March 30, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford was looking for a spark. And the Cardinal got it, but not the result.
After three consecutive losses in which it didn’t even win a set, Stanford took drastic actions. Coach John Kosty started one player for the first time as a collegian, another for the second, and another for the third. All were freshmen. A fourth player started for just the fourth time.
In another environment, this would be considered shock treatment.
And dutifully shocked, the Cardinal clawed back from a two-set deficit to force a fifth, only to fall short against No. 3 Long Beach State, 25-10, 25-23, 18-25, 21-25, 15-6, in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men’s volleyball action at Maples Pavilion on Saturday.
The No. 6 Cardinal (12-10 overall) snapped its consecutive-set loss streak at 11 when it captured the third against Long Beach, but extended its match-loss streak to four, which is the Cardinal’s longest since dropping the final six of the 2007 season.
But the manner of its play is what caught coach Kosty’s attention.
“We’ve got to find the right chemistry and demeanor for our team to be successful,” Kosty said. “We were not on a good streak. We needed to find out who can play for us night in and night out.”
Stanford had better find out quick because the Cardinal dropped into eighth place with five matches to play. The top eight of 13 qualify for the MPSF tournament, which determines the conference’s only automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
At 9-10 in the MPSF, Stanford is among five teams within two in the loss column occupying fifth through ninth place.
“Once we get into the playoffs, anything can happen,” Kosty said. “But it’s going to be a battle to get there.”
The Cardinal was encouraged by Cook, who had eight kills in the fourth set and hit .353 for the match. And Irvin bounced back from difficult match Friday during a sweep at the hands of Cal State Northridge and had 10 kills and 11 digs.
Daniel Tublin had eight kills and five blocks in his fourth career start. Gabriel Vega had a career-high three kills in his first career start, and Conrad Kaminski, another true freshman, provided six kills in his second start, plus a .667 hitting percentage and five block assists in the middle. His previous collegiate best for kills was three.
In a nutshell, that’s what Kosty was looking for.
“We’re back on track,” he said. “I’m very excited for the rest of the season.”
Perhaps the best part of Kaminski’s game was his consistency, providing big plays on offense and defense throughout the match. He had appeared in only 10 sets and played through all five on Saturday.
“I love his passion,” Kosty said of the middle from New Berlin, Wis. “He loves to play volleyball. He loves to learn. He was solid at the net and served the ball well tonight. I thought he had a really nice match against a really tough eam.”
Of course, Cook had the type of match that he’s been accustomed to having in his first season as the Cardinal’s go-to offensive force. But Long Beach State (19-7, 15-6) hit an errorless .750 in the fifth set and the Cardinal, which cooled off to .188 in that set, couldn’t keep pace.
“I thought we had a good opportunity to beat Long Beach, but they played an almost perfect fifth set,” Kosty said. “It’s tough to beat a team when they play almost perfect.”
Stanford can look to the positives – the team indeed showed the life, effort, and intensity it had been lacking. But …
“It was a good all-around match,” Kosty said. “But it would have been nice to get the win.”
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics