Jan. 21, 2012
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - There's something about a victory that makes a long bus ride bearable.
As the Stanford men's volleyball team wound its way home through towns like Buellton, Paso Robles and King City in the middle of the night, it did so with a certain measure of contentment.
A 25-22, 25-21, 19-25, 25-18 victory over No. 13 UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night made sure of that.
Stanford sophomore Brian Cook had a collegiate career-high 17 kills to enable the No. 4 Cardinal to rebound from a rough loss at UCLA the night before and earn an all-important Mountain Pacific Sports Federation road split.
Stanford (4-1 overall, 2-1 MPSF) hit .421 as a team while totaling 11.5 blocks. The figures from Friday night's sweep at the hands of the No. 3 Bruins were .179 and 2.0.
"It was great for the team," Stanford coach John Kosty said. "They bounced back really well."
Cook, who hit minus-.167 against UCLA, had only two errors in 22 attacks for a .682 hitting percentage.
"Brian did a great job of refocusing himself," Kosty said. "He saw the block and the court very well and took some really smart swings."
Teammate Steven Irvin had 10 kills and only two errors for a .471 night, Brad Lawson had 11 kills and three service aces, and setter Evan Barry had 45 assists and five blocks, including two solo.
"Evan did a great job of being able to isolate our attackers," Kosty said.
It's early, but Stanford finds itself fourth in the 12-team MPSF behind three unbeaten teams - UCLA, BYU, and Pepperdine. UCSB, the national runner-up last season, dropped to 0-2 (2-4 overall).
"In the MPSF, splits on the road are good," Kosty said. "Winning two would have been even better, but you don't want to go 0-2 on the road."
Stanford continues its 10-match road sojourn when it travels to Columbus, Ohio, for the Ken & Dave Dunlap Invitational. The Cardinal plays No. 6 Penn State in a rematch of the 2010 NCAA final on Friday, and follows with a match against No. 10 Ohio State, the defending national champion, on Saturday.
The Cardinal follows with three more road weekends of MPSF play before finally returning home on Feb. 24.
By that time, the bus rides, win or lose, may lose their character. But for one night at least, this one was just fine.