No. 8 Stanford Beats Two Ranked Teams on Opening Day

1/9/2009

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A stuff block by sophomore outside hitter Spencer McLachlin on match point gave No. 8 Stanford a 28-30, 30-27, 30-20, 30-28 tournament semifinal victory over No. 4 Long Beach State on Friday to earn its second victory of the day over a ranked team.

The Cardinal (2-0), which earlier won its season opener over No. 9 BYU, 30-25, 30-24, 30-18, advances to play No. 5 Cal State Northridge on Saturday (6:30 p.m.) in the final. The 45th annual UCSB/Elephant Bar Restaurant Collegiate Invitational consists of eight teams, seven of which are nationally-ranked, and is regarded as the strongest tournament in the country.

This is the second consecutive year that Stanford has reached the final, after losing in four sets to University of Alberta last year. However, this Stanford team, with 15 of its 17 players back, seems poised to improve upon its 2008 finish.

Each match brought out a different dimension in the Cardinal's game. Against BYU, it was passing and serving. Against Long Beach, blocking made the difference.

Freshman Gus Ellis made his first collegiate start, alongside Garrett Werner, at middle blocker and helped stymie a strong hitting team. The Cardinal will need more of the same against Cal State Northridge.

"We just played consistent," Stanford coach John Kosty said. "We've put two really good matches together and we're going to have to be very consistent again to beat Northridge."


Two freshmen started for the Cardinal against BYU, outside hitter Brad Lawson and libero Erik Shoji, and performed well (statistics were not kept). Both are from Honolulu and were among the top recruits in the country. But it was Erik's brother, Kawika, who got the Stanford offense rolling.
 
Kawika Shoji, a second-team All-American setter as a sophomore last season, "spread out the offense very well and got the middles involved early," Kosty said. "If there were statistics, both outside hitters and the opposites probably had the same amount of kills."

The starting lineup for Stanford (17-11 and No. 9 last season) was McLachlin and freshman Lawson at outside hitter, senior Brandon Williams and junior Werner in the middle, junior Evan Romero at opposite, junior Kawika Shoji at setter and freshman Erik Shoji at libero.

"For us, and just volleyball in general, it's all about serving and passing," Kosty said. "We did a very good job today in those departments and created a lot of scoring opportunities. If we're going to have good serving and passing, we can compete with anyone."

Article courtesy of Stanford athletics.

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