March 31, 2012
LOS ANGELES -
Michelle Obama, Will Smith, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift. The stars were out at USC on Saturday night.
But unlike the Kids' Choice Awards at the Galen Center, the real action was taking place across campus at venerable and compact North Gym where Stanford battled USC in a top-5 men's volleyball showdown.
Brad Lawson had 16 kills, but couldn't prevent No. 5 Stanford from losing to No. 2 USC, 25-22, 25-20, 15-25, 25-20 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation action.
Stanford (15-6, 12-5) hopes it's not a pivotal loss as it tries to navigate a tight pack at the top of the conference with five matches left - all at home, beginning Tuesday against Pacific at Maples Pavilion in a 7 p.m. contest.
With UCLA's victory over No. 1 UC Irvine, four teams are tied for first with four losses apiece, including USC (18-4, 14-4), winners of 13 straight. Fifth-place Stanford, however, has fallen off the pace and the final five matches will be telling, with only UCLA of the top four still remaining on the Cardinal schedule.
"It's still anybody's ballgame," said Stanford coach John Kosty, whose career victory total remains at 99. "I still think if we win out, we can host the conference tournament."
Stanford had already clinched a spot in the eight-team postseason event, which confers the conference's sole NCAA automatic bid. Now, it needs to jockey for seeding and build its resume as a contender for a possible NCAA at-large berth.
Lawson had 10 digs and four service aces for the Cardinal, which controlled Cardinal-killer Tony Ciarelli to 12 kills. But Tanner Jansen had 17 and hit .519 for the Trojans.
Brian Cook came off the bench to pick up 12 kills and Stanford had strong serving, with seven aces, including three from Eric Mochalski. In the matchup of brothers, Eric Mochalski had eight kills to his brother Steven's seven for the Trojans.
"They're a good team," Kosty said of USC, which earned its fourth consecutive victory over Stanford and completed a regular-season sweep. "We played well in spurts, but they were the most consistent team."