No. 8 Stanford Stuns No. 2 Pepperdine, 3-1

2/13/2009

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PALTO ALTO, Calif. - A stunning four-set victory over No. 2 Pepperdine has suddenly changed the outlook for the Stanford men's volleyball team.

The Cardinal controlled the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation leader from the outset, withstood the attacks of a two-time All-American, and came away with a 30-18, 28-30, 30-25, 30-24 victory over a previously undefeated team Friday night at Maples Pavilion.

Evan Romero had 24 kills and a .435 hitting percentage to help No. 8 Stanford regain its footing and snap a 16-match losing streak to the Waves (7-1, 6-1) in a streak that dated back to 2001.

Big for Stanford (8-5, 4-4) was its 17.5 blocks, including eight from senior middle blocker Brandon Williams, who also had 10 kills and a .667 hitting percentage. In all, four Stanford players reached double figures in kills, including Brad Lawson with 15 and Spencer McLachlin with 13.

Defensively, Stanford allowed All-America opposite Paul Carroll 29 kills, but held Pepperdine to a .236 hitting percentage.

The performance came after Stanford blew a two-set lead to UCLA and was swept by UC Irvine during a dismal two-match road trip last week. The Cardinal had played so poorly away from home against ranked conference teams - including Pepperdine - that it had won only two of 14 sets in four losing matches.

But for a Stanford team that had struggled mightily on the road, the homecourt advantage has proven to be a miracle cure.

"We really buckled down this whole week," said middle blocker Garrett Werner, whose team improved to 3-0 at home. "We wanted to make sure last weekend wouldn't happen again."

Williams helped make sure it didn't. His block on the match's first point helped create the momentum for an initial surge that reached 18-4.

"It was definitely one of those matches where everything's on," Williams said. "And definitely getting that big lead early in the first game was huge for building momentum."

Said Kosty of Williams, "He played great. This was his breakout match. He's had some rough patches recently, but now he's back to the Brandon Williams of the last couple of years."

The performance was doubly necessary considering that freshman Gus Ellis, a regular starter at middle blocker, is out for three weeks with a knee injury.

"We came in with a good strategy and guys did a really nice job of executing the gameplan," Kosty said. "Blocking and serving were the keys. We kept the pressure on them by serving consistently without errors."

After last weekend's debacle, much effort was made to change some bad habits. The team worked on jumping earlier on the block, staying inside and taking away the angles.

Now, Stanford is drawing closer to a friendly stretch run. After this weekend, the Cardinal plays four road matches - including back-to-back matches in Hawaii, the home state of six of its players - before closing out the regular season with 10 of 12 matches at home.

"We've played all these really good teams on the road," Kosty said. "Now, those teams have to come to us. There are a lot of good things to come."

Article courtesy of Stanford athletics.

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