March 10, 2013
LOS ANGELES - Steven Irvin had a match-high 18 kills, but it wasn't enough as No. 4 Stanford went into the end-of-the-quarter break with a second consecutive three-set loss, this time to No. 6 UCLA, 25-21, 25-23, 29-27 at the Wooden Center on Sunday.
Stanford (12-8 overall) fell to 9-8 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation heading into a 19-day break that coach John Kosty considers the midpoint of the season, though seven matches remain. The Cardinal dropped into seventh in the 13-team conference, with the top eight teams to qualify for the MPSF postseason tournament, which determines the conference's only NCAA automatic berth.
Fortunately for Stanford, four of its remaining matches are at home, where the Cardinal is 9-1. More specifically, Stanford is 7-0 at Maples Pavilion where the Cardinal carries a 13-match winning streak and where its remaining home schedule will take place.
However, the Cardinal is 3-7 on the road, a record that UCLA made worse during the Cardinal's fourth and final Pac-12 Networks match this season (Stanford went 2-2). Stanford dropped back-to-back three-set matches for the first time since a dubious weekend at USC and Pepperdine in 2009.
Irvin had only two errors in 27 swings for a .593 hitting percentage, and had a team-high five digs, and Brian Cook had 11 kills and a .304 percentage, while Stanford hit a healthy .358 as a team. But the Cardinal had a season-low one block and didn't trouble the Bruins too much with its serving, allowing UCLA to pound a .470 hitting percentage - the highest allowed by Stanford all season.
In each set, the Cardinal had to play from behind and made runs that fell just short of victory. Irvin had 14 kills and only one hitting error over the final two sets.
In the first, Stanford trailed 17-10 before closing to within 23-21 on an Irvin kill. In the second, Stanford cut a 22-15 deficit to 24-23. And in the third, Stanford was down 24-22 before fighting off three match points to take leads of 26-25 and 27-26, before UCLA (13-9, 9-7) closed it out.
Stanford setter James Shaw returned to the starting lineup after missing Friday's loss to UC Santa Barbara and had 23 assists
Next, the Cardinal will shake the rust during an alumni match on March 23 (7 p.m.) at Burnham Pavilion, before returning to MPSF play against visiting Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State, on March 29-30 at Maples.