By James Hemker
After being derailed by a two-week road trip, the Stanford men’s volleyball 2019 Revenge Tour is back in full swing. The No. 9 Cardinal (9-5, 2-2 MPSF) swept Concordia University (5-10, 1-2) in three sets on Saturday. The Eagles had dispatched the Cardinal in three sets almost exactly a year ago.
With the win, Stanford head coach John Kosty notched his 200th victory at Stanford. Kosty has been the team’s head coach for the past 13 years, and oversaw the program’s second ever national championship in 2010.
The match featured some of the team’s best play this season, and it came as a welcome sight after the five-set brawl against USC last Thursday night.
“I told our guys in the locker room that they did a great job executing the game plan,” said Kosty. “When we execute a game plan for three straight sets, games may feel like they are easy, but they aren’t easy; the guys are just playing at a higher level.”
The offense was firing on all cylinders, as represented by their season-best .481 hitting. Junior setter Paul Bischoff made it happen with 35 assists on 55 attempts. The Cardinal also negated the Concordia big men, who failed to record a block.
Sophomore opposite Jaylen Jasper eclipsed the 15-kill mark for the second straight game with a floor-leading 16 kills on .520 hitting. Senior outside hitter Jordan Ewert terminated 11 kills of his own on .350 hitting to capture his seventh straight game with double-digit kills.
Sophomore outside hitter Leo Henken played his best game of the season. Henken nailed a season-high nine kills. His .444 hitting was the best percentage since facing Purdue Fort Wayne in late January.
Coming off the bench and being thrown into the starting lineup isn’t new for Henken. “The same thing happened last year when we had a lot of injuries and I was thrown in there,” he said. “I’ve taken it all in stride and I’ve had a lot of good teammates to back me up. Jordan [Ewert] is a great outside and he has been helping me out and I talk to [Eric] Beatty a lot on the bench.”
The Cardinal also had a field day from the service line as they cooked up six aces, which ties for second-most all year. Jasper and Ewert each contributed two, while Henken and sophomore middle blocker Kyler Presho had one apiece.
Stanford’s serving also threw the Eagles out of system, giving defense a much easier job. The Cardinal recorded eight team blocks with junior middle blocker Stephen Moye leading with five. Bischoff and senior libero Kyle Dagostino paced the match with ten digs each, meaning Bischoff recorded his third double-double in four matches.
The match started close with neither team finding an advantage. Jasper then found a kill at 7-6 despite being triple-teamed. The one-point lead was all Stanford needed, and kills from Ewert and Henken extended the lead to seven, 19-12. The two teammates followed up their attacking with aces to seal set one for Stanford, 25-17.
The second frame threatened to follow suit when the Eagles found themselves in a 7-3 hole. A lapse from Stanford allowed Concordia back in the game after a 2-5 run. This was the only major run for the Eagles, a testament to the mental fortitude of the Cardinal on the night.
“Coming into the match, the question for ourselves was how focused are we going to stay, how mentally stable are we going to be,” said Bischoff. “I think tonight the guys did a really good job being able to lock in and do their jobs and not dwell on past errors.”
The two teams battled back and forth as the score rose to 18 a piece. After a block from Ewert and Presho, Jasper was able to string his two aces together. A few points later, Jasper terminated the set-winning kill, 25-20.
The final set saw the lead change hands four times before Henken’s kill gave Stanford the 8-7 lead. Ewert followed with an ace off the tape, and then he provided a backwards set from halfway across the court to Jasper.
Jasper rattled off a couple more kills as Stanford stayed in the driver’s seat, 15-10. Ewert created four of the last nine points for the Cardinal before the Eagles put it in the net to lose the match, 25-16.
The lineup with Henken now has four solid wins under its belt, and the team’s performance should improve with their chemistry. “I think we are starting to gel and feel more comfortable as a group,” said Bischoff. “Moving forward we have two big games next week and I think we are going to do the same thing we did tonight.”
The team has a week to prepare before hosting Grand Canyon University on Thursday and UC San Diego on Saturday.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.