No. 8 men’s volleyball rises above No. 4 UCLA in five-set thriller

Feb. 9, 2017, 11:23 p.m.

Back at home after a 0-2 road trip, No. 8 Stanford men’s volleyball (7-4, 4-2 MPSF) came back from a two-set-to-one deficit to win a dramatic five-set match 29-27, 25-27, 23-25, 29-27, 15-11 against No. 4 UCLA (9-4, 6-3).

The Cardinal and the Bruins were dead-even nearly all game, needing a fifth set playoff to determine the outcome of the match. Behind career-high kills from sophomore outside hitter Jordan Ewert (22) and freshman opposite Mason Tufuga (19), Stanford rallied after going down 2-1 to take the next set by a close margin before the deciding fifth. Junior setter Kyle Dagostino guided the Cardinal with a season-high 48 assists and 11 digs and junior libero Evan Enriques tallied 10 digs to lead the defensive effort.

Stanford managed to have a balanced offense during most the match, particularly from Tufuga, who took the game by a storm. The freshman appeared in all five sets, dominating on offense with a .394 hitting percentage. The Cardinal offense managed to best a top-ranked UCLA defense, which has held opponents to a .223 hitting percentage over the season. Stanford reached .356 accuracy as a team in their first five-set match in 2017.

In the first set, Stanford was challenged early, going down 10-5 while hitting .297 percent. The team would be five points behind again at 17-12 before strong kills by Ewert, Tufuga, and fifth-year senior outside hitter Gabriel Vega. In a set they eventually won, the Cardinal trailed throughout after winning the first point of the game, only regaining the lead at 25-24. After rallying to fend off two Bruin set point attempts, Stanford would need three set point attempts of its own before a block by senior middle Kevin Rakestraw sealed the first. Rakestraw would end the match with four total blocks.

Stanford held a small lead early in the second set before UCLA went on a run to bring the score to 15-11 Bruins. The Cardinal would continue to battle, tying up the set at 24-all despite UCLA hitting with .500 accuracy. UCLA went up on a service error, but Stanford would tie it up once again. With the match tight, the Cardinal failed to hold off the Bruins, and UCLA took the set by a score of 27-25.

The third set was once again neck-and-neck. The largest lead for either team came when UCLA went up by three points at 17-14. Stanford came back to tie at 18-all, and the score was then even at points 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23. A Cardinal error and a UCLA block were the deciding factors in the set, and the Bruins grabbed a 2-1 lead.

In set four, UCLA held late leads 21-20 and 22-21 despite Stanford’s .480 hitting percentage. Determined to not fall easily, the Cardinal battled through three set points, finally taking the set on two straight errors by the Bruins. The match would require an extra playoff.

In a match defined by Stanford comebacks, the fifth set was fittingly another come-from-behind win. UCLA moved out to a 6-4 lead, but the Cardinal came back to tie 6-6 off a kill by Vega. The Bruins would take the next point, but two errors gave Stanford a slim 8-7 lead at the changeover. The Cardinal would not give up the lead, even when UCLA pulled within one at 12-11. Rakestraw delivered a powerful kill and two straight blocks to help the team clinch the match in thrilling fashion.

Playing a higher-ranked opponent, the Cardinal faced adversity throughout the match but displayed team toughness to take the game in five. Stanford will take its momentum into Saturday’s home matchup against No. 12 UC Santa Barbara. The game is set to begin at 7 p.m.


Contact Laura Anderson at lauraand ‘at’

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