Men’s volleyball returns home after disappointing road trips

Jan. 30, 2014, 12:27 a.m.

No. 7 Stanford men’s volleyball (4-3, 1-3 MPSF) is finally returning home this weekend and will be welcoming Maples Pavilion and its undefeated home record with open arms. After a strenuous and disappointing two weeks on the road in which the Cardinal lost three very close matches, Stanford will face No. 6 Long Beach State (4-3, 3-3) on Friday and No. 13 Cal State Northridge (2-3, 2-2) on Saturday.

Senior outside hitter Brian Cook (above) is hitting .302 and is averaging 3.21 kills per set this season. (ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)

Long Beach State is coming off of an impressive five-set win over top-ranked Pepperdine, which had yet to lose a match before facing off against the 49ers. Long Beach State battled from behind to win that match at home. Senior outside hitter Taylor Crabb had a tremendous match for Long Beach State and was named the MPSF player of the week after collecting a career-high-tying 24 kills and a season-high 13 digs.  Senior Ian Satterfield had six blocks against Pepperdine and his massive blocking ability will be a threat to Stanford remaining undefeated at home.

Long Beach State’s defense is the element that the Cardinal should really be focusing on when preparing for Friday’s match. Against Pepperdine, Long Beach State had a season-high 63 digs and 22 blocks. In fact, it is Long Beach State’s blocking power that is the most impressive, with the team having out-blocked Pepperdine 22-9.5 in that match. The Cardinal’s strongest offensive players — especially senior outside hitters Brian Cook and Steven Irvin — will have to find a way to work around and counteract LBSU’s blocking.

LBSU holds the advantage against Stanford in the two teams’ all-time series, 44-28. Last season, Stanford was swept by LBSU at Maples and then again at the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals. But while LBSU holds the advantage in the series and is coming off a dominating defensive performance, LBSU has demonstrated inconsistency and flaws. Prior to beating No. 1 Pepperdine, LBSU was swept at home by No. 4 USC. And with Stanford’s consistent and fierce play thus far at Maples, the Cardinal should have a good chance at maintaining its undefeated home record.

After Friday’s match against Long Beach State, the Cardinal will face Cal State Northridge on Saturday. Cal State Northridge and LBSU had opposite results last week, with Cal State Northridge beating USC but losing to Pepperdine. The Matadors had an impressive win against No. 4 USC, in which they won in straight sets. Redshirt freshman Damani Lenore had a match-high 13 kills for the Matadors and averages over five kills per set.

However, the service game was the most critical part of Northridge’s win. The Matadors had nine aces on the night against the Trojans’ zero. Stanford’s service game has been very strong so far this season, and it should look to try and outperform the Matadors on the service line to gain the upper hand in the match. Stanford has the advantage in the two teams’ all time series, 38-36, and each team beat the other on the road last season. Stanford will be looking to ensure that the same does not happen this season.

Stanford should be confident because it is returning home to play at Maples, where it has seemed comfortable and has been successful this season. This weekend is a key moment for the team’s season — it is a chance for the Cardinal to work its way back towards the No. 1 spot it held before leaving for its road trip two weeks ago. Both Friday’s match against Long Beach State and Saturday’s match against Cal State Northridge will begin at 7 p.m. at Maples Pavilion.

Contact Eliza Thompson at elizat ‘at’

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