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Feb. 19, 2011
MALIBU, Calif. - The Stanford men's volleyball team accomplished two important tasks on Saturday night:
It played perhaps its best match of the season, and ...
The Cardinal finally beat Pepperdine in Malibu. For the first time since 1997, the Cardinal won at Firestone Fieldhouse, earning a 25-14, 25-18, 25-19 victory to end the road losing streak to the Waves at 13.
Stanford coach John Kosty had been a part of every one of those losses, as an assistant or head coach, yet was matter-of-fact about breaking the spell.
"It's a tough place to play," he said. "But today we played really well."
The biggest indicator was the team's season-best hitting percentage of .492, complete with only eight attack errors - a season-low by a substantial margin.
No. 5 Stanford improved to 10-4 overall and 7-4 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation with the help of a match-high 10 kills from Spencer McLachlin and a balanced attack.
"The one thing you've got to do in this league is keep the hitting errors down," Kosty said. "And we did tonight."
Defensively, the Cardinal had 10 blocks, with Gus Ellis in on six of them, and limited No. 9 Pepperdine (5-6, 3-6) to a .139 hitting percentage - the lowest allowed by Stanford in MPSF play.
Serving and passing -- the vital foundations for Stanford's potential success - were on. Though the serving stats weren't much different than usual, Stanford's servers continually put the Pepperdine defense on its heels, preventing the Waves from building a solid attack.
Jordan Inafuku, for one, came out firing. The senior captain entered in serving situations and had no errors on nine dangerous jumpserves. In the third set, he immediately served two consecutive aces and led a run of four consecutive points.
"Jordan did an incredible job tonight," Kosty said. "He served well all night long, and did the job he needed to do to keep the momentum going."
Junior setter Evan Barry had 32 assists and kept the block off Stanford hitters with a variety of sets, including a series of cross-court blind back-sets that proved effective.
Middle blocker Ellis benefited from the wide-open attack by slamming eight kills - double his season high - on 14 attacks with only two errors for a .429 percentage.
McLachlin had only one error in 15 attacks to hit .600 - the highest hitting percentage by a Stanford player this season.
The Cardinal remained in fourth place at the halfway point of the conference season, two matches behind first-place USC (8-1) in the standings, and Kosty said he was satisfied with the team's position, especially given that Stanford will play teams currently ahead in the standings (USC and Long Beach State) at home.
"Our goal is to get better," Kosty said. "We still haven't played our best volleyball. USC has set the bar right now, and we're not quite there. But, hopefully, by the end of the season, we will be."