On a senior night that recognized the final regular season match at Maples Pavilion for three Cardinal players, No. 9 Stanford men’s volleyball (12-11, 7-9 MPSF) delivered a five-set comeback victory over UC San Diego (7-17, 3-13) on Saturday, ending a four-game losing streak and clinching a spot in the MPSF playoffs, its ninth in the past 10 years.
Fifth-year senior outside hitter Gabriel Vega came up big in his final match at home, tying his career-high with 21 kills while recording seven digs and two blocks. After a slow start, Vega picked up the pace in the final two sets, racking up 10 kills in the fourth set alone before hitting five-for-five in the tiebreaker. Senior outside hitters Clay Jones and Colin McCall recorded 12 and seven kills, respectively, in their last regular season contest at Maples. Senior middle blocker Kevin Rakestraw added to the upperclassman output with 11 kills on .450 hitting and four blocks.
The Cardinal dominated the Tritons in the opening set, looking unstoppable in a 25-12 trouncing. But the team’s offensive faltered in the second and third sets, hitting with less than .090 percent accuracy in both sets, compared to a staggering .450 hitting percentage in the first.
Needing to victory the fourth set in order to extend the match, Stanford answered the call, taking a tight 25-23 win. Freshman setter Paul Bischoff guided the offense to 18 kills in the set, adding helpers to his second 50-assist match of his career. On defense, junior libero Evan Enriques continued his strong season, leading the Cardinal with 12 digs. Stanford defense forced UC San Diego to make 26 errors, which proved decisive in the close contest.
The Cardinal took an early lead in the fifth set and never relinquished the advantage, closing out the regular season home stand in 15-11 comeback fashion. Stanford has staged dramatic comeback victories in three previous matches this season, and the team improved to 4-0 in five-set contests with Saturday’s win.
With their regular season home matches complete, the Cardinal will hit the road for a final week of matches before the postseason. The team will take on UC Irvine on Friday before a rematch with these same Tritons on Saturday. Stanford will then prepare for MPSF playoff competition beginning on April 15.
Contact Laura Anderson at lauraand ‘at’ stanford.edu.