March 2, 2012
Final Stats | Photo Gallery
STANFORD, Calif. - Yes, it was the kind of moment that an observer tries to freeze in his mind’s eye for as long as it takes before the edges begin to blur.
Brad Lawson’s pair of match-finishing service aces in No. 2 Stanford’s 25-21, 25-15, 22-25, 25-19 men’s volleyball victory over UC San Diego at Maples Pavilion on Friday had that kind of punch.
UC San Diego’s libero, Chase Frishman, took them full force.
Lawson, Stanford’s All-America hitter and hardest jump server, seemed to have enough of the upset-minded Tritons (3-14, 1-11). Lawson, who finished with a match-high 18 kills, found something extra as he served at 23-19 in the fourth set.
Holding the ball at eye level, his arm outstretched, Lawson tossed the ball into the air, took a couple of quick steps and sprung high, striking the ball as his body uncoiled.
The serve rocketed toward the unlucky Frishman, spinning and dipping like a curveball as it cleared the net. With no time to react, Frishman was struck smack in the chest and the ball deflected crazily to the ground.
The crowd stood at the sight and urged the Cardinal to finish it off. Lawson complied.
If it was possible to muster even more velocity, Lawson did so. Firing a serve so fast and with such movement that Frishman – clearly expecting another such blow – could manage only a feeble stab with his arm.
Ace … again.
“Brad understands how important these matches are,” Stanford coach John Kosty said. “He’s truly playing like a senior and All-American right now. He knew that the team needed him to pull through and that’s what he did.”
Lawson finished with four aces during a match in which Stanford (13-3, 10-2) rebounded from a five-set loss to USC on Saturday that knocked the Cardinal from its No. 1 ranking. By beating UCSD, Stanford maintained its hold on second place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, one game behind leader UCLA (11-1) with 10 matches remaining.
There seemed to be a finality down the stretch – a willingness to push aside the discomfort and finish off what it set out to do. And it wasn’t just Lawson. Sophomore hitter Steven Irvin provided a decisive shove. The sophomore re-entered the match and fired three consecutive kills to break a fourth-set tie. Irvin didn’t stop. He continued to propel the Cardinal with seven kills in eight fourth-set swings.
In all, Irvin had 15 kills, second only to Lawson’s.
The Cardinal came out with a different look, with middle blocker Denny Falls in the starting lineup and erstwhile middle Eric Mochalski pushed to the right in the opposite position. Mochalski had 12 kills and Stanford hit .407 in the match.
Setter Evan Barry had 53 assists and a collection of highlight moments. There was his solo block (on the same point in which he earlier took a UCSD attack off his dome before the Cardinal kept the play alive). There was a kill to the floor off a Lawson set, and a reverse one-handed set for another point.
Stanford faces another strong opponent on Saturday in a 7 p.m. match against No. 3 UC Irvine at Maples Pavilion, as part of a four-match-in-six-day volleyball spree that concludes with a pair against visiting Hawai’i on Tuesday and Wednesday. From there: a three-week break because of Dead Week and finals, and then the MPSF stretch run.
“It was a good opportunity for us to get back to what we were doing in the fall and have a good balanced offense, and working on some lineups and things," Kosty said.
“San Diego is a really good team,” he said. “I’m hoping the program’s at a point, and we’ve talked about it enough, that we realize every win in the MPSF is a tough win. And we have to play our best every night. If we don’t, somebody’s going to beat us. It doesn’t matter if it’s UCLA or San Diego. They’re all good enough to beat us.”
But can anyone create a "moment" like Lawson? We’ll begin to find out Saturday night.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics