April 9, 2011
LOS ANGELES - The way coach John Kosty saw it, the postseason began Saturday night for the Stanford men's volleyball team.
The Cardinal clinched homecourt for the first-round of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament by sweeping UCLA, 25-18, 25-18, 25-17, and the No. 3 seed.
"In my mind, this is where we start our playoff run," Kosty said. "We need to build momentum, starting tonight."
Spencer McLachlin led a balanced attack with 10 kills for Stanford (18-8 overall, 14-7 MPSF), which held the Bruins to a .041 hitting percentage, the third-lowest allowed by a Cardinal team in the rally-scoring era (since 2001).
"We started off with a good serving game," Kosty said. "That allowed us to take advantage of OK passing, which eliminated their middle attack and allowed us to gang up on their outsides."
Stanford's defensive dominance was reflected in the numbers: The 11 blocks and 38 digs were season-highs for a three-set match. Brad Lawson had 12 digs, to go with his nine kills, four blocks and service ace.
No matter the result in the regular-season finale against Pacific in Stockton next Saturday, Stanford cannot move up or down in the standings or in the playoff positioning derby. However, the Cardinal can accomplish two significant things: It can maintain the momentum of some of its best volleyball of the season and provide a record-breaking victory for its senior class.
Saturday's victory enabled Stanford's class of '11 to tie the school mark for most victories by a single class. With their 80th victory, Ian Connolly, Garrett Dobbs, Max Halvorson, Charley Henrikson, Jordan Inafuku, and McLachlin equaled the mark held by the senior classes of 1995 and 1998.
But of greater importance was the holistic side of the victory.
"We played as a cohesive unit tonight, in a way we haven't seen in a couple of weekends," Kosty said. "The biggest thing is communication, and trusting each other. That's what we have to continue and maintain."
The MPSF tournament begins April 23, with Stanford's home opponent to be Hawai'i, UC Santa Barbara, or Long Beach State. By grabbing a No. 3 seed, Stanford is in the opposite bracket from No. 1 USC. And, if somehow USC and second-place BYU are upset in the first round, Stanford could host the tournament's final four.
But that's speculation for another time, even though the "playoffs" already have started for Stanford.