Jan. 13, 2012
Final Stats | Photo Gallery
STANFORD, Calif. - Each match of the new men's volleyball season - exhibitions or regular season - has uncovered a new gem in Stanford's sophomore class.
Last weekend provided a closer look at Brian Cook and Steven Irvin, two rapidly improving frontline players.
In Stanford's 25-13, 20-25, 25-14, 25-14 home-opening victory over Juniata at Maples Pavilion on Friday night, Daniel Tublin took his turn in the class of 2014's showcase season.
The 6-foot-7 Pittsburgh native redshirted last season, but made his collegiate debut midway through the third set. Moments later, he smashed an overpass into the floor for his first kill.
But wait ... the officials ruled Jake Kneller's serve hit the ground first for an ace.
No matter, on the next point, Tublin made his first collegiate kill count. He later assisted on Gus Ellis'decisive block on match point. In all, a five-kill night in little more than a set.
"Tublin played great tonight," Stanford coach John Kosty said. "He's passionate about the game. He's getting comfortable with our level of volleyball. He's showing he's ready to play at this level."
Two other redshirt freshmen made their first collegiate appearances as well - Grant Delgado and Scott Sakaida- liberos turned serving specialists. Suddenly, the class of '14 expanded its own boundaries.
"They just go after it," senior libero Erik Shoji said. "They bring a lot of energy and a lot of leadership. They're more mature in general than last year and that definitely shows on the court."
Perhaps it's fitting that Cook, the original '14 pathfinder, continued to lead the way. He tied Kneller for match-high kill honors, with 10, and hit .562. He and Kneller combined for only two hitting errors. In all, Stanford had only 11 errors in 99 swings on the way to hitting .515, the third-highest hitting percentage in school history in the rally-scoring era.
"We came out with a good mental attitude tonight," Kosty said. "Our whole talk early on was, day in and day out, we have to compete at the highest level we can."
Senior two-time All-America Brad Lawson played a role as well, connecting on six kills in as many first-set swings. He sat the rest of the night, in an effort to keep his legs fresh.
"We've got a very strong team and we're deep in a lot of positions this year," Kosty said. "We want to make sure everybody stays healthy the entire season. Getting a lot of guys in right now is going to help us in the long run."
After a dominant first set, Kosty experimented with the lineup in the second and Juniata (1-1), an NCAA Division III school from Huntingdon, Pa., took advantage.
The Eagles his a scorching .579 to win the set. However, the Cardinal (2-0) got some hitting highlights from senior Jake Vandermeer. The one-time Stanford club player who walked on to the Cardinal's national championship team in 2010, earned his first four collegiate kills.
The first came on the set's opening point, on a backrow kill that glanced off a defender in the backcourt.
Kneller followed moments later by inadvertently heading the ball over the net for a kill. His attack was blocked off his head, but deflected over the net and dropped in for the most creative kill of the night.
"I like our energy on the court," said Shoji, who had 12 digs. "But I think we need to work on our serving a little more. When we're on, we're really on. I think you saw tonight, we missed a lot of serves that ended a few streaks that could have turned into longer runs."
Indeed, 18 serving errors will normally be enough to beat the Cardinal. But not on Friday. Now, No. 4 Stanford plays No. 14 Loyola-Chicago on Saturday at Maples Pavilion at 7 p.m.
What other secrets can the sophomores reveal?
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics