April 23, 2011
Final Stats |
STANFORD, Calif. - The finality to the match was felt at the point that Spencer McLachlin's attack down the line bounced wide.
For Stanford's senior captain and four-year starter, nothing seemed fair about this possible ending to an outstanding collegiate career in a 26-24, 25-27, 25-23, 19-25, 15-13 loss to Long Beach State in the first round of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball tournament before 1,057 at Maples Pavilion on Saturday night.
But, in retrospect, perhaps the finish was appropriate in a different respect.
"When it comes down to it, you want your senior captain to be able to take the swings for you at crunch time," Stanford coach John Kosty said. "It's an honor to have that final swing delivered to you."
McLachlin had 18 kills and 11 digs for the Cardinal (19-9). The loss made the defending NCAA champion's case for an at-large berth in the four-team NCAA tournament remote, but not impossible. The selection committee will decide on the sole at-large spot next Sunday.
Because No. 2 seed BYU was upset by No. 7 seed UC Santa Barbara, Stanford's chances may have some legs. UCSB and Long Beach State play in one semifinal and No. 1 USC plays No. 5 UC Irvine in the other. The semifinals and final will be held at USC's Galen Center, Thursday and Saturday.
If UCSB beats Long Beach State and USC wins out as expected, No. 3 seed Stanford feels it has a strong argument based on season sweeps of BYU and UCI, and that it finished higher in the MPSF standings than (in order) UCI, Hawaii, Long Beach, and UCSB.
On Saturday, Stanford got 27 kills and a .426 hitting percentage from Brad Lawson, and had a 12-10 lead in the fifth set. But Long Beach State (15-13) scored the final three points of the match - on a pair of kills by freshman Taylor Crabb and McLachlin's final wayward strike that went wide on match point, to overcome a 13-12 deficit.
Stanford met its match with Long Beach State, which beat the Cardinal in all three meetings this year. But the Cardinal had its moments. Stanford fought off two set points in Game 2 to win the set on a kill by freshman Steven Irvin, a reserve who had 11 kills and was in on five blocks.
And the Cardinal defense was often spectacular, as was Long Beach's. The teams combined for 341 swings and 126 digs. Stanford had four in double figures, led by Shoji's 16 digs, Lawson's 15, and McLachlin and Evan Barry's 11 apiece. And freshman Eric Mochalski had nine blocks and eight kills.
Stanford had been undone by the Long Beach middles last time - in a five-set loss at Maples on March 26 - when the 49ers middles combined to hit .623 with no errors. This time, the 49ers were a combined minus-.037 at that position.
But this time, Stanford didn't have an answer for reserve outside hitter Josh Riley, who had 21 kills, 13 digs, three blocks and a service ace.
"Give them credit, they made some switches in their lineup since the last time we saw them, and it helped them," Kosty said. "And it got them that one extra point to beat us in the fifth."
If this is the final match of the season, it will close the door on the careers of McLachlin, co-captain liberto Jordan Inafuku, outside hitter Ian Connolly, middle blocker Max Halvorson, and possibly redshirt junior Garrett Dobbs. Another redshirt junior, Charley Henrikson at middle blocker, has indicated he will return.
The class of 2011 is the winningest in the history of the program, with a combined four-year record of 81-37, beating the previous victory record of 80, held by the classes of 1995 and '97.
"This is a tremendous volleyball class," Kosty said. "The past four years, they've paved the way to do things nobody's ever done in this program. They need to feel a tremendous amount of pride for what they've done.
"I know they're hoping it's not over. If it is, they can look back on a tremendous four years. If it isn't, we got a couple of more matches to play."
And that, and not any single play, will be the legacy of McLachlin and the the Stanford class of 2011. A legacy of success that others can aspire to.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics