No. 6 Stanford Holds Of UC San Diego 3-1

1/31/2009

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STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford's men's volleyball victory over UC San Diego on Saturday night was an exhibit of the good and the bad of the season so far.

On one hand, No. 6 Stanford hurt itself with hitting and serving errors that helped the visitors force a fourth-set scramble that the Cardinal narrowly won to avoid an unpredictable fifth set.

On the other hand, as fitful as the uneven play was, there may have been a positive element to it too for the Cardinal.

"That's a good sign, I guess," Stanford junior opposite hitter Evan Romero said. "It means we haven't peaked yet."

In the end, Stanford earned a 30-25, 30-23, 28-30, 30-28 victory at Burnham Pavilion to complete a weekend two-match sweep of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches.

Stanford jumped on the Tritons early, hitting a torrid .456 over the first two sets, with only six hitting errors. But the Cardinal attack dissolved in the third with eight hitting errors, and then suffered further with four fourth-set service errors in a six-serve span.

"We kind of cruised through the first two games and got complacent," setter Kawika Shoji said.

Shoji finished with a season-high 52 assists and had six blocks. And, if there was a saving skill for Stanford on Saturday, blocking was it.

Though he was getting good offensive games from middle blockers Garrett Werner (nine kills) and Brandon Williams (seven kills), Kosty brought in freshman Gus Ellis in the fourth set to provide a defensive spark.

Ellis responded with a pivotal kill to tie it at 19-19 and followed immediately by teaming with Brad Lawson on a go-ahead block.

Down the stretch, more big blocks came from Shoji, who finished with a career-high. In all, five of the team's 12.5 blocks came in the fourth set. Even when Stanford didn't directly stop the Triton attacks, the Cardinal seemed to alter them.

"When you get stuff-blocked, you think about it the next time," Kosty said.

The victories were much-needed for Stanford (7-3, 3-2), which regains some of the momentum it had before a pair of uncompetitive losses at the hands of USC and Pepperdine last weekend.

Of course, the momentum again shifted, in dramatic fashion, on Friday when Stanford fell behind by two sets and fought off three match points before rallying past No. 7 Long Beach State, 26-30, 24-30, 33-31, 31-29, 15-8 at Maples Pavilion.

The inconsistency on offense has plagued Stanford at times, even though the Cardinal can still manage to rise above it.

"On offense, we still haven't hit our rhythm," said Kosty, whose team finished with a.361 hitting percentage. "We're not smooth yet."

UCSD (3-5, 1-4) got four players into doubles figures in kills, but Stanford felt it was responsible, because of its own errors. In its eyes of the Cardinal players, the match shouldn't have gotten so close.

"We're a good team, but we're not consistent enough to be a great team," Shoji said. "But we're still improving and continuing to learn the game.

"The best is certainly yet to come."

Article courtesy of Hawai'i athletics.

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