By James Hemker
No. 8 Stanford men’s volleyball (10-5, 3-2 MPSF) broke open the broom closet for the second straight match to sweep Grand Canyon University (GCU) (7-9, 0-4 MPSF). The team played efficient volleyball, closing out the match in just over an hour. That hour saw just seven total tie scores and a singular lead change.
“We scouted these guys really closely, and we knew where to go and what to do in each situation,” junior setter Paul Bischoff said. “I don’t think they were prepared for what we were going to do with our offense. Everyone played well and stayed focused.”
Bischoff finished the night with 38 assists and had his pick of hitters to go to. Sophomore opposite Jaylen Jasper and senior outside hitter Jordan Ewert each finished the night with 12 kills. Sophomore middle blocker Kyler Presho found seven kills on .545 hitting.
Passing allowed the offense to hit for .378 last night. For the first time all season, the team was perfect on service receives, handling all 39 attempts with no errors.
“Every night it’s about getting enough opportunities to win points,” explained head coach John Kosty. “We worked a lot on passing this week and it really showed in our middle attack. We did a really good job of establishing our middle.”
A testament to that statement, junior middle blocker Stephen Moye came away with a career night, matching his career highs in kills (eight) and digs (five). Moye’s .889 hitting percentage led the floor and tied his season best.
Moye was also a critical part of the Cardinal defense, contributing to all six team blocks. The defense was lights-out, holding GCU to .035 hitting. Four Lopes hit negative on the night. Moye was backed up by Bischoff, Ewert and sophomore outside hitter Leo Henken as they paced the floor with seven digs each.
“It was pretty sweet,” Moye said about his night. “Paul was finding me, and our passers did a great job getting Paul the ball so he was able to run the entire offense. We knew their hitter’s tendencies, so it was a question of whether we could execute the scouting report, and we did that.”
From first serve, Stanford was in the driver’s seat. Bischoff spread the ball, finding four kills from four different hitters as the Cardinal grabbed the 8-3 lead. Jasper followed with the first of four Stanford aces.
The Lopes were forced to call their second timeout of the set just 18 points in after the Cardinal amassed a 13-5 lead. The play of the night came two points later as a long rally unfolded before the small Maples crowd. Henken ran into the media table at one point to save the ball before Bischoff faked the set and ended the rally with an authoritative spike.
“That first kill was a big moment for our team because it was at the end of a pretty long rally,” said Bischoff. “My going up to swing solidified that rally, and that was a big momentum boost for us.”
A couple Jasper kills and a few points from Moye gave Stanford its largest lead of the night at 21-6. The set ended without issue at 25-11.
The Lopes did not let the second frame follow suit, surprising the crowd with a 1-4 lead. Jasper tied the score with his second and final ace. The Cardinal then focused and regained their footing to steal the lead at 7-6, the only lead change of the night.
Every aspect of the team’s play was in sync as they ripped off a 7-0 run to drive the score up, 17-10. Henken dished out another Cardinal ace before the Lopes managed to sideout.
Stanford was unable to slam the door and GCU found themselves an 0-4 run to bring the game to just four, 20-16. Kosty’s timeout realigned the Cardinal, and the second frame soon ended 25-19 on the arm of Ewert.
Ewert continued the momentum at the start of the third set, accounting for four of the first six kills. Senior libero Kyle Dagostino, who had a quiet night overall, sprinted 15 feet off the court to save a ball that ended as a Jasper kill and force another GCU time out.
Jasper followed the effort with two more kills, and Ewert did the same to extend the already large lead to 18-8. After spending all night setting, Bischoff got in on the action with back-to-back dump offs. Henken served up his second ace of the night to win match point and secure the sweep.
The men showed great focus and poise, and they will look to bring that back on the court on Saturday. “We executed well, and that’s the type of volleyball we need to play,” Kosty stressed. “If we can continue to play at that level and then keep pushing it at every opportunity we have, we are going to be pretty good at the end of the year.”
This four-game home stand concludes with UC San Diego on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.