowed the Waves large runs of four or five points, which proved to be the difference.
Following a heartbreaker against UCLA the night before, the Cardinal attempted to jump start their performance with a new lineup. Junior opposite Eli Wopat was given the start and sophomore opposite Jaylen Jasper was moved to the outside hitter position to replace fellow sophomore Leo Henken.
Wopat brought the heat from the service line, cooking up both of Stanford’s aces during the first set. The lineup change failed to make an impact in other areas the team was looking for, however, and Henken was brought in midway through the second set.
Stanford’s pin hitters were kept in check by the Waves, as senior outside hitter Jordan Ewert paced Stanford with 11 kills on 0.296 hitting. Jasper, who had 20 kills the night before, was held to just eight kills while hitting an ugly 0.190.
The Pepperdine defense, however, was unable to contain Stanford’s middle blockers, junior Stephen Moye and sophomore Kyler Presho. Moye found five kills on six swings, and Presho terminated six kills on eight swings. Unfortunately, the Cardinal offense did not pivot from Ewert and Jasper to Moye and Presho early enough for any real impact.
On the defensive front, Moye led the team with five blocks, matching his season best, and senior libero Kyle Dagostino dug seven balls. The team had major trouble dealing with the Waves’ outside hitter David Wieczorek, the reigning MPSF Player of the Year. Wieczorek claimed 14 kills on 0.737 hitting.
Pepperdine’s largest advantage came at the service line. Stanford had trouble receiving the serve all night, and that issue manifested in eight service aces for the Waves. When the Cardinal could field the ball, it often forced them out of system, allowing Pepperdine a free ball.
During the entire trip, Stanford struggled with both service and receiving. Opponents served up 23 aces, while Stanford created just five. The more conservative service style that the Cardinal employed did not help to reduce service errors either, as they committed 43 errors to opponents’ 42 errors.
The Cardinal had high hopes coming into the road trip, but four straight games against top-five opponents proved to be too much. Stanford returns home for four home games over the next two weeks. First up will be No. 14 USC on Thursday followed by Concordia on Saturday.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.