Jan. 15, 2010
STANFORD, Calif. - No. 3 Stanford opened its men's volleyball season in clinical fashion, sweeping No. 8 Hawaii, 30-15, 30-21, 30-18, before a crowd of 1,108 at Maples Pavilion.
The Cardinal got 13 kills each from senior Evan Romero and sophomore Brad Lawson, and buried the Warriors with strong hitting (.494 hitting percentage), defense (10.5 blocks) and serving (10 aces).
With six returning starters, Stanford looked much improved over last year's 21-11 team, which ended the season with a No. 6 ranking and the most victories for the program in 12 years.
"We're better and more confident," said senior setter Kawika Shoji, a 2009 first-team All-American who had 37 assists.
The off-season work paid off immediately when Romero reeled off a series of kills and two blocks in the opening moments. Lawson shocked the Warriors with three consecutive aces in the second set. And All-American libero Erik Shoji had the crowd chanting his name after his two body-flying digs prolonged a point that Stanford won on a Spencer McLachlin kill in the third.
"We've really been itching for competition," senior middle blocker Garrett Werner said. "We've been going guns out since the fall. We haven't taken any time lightly."
Nor have the fans. As is the custom of a large group of students, many came in costume and stood along the sideline, at turns heckling the opponents and cheering their own. Though descriptions hardly do justice, the colorful lineup included grown men dressed as Speedy Gonzales, Oscar the Grouch, Jack-In-The-Box, a cow, astronaut, bowling pin, pirate, football player, prisoner, and a cook wearing nothing but a chef's hat, apron and Speedo, to list a few.
Werner's favorite? "Definitely Jack-In-The-Box," he said.
The student who dresses like Kosty himself, actually apologized to the coach after the match for not coming in costume.
Still, Kosty didn't seem to mind after a stunningly smooth performance by his team.
"How we played is how we practiced," Stanford coach John Kosty said. "We've been all about maintaining a steady style of play and that's what we saw tonight."
Of the starting hitters and middles, Werner hit .636, Lawson .545, Romero .455, and McLachlin and Ellis .400.
Kosty expects Hawaii (2-2 overall, 0-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation), which hit only .113, to come roaring back on Saturday, when the teams meet again at Maples, with a 7 p.m. start.
"But we'll be up for it," Kosty promised.
Ellis, who had five blocks, agreed.
"This team is definitely coming of age," he said. "And the best is yet to come."
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics