RIVERSIDE, Calif. — This could have been a trap game, but Stanford refused to let it happen.
Stanford had just lost a riveting five-setter at BYU, before more than 3,000 fans, playing one of the nation’s men’s volleyball traditional powers.
On Monday, they found themselves against an unknown opponent, in a tiny gym, with low ceiling and on an unfamiliar court.
But Stanford refused to fall into the trap, even when it looked like the Cardinal was starting to lose its balance in a 21-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-21 victory against No. 12 California Baptist in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation action on Monday night.
“It was definitely the extreme,” Stanford coach John Kosty said. “The guys did a great job of competing in two great environments.”
But as is the case throughout the rugged MPSF, nothing comes easy. The No. 4 Cardinal (10-6, 7-6) struggled in the first set as it was limited to a .036 hitting percentage. But Stanford turned the momentum in the second set and finished strong, hitting .565 in the fourth and final set.
“Denny Falls and Eric Mochalski, were really the key,” Kosty said. “We established the middles, which really helped the outsides.”
Falls and Mochalski combined for 17 kills and a .680 hitting percentage to give the Cardinal options to take the pressure off Brian Cook (13 kills) and Steven Irvin (8 kills).
After the nature of the Saturday’s loss in Provo, when Stanford dropped the final two sets after holding a 2-1 lead, the Cardinal could not afford to linger on the heartbreak. No. 13 Cal Baptist (6-8, 3-6) took advantage, with aggressive setting and a tempo that seemed to catch Stanford off guard.
Cook, for instance, was held to one first-set kill and he and Irvin were held to a -.118 hitting. But things changed when Stanford adjusted to the pace and began to do a better job of handling the Lancer serves.
“The guys did a great job of regrouping and refocusing,” Kosty said. “We did a good job of catching up to the speed of their offense and the speed of their serves.”
Stanford hit .446 during the final three sets, and the Cardinal hopes to continue the momentum when it plays host to No. 5 Pepperdine on Saturday and No. 13 USC on Sunday at Maples Pavilion.
After playing four consecutive matches on the road and six of its past seven, Stanford will be happy to be home. Stanford team that is 7-1 at home and carries an 11-match Maples winning streak.