Feb. 2, 2012
PROVO, Utah -
The task is daunting, but the Stanford men’s volleyball team has had past success at BYU, the Cardinal’s opponent in a pair of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches.
No. 7 Stanford (5-2, 2-1) takes on the top-ranked and conference-leading Cougars (6-1, 4-0) as it continues a 10-match road stretch that still has three weekends to go.
Friday: No. 7 Stanford (5-2, 2-1) at No. 1 BYU (6-1, 4-0), 6 p.m. PT.
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Saturday: Stanford at BYU, 6 p.m. PT.
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Road Trip: Stanford enters the weekend four matches into a 10-match road trip. The Cardinal is 2-2 after beginning the 40-day road stretch with a split at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara, followed by another against Penn State and Ohio State at the Ken and Dave Dunlap Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend. Stanford will cover 7,617 miles before it’s through.
Stanford also opens the MPSF season with nine consecutive road matches. The Cardinal doesn’t play its conference home opener until Feb. 24.
Last Week: Stanford met both of its foes from the 2010 NCAA final four, when the Cardinal captured the national title on its home floor of Maples Pavilion. In the playoffs, Stanford swept Ohio State in the semifinals and Penn State in the finals. This time, at the Ken and Dave Dunlap Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, Penn State gained a measure of revenge with a four-set victory. Stanford salvaged the weekend with a five-set victory over Ohio State on Saturday in a matchup between the past two NCAA champions. The Cardinal extended its all-time record against the Buckeyes to 10-0.
With the emergence of sophomores Brian Cook
and Steven Irvin
, Stanford has used a balanced attack that takes into account four main offensive threats. Two-time first-team All-American Brad Lawson
gets most of the swings, averaging 7.39 attempts and 3.52 kills per set. But Cook has nearly as many kills as Lawson (81-80), and Irvin (63) and middle blocker Mochalski (52) are not far behind. Mochalski carries a .488 hitting percentage after setting a school rally-scoring record by hitting .451 last season.
Unsung Hero: Dylan Kordic, a senior who converted to setter last season, came on late in the third set in relief to lead Stanford to victory against Ohio State. Kordic replaced an injured Evan Barry and had 23 assists. Kordic had played only four sets in two seasons and hadn't played against a Division I team since his collegiate debut in 2008, as a hitter. In his only two full sets, Stanford hit .377 and won both. Kordic arrived at Stanford as an outside hitter from Manhattan Beach, Calif., but a high school shoulder injury eventually led to the switch to setter.
Recent Meetings in Provo: Stanford has earned memorable victories in each of its past two trips to BYU, in 2010 and 2008. Overall, Stanford and the Cougars split those series at 2-2. But here are the highlights for the Cardinal:
Jan. 23, 2010: No. 3 Stanford fought off four BYU set points to win a pivotal second set and used the momentum to beat the No. 5 Cougars, 20-30, 35-33, 30-28, 30-27. Sophomore Brad Lawson had 22 kills and only four errors in 41 attacks (.439), and a crucial big serve, to lead the Cardinal after losing in four the previous night. Stanford would go on to win the national championship that season.
Feb. 23, 2008: Stanford’s transformation from a 3-25 team in 2007 to a 2010 national champion took a major step in Provo when the up-and-coming Cardinal upset No. 1 BYU in a 35-33, 30-22, 31-29 sweep. The Cardinal controlled the front line with 26 blocks, and setter Kawika Shoji (53 assists) spread the attacks through freshman Spencer McLachlin (16 kills), senior Matt Ceran (15), and sophomore Evan Romero (14) in a huge confidence-boosting victory.
This Weekend’s Opponent, BYU: The Cougars boast perhaps the most dangerous hitter in the country, in Taylor Sander. The MPSF kills percentage leader is the unquestioned focus of the offense, taking 35 percent of the team’s swings. But the strategy is working. Sander is hitting .424. Six-8 middle Futi Tavana and 6-7 opposite Robb Stowell are returning All-Americans. Stowell had 20 kills in the Cougars most recent match, a five-set victory to cap a weekend sweep of defending MPSF regular-season champion USC on Jan. 21.