Jan. 11, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. - Third-year sophomores Daniel Tublin and Grant Delgado – who came into the season having played in only 11 matches between them – felt like grizzled veterans.
In the final set of Stanford’s 25-18, 25-20, 25-12 victory over UC Santa Cruz in a nonconference men’s volleyball match Friday night at Burnham Pavilion, the two old men were placed among four freshmen.
And Stanford rolled.
In the team’s final nonconference match, and before the team can max its conference roster at 14, Stanford coach John Kosty played everyone in the rout against the Banana Slugs (0-3), NCAA Division III’s No. 4-ranked team. Three freshmen – Joe Ctvrtlik, Alex Stephanus, and Gabriel Vega – made their collegiate debut, as did sophomore Eric Arriaga, a walk-on who waited an entire season for this moment.
“They’re a good close-knit group of guys and they’re very talented volleyball players,” Kosty said. “We need to give them as much opportunity to get on the court against outside competition as we can, and they definitely came through tonight.”
Senior outside hitter Jake Kneller led Stanford with five kills, but the match was highlighted by the play of its six freshmen, including setter Joe Ctvrtlik, the son of Bob Ctvrtlik, a two-time world player of the year.
Ctvrtlik entered at the outset of the second set and played the remainder of the match, finishing as the match leader in assists (17) and digs (seven), and had two service aces. The 6-footer generally played tall and fearless at the net, despite being one of the shortest players on the court.
“It was a great first experience,” Ctvrtlik said. “I couldn’t ask for a better one.”
He had one block, went up for another, but pushed a point home for one of his three kills, and won a two-handed joust at the net late in the third set.
“It makes it easy when we’ve got passing like we’ve got,” Ctvrtlik said. “It takes all the pressure off me to go after tough balls. We’re serving really hard, so it keeps them off the net and I have time to get blocks. When you do all those things, it makes being a shorter setter easy.”
His passing helped guide the Cardinal to a season-high .390 hitting percentage, prompting Kosty to say: “He was the catalyst to really getting that offense dialed in.”
Freshmen had 15 of Stanford’s 41 kills and combined for a .429 hitting percentage. The rest of the team hit .367. One freshman, Madison Hayden, had three of Stanford's eight aces.
Stanford improved to 19-1 all-time against the Banana Slugs and has now won the past 14 sets they’ve played. But Stanford’s next task promises to get more serious Saturday when the Cardinal opens the rugged Mountain Pacific Sports Federation campaign against much-improved and No. 15-ranked Pacific (1-0, 0-0) at Burnham at 7 p.m.
“We’re excited about the season,” Kosty said. “We’re ready and we know Pacific’s ready. It’s going to be a battle, and we’re not taking them for granted.”
Stanford better not. In the past two nights, three of the MPSF’s strongest teams have gone down: No. 1 UC Irvine to USC, No. 2 BYU to Lewis, and defending regular-season champ USC in a shocking sweep at the hands of conference minnow UC San Diego.
“We can’t take anyone for granted,” Kosty said. “Anybody can beat anybody on any given night in the MPSF. We’ve already seen it.”
And, it seems, so have Tublin and Delgado. After all, they’re practically oldtimers.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics