March 30, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - Dylan Kordic isn’t complaining. His collegiate volleyball career hasn’t gone according to plan, but he experienced a national championship and has remained hard-working and enthusiastic – something others might consider a challenge given the circumstances.
That’s why what happened Wednesday was so important to the Stanford men’s volleyball team. A good guy did good.
Kordic, a junior in his first collegiate match at setter, highlighted No. 2 Stanford’s 25-15, 25-18, 25-22 nonconference victory over UC Santa Cruz at Maples Pavilion with a 15-assist, three-block, three-dig performance.
Charley Henrikson led a balanced attack by tying his collegiate career-high of eight kills while Stanford (16-6) hit .402 as a team in preparation for Friday’s home showdown against No. 1 USC at 7 p.m.
“Tonight was a great opportunity to continue to fine-tune our rhythm,” Stanford coach John Kosty said. “We took our two-week break and we didn’t play as well as we hoped last weekend (during a two-match home split). Tonight, we did a very good job.”
Fine-tuning? Rhythm? A good job? That won’t play in Hollywood, but Kordic’s story might.
Kordic had major shoulder surgery before his senior year at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach. Still, the outside hitter slammed down match point to give the Mustangs a five-set victory over national No. 1 Newport Harbor in the Southern Section Division I final and earned first-team All-American honors.
“Dylan’s just a great volleyball player and that’s one of the reasons we recruited him in the first place,” Kosty said. “He played multiple positions in high school. He was always one of the team leaders. Everybody focused around him. Everybody counted on him to take the big swings. And he was a great fit academically for Stanford. It was one of those no-brainers.”
But once he arrived at Stanford in the fall of 2008, further injuries to Kordic’s shoulder and ankle conspired to limit his playing time to a total of three sets over two seasons.
Kosty had always admired Kordic’s versatility and knowledge of the game, and with the additional recruitment of top young hitters, Kordic was in danger of being marginalized. Instead, the coaching staff proposed a switch to setter. Stanford had only two on the roster, and it was the one position the team lacked depth.
“I came here with expectations of eventually getting into the rotation as a hitter,” Kordic said. “The coaches decided that it would be the best thing for me and the team for me to switch me to setter since I couldn’t really contribute as a hitter well enough any more.”
Kordic eagerly accepted the challenge and began to work. Though his setting was predictably inconsistent early on, Kordic has since worked himself into a battle with Kaaa for the backup spot behind Barry.
“We’ve never doubted his work ethic,” Kosty said. “We never doubted his competitiveness. And even though he may have doubted himself a little bit as far as ‘Can I set?,’ we’ve always had faith in Dylan.”
The reward came on Wednesday. In his first action this season, Kordic entered with Stanford ahead 21-15 in the second set. He responded by setting Henrikson for a kill and followed with a key dig that helped finish off the set.
Handed full responsibility for the third set, Kordic was unable to prevent Stanford from falling behind 13-10. But Kordic and freshman middle Denny Falls combined for consecutive block points to ignite a rally. Moments later, Kordic snuffed two consecutive attacks on a single sequence that ended in his solo block for a 23-21 lead.
Kordic followed with a kill of his own and finished by setting Ian Connolly for match point. Stanford hit .378 with Kordic at setter.
“In practice, we all get playing time, we get active and go at it,” Kordic said. “So, you have that element. The only thing that was different was hearing my friends on the court and in the stands yelling and encouraging me.”
His friends weren’t the only ones.
“To get his first opportunity, he earned it,” Kosty said. “And he took full advantage of it. How’s that for a back story?”
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics