Feb. 3, 2010
STANFORD, Calif. - For a Stanford team that needed a pick-me-up after two disappointing home losses last week, the Cardinal men's volleyball team got it Wednesday night.
Evan Romero and Brad Lawson had 17 kills apiece to lead the No. 5 Cardinal to a 30-22, 28-30, 30-20, 30-26 victory over Pacific in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match at Maples Pavilion.
"It's still early in the season, but this was a must-win game for us," said Stanford's All-American setter Kawika Shoji.
The supreme achievement was not extending Pacific's conference losing streak to 44, but rather in its response to a fight when the Tigers (4-7, 0-7) threatened to force Stanford (4-3, 4-3) into a fifth set.
The Tigers led 22-21 in the fourth set before Romero and Gus Ellis combined on a block to tie the score and Shoji put the Cardinal ahead for good with a left-handed dump shot. Ellis was in on three blocks during a decisive 6-1 run that put Stanford ahead, 27-23, and Shoji had two kills and two blocks during that sequence.
"I think we hit our rough spot," middle blocker Charley Henrikson said. "We're going to get better."
That's been the Cardinal's quest since third-year starting outside hitter Spencer McLachlin went out with a shoulder injury two weeks ago. The Cardinal has had to adjust in style, and in roles, without him. It's required a new kind of trust among teammates, and some time to figure out how to play off each other in different situations.
On Wednesday, senior outside hitter Jason Palacios
received his first start of the season and third of his collegiate career. He produced eight kills and six digs, giving the Cardinal steady play offensively and defensively.
"He did great," Stanford coach John Kosty said. "He had a solid passing game, and had key kills and key digs. He did everything that we needed from him to win in the MPSF. And he can play better, and that's what we're excited about."
As McLachlin recuperates - he could be back in action next week - Kosty has given extending playing time to not only Palacios, but Garrett Dobbs, Henrikson, and freshman Myles Muagututia at different points in an effort to find just the right combinations.
"It's not easy having a three-year starter out," Shoji said. "Other guys are stepping up, but we're still figuring out how to play together, especially guys like Brad and Erik (Shoji) trying to figure out how to pass with a new person in there."
Erik Shoji, who set the national season record for digs last year, had a season-high 18 and Kawika Shoji had 47 assists and seven kills. Ellis and Garrett Werner each had six blocks as the Cardinal combined for 13.5.
Also of note, the match was attended by former head coaches Ruben Nieves and Don Shaw. Along with Kosty and assistant coach Chris McLachlin, a Stanford player-coach in the 1960s, Stanford head coaches covering 26 of the program's past 45 years were in attendance.
After a nonconference match against visiting UC Santa Cruz on Friday, Stanford plays host to No. 4 UCLA and No. 11 UC Irvine, the defending national champion, in a crucial MPSF homestand.