Feb. 11, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford was stunned, no question about it.
But whom among the 808 who witnessed the Cardinal's 25-18, 30-28, 25-16 men's volleyball loss at the hands of visiting UC San Diego at Maples Pavilion knew it was just one of many shockers around the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation on Friday.
By the end of the evening, No. 1 USC, twin No. 2's BYU and Long Beach State, and No. 5 UCLA, in addition to No. 4 Stanford, all lost.
Think about it. Has this ever happened in any sport, where everyone in the top five went down on the same night?
Such could be of some consolation for Stanford, which remains in fourth place in conference play, still only 1½ games behind leading USC. But after losing to UCSD for the first time ever at home - ending an 18-match home winning streak - and being swept at home for the first time in 25 matches, well ... maybe not.
What were the problems for the Cardinal?
"I would say three things: a lack of heart, excitement, and focus," outside hitter Brad Lawson said. "We talk about respecting every opponent. We talked about it in the summer, in the fall, during and before every match."
Stanford (8-3 overall, 5-3 in the MPSF) hit only .182 to UCSD's .477 in the loss, Stanford's first to the Tritons since 2006, snapping an eight-match winning streak in the series. Stanford still leads the all-time series 36-3.
This year, all 12 MPSF teams have been ranked among the AVCA Top 15 -- the first time that's happened in the same season since 2004 -- and typical lower-echelon teams like UCSD and Pacific have shown impressive moxie.
Freshman Brian Cook had 12 kills, his collegiate-best for a three-set match, to lead Stanford, and teammate Spencer McLachlin had 11. Lawson's nine kills and .034 hitting percentage were season-lows for the returning first-team All-American. In fact, the hitting percentage was the lowest for the junior since the eighth match of his freshman season.
"We need to just play Stanford volleyball," Lawson said. "We committed an atrocious number of errors. Very uncharacteristic, especially from my end. Just coming out and playing with that fire and energy. Hopefully, we can bring it tomorrow against Irvine."
Stanford had not been swept at home since UC Irvine, the Cardinal's opponent on Saturday (7 p.m.) at Maples Pavilion, did it on April 17, 2009 -- a streak of 25 home matches.
UCSD (6-8, 3-5) blasted off to a .548 hitting percentage over the first two sets. Though Stanford boosted its hitting from .088 to .410 in the second, the Cardinal failed to put away two set points, at 26-25 and 27-26. Both were answered by kills from UCSD's Shane Veiga, who finished with 11 kills and only two errors (.474).
Cook had been unstoppable in the set, teeing off for eight kills in 10 attacks with no errors (.800). Unfortunately for Stanford, the team regressed to minus-.038 hitting in the final set, falling behind quickly and exiting easily.
"We played like there was a letdown," Lawson said. "But we were excited to be at home. Traveling for three weeks straight, it was nice to come back in front of the fans, playing at Maples. If anything, we should have been more excited. I'm a little disappointed in the way we played."
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics