April 3, 2009
LONG BEACH, Calif. -
The No. 5 Stanford men's volleyball team rallied from four points down in the fifth set to earn a dramatic 28-30, 30-18, 30-26, 26-30, 20-18 road victory over No. 7 Long Beach State on Friday night.
The Cardinal fought back from a 11-7 deficit on the strength of three Evan Romero kills down the stretch in a fifth set that featured three lead changes, eight ties and six match points, including five for Stanford.
Stanford (18-8, 11-6) fought off match point when trailing 17-16 on a Romero kill and closed out the match on a kill by Brad Lawson and a 49er attacking error. Romero finished with 20 kills (.319 hitting percentage) and Lawson had 19 (.425) as Stanford withstood a 36-kill performance from Long Beach State's Dean Bittner.
"They really pushed us to the limit," Stanford coach John Kosty said. "But the result is a testament to our players. They know how to win."
Kosty said his team approaches the fifth set as two halves. The first goes to eight, and then to 15. Though Stanford trailed 8-6, Kosty felt the momentum had already begun to shift after the Cardinal recovered from 4-1 deficit.
"We knew we were down a little bit, but with an opportunity to come back," Kosty said. "The match was still in Long Beach's hands, but creeping over to our side."
Stanford finally caught up at 12-12 on a Spencer McLachlin block, and the rest of the match was a dogfight.
It was the second five-set loss to Stanford for Long Beach (10-13, 7-11), which failed to maintain a 2-0 lead in sets at Maples Pavilion on Jan. 30.
Stanford extended its Mountain Pacific Sports Federation winning streak to seven while moving up one spot in the standings, to fifth place, after BYU's loss to UC Irvine.
"The key to the fifth set was our transition game needed to re-establish itself," Kosty said. "In the first part, we were not getting in a good rhythm defensively. In the second part, our serving came through, allowing us to set up defensively."
When that happens, Stanford is hard to stop. Freshman libero Erik Shoji, the national leader in digs, had 22, and has 362 for the season. That places him within range of the Stanford single-season digs record of 379, set by three-time Olympian Scott Fortune in 1986, during the sideout-scoring era.
Another notable achievement for Stanford was its 18 victories. That is the most for a Stanford team since its 1997 national championship squad went 27-3.
"It was a great match and a real fun fifth game," Kosty said. "Fifth-game wins are crucial to your season. Those are the ones that will turn a season around."
Stanford plays its final road match of the regular season on Saturday (7 p.m.) at No. 10 UC San Diego, a team having its' best-ever season.