Jan. 11, 2012
STOCKTON, Calif. -
There must be extenuating circumstances to Stanford's unusual men's volleyball schedule - a gym under construction, a natural disaster, the anticipation of an extra loooong power outage.
But that's not the case. Maples Pavilion is in fine shape, intact, and has electricity. However, that hasn't stopped the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation from scheduling the Cardinal to open the conference season with nine road matches.
It hasn't bothered Stanford so far. The Cardinal opened its season with 13 kills, three blocks, and two aces from sophomore Brian Cook on the way to beating No. 15 Pacific, 25-21, 25-17, 25-19 on Wednesday night.
Only eight more road matches to go.
Stanford does get to play 11 of its final 13 conference matches at home, but it must navigate five consecutive road weekends - including a nonconference trip to Columbus, Ohio - before its MPSF home opener on Feb. 24. By that time, half the regular season will have been completed.
"It's not the best thing for us," Stanford coach John Kosty said. "But it's the schedule we've been handed. We look at it as an opportunity to get some key wins on the road early, and then everybody at the end of the season has to come to us."
If the rest go as smoothly as Wednesday's, the Cardinal will be in fine shape. Stanford (1-0, 1-0) needed only 78 minutes to dispatch the Tigers (2-1, 0-1).
Cook, a Santa Cruz native, finished one kill away from his collegiate career high and combined that with only two errors to finish with a .478 hitting percentage.
Teammate Brad Lawson, a two-time first-team All-America, had 11 kills and seven digs, and Evan Barry set the Cardinal to a .326 hitting percentage, while Stanford prevented any Pacific player to reach double figures in kills.
"Brian made all the right choices when he was attacking," Kosty said. "In the system, he hit the right sets. Out of the system, he made great decisions."
Another sophomore, Denny Falls, made the fourth start of his collegiate career. The middle blocker had five kills, a .364 hitting percentage, and three blocks - and was featured in a starting lineup that consisted of four sophomores and three seniors.
Stanford will get a much-needed respite from its travels when it plays Juniata, an NCAA Division III team from Huntingdon, Pa., on Friday at 7 p.m. in its home opener at Maples Pavilion. It is the first of back-to-back matches, with Stanford playing No. 14 Loyola-Chicago on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Maples Pavilion.