Jan. 7, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. -
Sophomore outside hitter Steven Irvin seemed poised for a big season, as evidenced by his 15-kill performance on Saturday in Stanford's final exhibition tuneup.
Irvin played with an aggressiveness that helped spark the Cardinal to a 25-21, 25-16, 25-20 victory over Thompson Rivers of Canada at Burnham Pavilion.
The No. 4 Cardinal opens the season Wednesday at No. 15 Pacific in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match and then plays host to Juniata and No. 10 Loyola-Chicago next weekend at Maples Pavilion.
Irvin not only was lethal from the left side, but was accurate as well, hitting .379 with only four errors in 29 swings.
"He definitely took over," setter Evan Barry said.
Irvin was a spot starter as a freshman, but played for the United States at the FIVB Junior World Championships in Brazil in August, and then got additional reps in the fall with Brad Lawson out with an injury.
If the exhibitions are any indication, the Pacific Palisades, Calif., native could be a force.
"He had a great fall," Stanford coach John Kosty said. "He's in a position now where he's ready to play. Those are our expectations."
Irvin's U.S. junior national teammate Brian Cook had a strong match as well, with 13 kills and a .346 hitting percentage.
It seems obvious that sophomores Irvin, Cook, and middle Eric Mochalski (five kills, five digs, two blocks, and an ace) all will play major roles in the success of this year's team. On Saturday, the sophomores carried much of the load, with seniors Lawson and Gus Ellis sitting out the match to rest.
"All the sophomores have really matured," Barry said. "You can see what the year has done for them."
On Saturday, the Cardinal took the first-set lead when Denny Falls scored on a quick set from Barry after his teammates had won a joust at the net, for a 16-15 lead. But the Cardinal would not go ahead for good until Falls and Irvin combined on back-to-back block points to break a 21-21 tie.
Irvin again provided a highlight by finishing off a long rally in the second set. Barry had two digs and two sets, and numerous other touches in the scrambling sequence that put the Cardinal in front 8-5 during a go-ahead 4-0 run.
The third set featured senior outside hitter Jake Vandermeer in a starring role. Vandermeer clubbed three kills among Stanford's final four points, including the winner.
"We did a good job in all aspects of improving over last night," Kosty said of the four-set victory over Thompson Rivers on Friday at Maples Pavilion. "Our serving needs to be consistent, but we improved our blocking and defense, and we were more disciplined."
As a whole, Stanford hit .348, while holding the WolfPack to .197. But beyond the numbers, Stanford showed it has some additional offensive weapons, especially Irvin.