March 6, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. - Steven Irvin rebounded with a career night to lead the No. 3 Cardinal past Hawai'i on Tuesday.
Irvin had 19 kills, two over his previous high, and sparked several rallies with his serving in a 22-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-23 victory over the No. 14 Warriors in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball action at Burnham Pavilion.
Fittingly, Irvin provided the match point kill, capping a match played with confidence and authority, capping a night in which he also had five digs and three aces.
"He was our X-factor tonight," Stanford coach John Kosty said. "He was one of the main reasons why we won."
Stanford (14-4, 11-3) had three players with double-figure kills, including Brad Lawson (11) and Brian Cook (10) while the team hit a healthy .368.
"We try to keep a balanced attack," Kosty said. "And when we can pass the ball through the system, we can really have a balanced attack. That's one of the things we've done well over this year, we've passed the ball pretty well. It's allowed us to sideout at some pretty high numbers."
The Cardinal now moves into sole possession of second place in the MPSF behind idle UCLA (11-1) by winning for the ninth time in 10 meetings with the Warriors (6-12, 3-10).
Irvin, and others, were not at their best in a dismal four-set loss to visiting UC Irvine on Saturday. Irvin hit .000 with only seven kills in 26 attacks. The team, other than hot-hitting Lawson, combined for .089, leading to some soul-searching in the two days heading into the two-match back-to-back Hawai'i series.
"When we execute, we're a really good team," Kosty said. "When we don't execute we can get beat."
Stanford has played sporadically in splitting four home matches, dropping the Cardinal out of the No. 1 ranking. But the team, like Irvin, has proved to be resilient. That was the case again, on Tuesday when Hawai'i rallied to a first-set victory and put the Cardinal on its heels.
Needing a spark and a confidence-booster after falling behind 8-5 in the second set, Irvin provided it with a pair of match-changing kills that cut the deficit. A solo block by Gus Ellis, who had eight kills in eight swings during the match, tied it 10-10 and Eric Mochalski pushed the momentum with a go-ahead ace.
This time, Irvin finished with a .483 hitting percentage and essentially carried the team.
"Steven didn't have the greatest weekend, but he did a great job bouncing back," Kosty said. "That's what we're looking for out of our guys. He has the ability to realize what we need to work on, get better, and then do that in a match, and that's what he did tonight."
Stanford and Hawai'i, schools intertwined because of the Cardinal's deep Hawaiian recruiting pipeline that includes All-Americans Lawson and libero Erik Shoji, complete their series on Wednesday at Maples Pavilion, which marks Stanford's final match for 22 days because of Dead Week and finals.
When the Cardinal returns to action, it will be time for the season's stretch run - two on the road, followed by the final five at home.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics