Men’s volleyball to face off against UCSB and second-ranked UCLA

Feb. 18, 2016, 1:36 a.m.

No. 4 Stanford men’s volleyball (10-2, 8-2 MPSF) remains at home for the second weekend in a row to take on No. 10 UC Santa Barbara (10-5, 6-4) on Friday and No. 2 UCLA (12-2, 8-2) on Sunday.

The Cardinal is coming into the weekend with the momentum of two consecutive wins against then-No. 4 Hawaii. Regardless of past wins, the team will have to once again give this weekend their all as they take on two top-ranked teams.

UCSB has proven to be a strong team both defensively and offensively, much like the Cardinal. The Gauchos have a kills-per-set average of 12.53, but the Cardinal outdo them with a 13.2 average.

“UCSB is always a really good team, and we have a tough time with them every year,” said senior setter James Shaw. “They have a really strong setter, and they’ve got two pretty big middles that can move around well.”

That setter is senior Jonah Seif, who has accumulated 567 assists and 32 kills. He is ranked 10th nationally in assists per set, right after Shaw himself, who is currently ninth.

The Gauchos have also played three more games than Stanford and will be playing another on Wednesday against No. 9 Pepperdine. While the Gauchos’ extra match experience has surely solidified their team dynamics and increased their cohesiveness, they may also arrive on the Farm tired due to their exhausting schedule. 

The Cardinal should look to take advantage of this with fresh legs and determination to prolong their winning streak.

The UCSB defense is organized and effective, averaging 8.18 digs per set and 2.41 blocks per set. The Gauchos have only allowed 44 aces from opposing teams, doing a better job than Stanford, who has allowed 40 in three fewer games.

On Sunday, Stanford will take on No. 2 UCLA. The Bruins have been near the top all season and will be one of the Cardinal’s most difficult opponents of the season.

The Bruins and the Cardinal have similar statistics on paper, with UCLA averaging 12.8 kills per set to Stanford’s 13.2. UCLA also averages 2.7 blocks per set to Stanford’s 2.6 and 8.1 digs per set to Stanford’s 8.6.

However, UCLA has distinguished itself with its cleaner play: The Bruins have only had 19 block errors while Stanford has had 31.

The Bruins have used their organized game to keep opponents at bay. Their opponents have averaged a meager 1.7 blocks per set, while Stanford has allowed 2.2. UCLA has also only allowed 10.7 kills per set by opponents, when Stanford has allowed 11.5.

UCLA is ranked third in the country with 1.89 aces per set. The Cardinal back line will have to be on high alert to counter this.

The Stanford offense will look to show its full potential this weekend. The Cardinal are currently ranked third in the country in kills per set, outdoing UCLA’s seventh-place tally.  The team will have to remain cohesive and communicative as it takes on the Bruins, as it did in its big wins over highly-ranked teams like BYU and Hawaii. This will also serve the Cardinal well in the long run as they look ahead to the NCAA tournament.

“The goal is to win a national championship first and foremost,” Shaw said. “But to get there we have little mini-goals for our team. I think we all have those same goals in mind, and I think that’s what’s carrying us right now — the determination to win the whole thing.”

The game against UCSB will be played at 7 p.m. on Friday in Burnham Pavilion. The Cardinal will then take on UCLA on Sunday at 11 a.m. in Maples Pavilion. The UCLA match will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.


Contact Laura Sussman at laura111 ‘at’

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