Jan. 4, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. - James Shaw was barely three weeks old when he first met John Kosty.
But time moves on, and on Friday the freshman Shaw took the court for the first time wearing a Stanford jersey, as the starting setter for Kosty's No. 3-ranked Cardinal team.
The match - a season-opening 25-23, 25-17, 18-25, 25-17 victory over Grand Canyon at Maples Pavilion - seemed like the beginning of an era for Stanford, and perhaps one that will be defined by Shaw over the next four years.
"It's like any development of a player, he's got to continually strive to really learn the game and he's doing that," Kosty said. "I thought he made some really good choices."
Shaw, a product of nearby St. Francis High School and the son of former Stanford men's and women's head coach Don Shaw, had 38 often-memorable assists, as well as 7 digs, and 6 kills. His reverse, no-look, one-handed dumps over the net seemed like something that would have been executed by Julius Erving in another age and another sport.
But they were the plays of promise made by a player, and a member of a class, who will contribute heavily to the immediate fortunes of the Cardinal. The feel of a new reality was made more real by the collegiate debut of five players on Friday, including three freshmen.
The starting lineup was minus the familiar faces of four-year starters Brad Lawson, Erik Shoji, and Gus Ellis, and All-America setter Evan Barry. Instead, Scott Sakaida took the libero role of the four-time first-team All-America Shoji and had 15 digs, and others settled into the lineup as well.
In fact, only outside hitter Steven Irvin
remained in his original position from the 2012 starting lineup. Of the two other returning starters, Eric Mochalski
moved from middle blocker to opposite, and Brian Cook
from opposite to outside. Spencer Haly
, a sophomore who didn't play as a freshman, had eight blocks in his first collegiate action, as a starter at middle blocker. And Denny Falls
, a spot starter the past two seasons, earned the other middle assignment.
Brian Cook had 13 kills, Eric Mochalski had 10 kills and nine digs, and Stanford hit .315 as a team as the Cardinal earned its sixth consecutive season-opening victory.
As what might be expected for a young and largely inexperienced lineup, there were some growing pains - the Cardinal had to rally from deficits of 11-7 and 17-14 in the opening set. But a searing, knuckling serve by Matt Aiello, a sophomore making his Stanford debut, forced a Grand Canyon overpass that ended in a left-handed reverse dump by Shaw for a 23-22 lead the Cardinal would not relinquish.
"We were a little streaky, but we're still a young team," Kosty said. "As a young team, we're going to have to keep working on our consistency. National championships aren't won in January."
Eventually, Stanford played the freewheeling style of the volleyball it has played throughout the six years of the Kosty era - with an emphasis on the transition passing that has been its trademark.
It's just one match, and there will be plenty more to see when freshmen setter Joe Ctvrtlik and hitters Alex Stephanus and Gabriel Vega take the court for the first time.
Stanford men's volleyball, indeed, has moved into a new age. The question: What will this age hold for the Cardinal?
We'll begin to find out when Stanford completes its weekend series on Saturday at Maples Pavilion in a 7 p.m. match against No. 14 George Mason (0-1).
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics