By James Hemker
For just the second time this year, the No. 8 Stanford men’s volleyball team (13-8, 4-4 MPSF) was defeated in Maples. No. 6 Pepperdine (15-5, 5-2) claimed the 3-0 decision (29-27, 25-19, 25-19), taking advantage of Stanford’s anemic gameplay. An earlier matchup in February between the two programs ended in a similar result.
“We didn’t show up today – we were always a step behind,” said junior setter Paul Bischoff. “In the first set when we had those match points, we couldn’t convert and rally with Pepperdine, and that was completely a mental thing on our side.”
Dead week appeared to extend beyond the classroom as the Cardinal were outhit .236 to .489. Sophomore opposite Jaylen Jasper emerged as the kill leader for the Cardinal. Of his 13 kills, eight came in the first set, mirroring Stanford’s slide as the game progressed.
“The first couple of swings I took felt really good,” Jasper said. “But from there I started trying to not make errors, which is not something that a volleyball player should do. You should be taking swings to put them out of system, not necessarily just try and keep the ball in play.”
Senior outside hitter Jordan Ewert was the only other Cardinal to reach double figures, terminating 11 kills on .222 hitting. Sophomore middle blocker Kyler Presho was one of the few bright spots on the court. He recorded seven kills on nine swings with no errors for a hitting percentage of .778, and he paced the team with two blocks.
Bischoff could not get the offense going. His 38 assists came off of 84 attempts, for a low assist percentage of .469. The Waves also dominated net, blocking 11 balls and stifling almost all angles of attack.
The totality of the loss cannot be attributed to a lack of energy. As the box score shows, the Waves simply outplayed the Cardinal, energetic or not. “Pepperdine is a good team, and give all the credit to them,” said head coach John Kosty. “They put us in tough situations consistently. We thought we had a good game plan against their pin hitters, but they do some really good things.”
Defensively, Stanford was always a step behind the Waves’ offense. The Cardinal big men were nothing more than a sieve against Pepperdine. Stanford recorded just two team blocks, their second-lowest total all year. The Waves committed just four attack errors out of 88 swings, while Stanford committed 20 on 106 swings.
On the floor, the two teams were more evenly matched as Pepperdine tallied 33 digs to Stanford’s 32 digs. Redshirt senior libero Kyle Dagostino paced the team with 10 digs, marking the fifth time he has reached double digits. Bischoff chipped in seven more.
Pepperdine was led by outside hitter David Wieczorek, who ended the night 13-0-24 for .542 hitting. Three other Waves hitters recorded at least five kills while hitting at least .450.
While both teams were able to find three aces, Pepperdine was the team that consistently brought the heat from the service line. Stanford’s receiving and passing were subpar, which led to out-of-system plays or free balls for the Waves. As a result, the Cardinal were able to side-out just 58 percent of the time, while Pepperdine held a 71 percent side-out percentage.
The match had started strong with both teams looking evenly matched. The team recovered from 21-23 to force deuce. After three squandered match points, Stanford lost the set and their energy.
“We stepped onto the court, and we had no energy,” Jasper said. “We weren’t fired up when we were winning points, and we weren’t getting on ourselves when we lost points. It was dead and flat and frustrating.”
The team showed flashes of life towards the end of the second set when junior outside hitter Eric Beatty stepped onto the court for the first time in 14 matches. Beatty had missed the last two months due to an undisclosed volleyball injury. He was able to close out the night with six kills and five digs.
“He immediately started playing at a very high level, and we were able to change momentum a little bit,” said Bischoff. “I think we had that going into the third set, but Pepperdine had top-notch serving which knocked us on our backs.”
The Cardinal were able to claim a 6-2 lead to start the third and final frame. Ten points later, the score was tied 10-10, and ten points after that, the team was looking out of a 12-18 hole. The two teams traded points, and the set ended without fanfare, 19-25.
The team has one big day of practice to find their heads before facing No. 4 UCLA on Saturday. Stanford dropped a five-set heartbreaker in the first meeting of the season. The match will be the final regular season home match this year. It will also mark the final time that seniors Dagostino, Russell Dervay, Ewert and Chris Moore will compete in front of their home crowd.
“UCLA is good, but we had them down there,” said Kosty. “We just need to rekindle some life and energy during this dead week.”
First serve is set for 7:30 p.m. and there will be a ceremony for the four seniors after the match.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.