One day after sweeping No. 13 Cal State Northridge and hitting .349 as a team, the Stanford men’s volleyball team fell flat against No. 5 Long Beach State, hitting just .021 as a team and losing in straight sets.
The weekend split showed how tough the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation can be, especially on the road. Stanford (5-2, 4-2 MPSF) dropped into a tie for third place in the conference, sitting a game behind Long Beach (6-3, 5-1) and two games back of first-place USC.
The Cardinal was done in by uncharacteristically poor outside hitting. Junior Brad Lawson, usually one of Stanford’s most consistent attackers, had 10 kills, but hit just .074 and had eight errors. Lawson’s counterpart, senior Spencer McLachlin, also had 10 kills, but like Lawson, had a number of errors and hit .107.
In game one on Saturday, the Cardinal had opportunities to take the lead several times, including late in the set. The score was tied at 12-12 before the 49ers went on a five-point run to take a 17-12 advantage. Stanford battled back to within a point at 18-17, but two consecutive attack errors swung the momentum back to Long Beach, and it closed out the set, 25-21.
Game two was close throughout, with Stanford clinging to an early lead and building a five-point lead mid-way through the set at 16-11. But Long Beach came back and took a 19-18 lead before a McLachlin kill retied the score at 19. The 49ers did not flinch, however, and rode the momentum from their small crowd of 734 to take the second set 25-21.
The third game saw the Cardinal jump out to a 6-3 lead before six attack helped put Long Beach back up, 11-6. The 49ers didn’t look back and rolled to a 25-13 victory.
“There’s the old adage that you always learn more from a loss than a win,” said Stanford head coach John Kosty. “It’s not something we wanted, but we’ll definitely need to take advantage of it and move on.”
It was a far cry from the scene a day earlier against Northridge (2-6, 1-4). The rematch of last year’s MPSF tournament final was all Cardinal from the onset. Stanford led the whole way and hit .481 as a team in game one, as the Matadors made eight errors and hit just .182. Lawson had five kills in the first set, and Evan Barry had 13 assists.
Stanford had not won at Northridge since 2004 and had dropped seven of the last nine matches, but only looked vulnerable in the second set with Northridge staving off three Stanford set points before ultimately falling, 25-27.
Five straight kills, two from freshman Eric Mochalski, gave Stanford a comfortable 15-10 cushion in the middle of the third set, and the Cardinal took the third game of its seven-game road trip that spanned 9,186 miles over 16 days.
Once again, Stanford was helped by big performances from its freshmen. Steven Irvin got his second start of the year as an outside hitter and had a solid all-around game with seven kills, six digs and five blocks.
Stanford finally plays at home this week, hosting Pacific on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The team will hit the road again next weekend, getting a break from conference action against Lewis and Loyola of Chicago.