STANFORD, Calif. -- For the second time in eight days, No. 3 Stanford rallied to defeat No. 6 UC Irvine in five sets (28-30, 25-22, 25-15, 17-25, 15-13) this time coming in the quarterfinals of the MPSF tournament on Saturday at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal are now 21-7 overall, while the Anteaters end their season at 18-11.
“Both teams are senior-laden teams, and that was an absolute battle,” head coach John Kosty said. “Kyle Russell came in and did a really nice job of serving for Irvine to put them up [in the fifth set]. And then, we threw our serving specialist at them in Scott Sakaida.
“What Scott did was create point-scoring opportunities for us. He wasn’t going to get any aces, but he did a nice job giving us opportunities to score.”
And score they did. Trailing 13-12 in the fifth, Sakaida served three consecutive points to give the Cardinal the win, starting with a block by sophomore setter James Shaw and junior middle Spencer Haly. After an attack error by UC Irvine’s Zack La Cavera gave Stanford the 14-13 edge, senior Steven Irvin chased down a ball that eventually ended in an Eric Mochalski kill to win the match.
“Irvin chasing down that ball in the last rally of the match, and us being patient in that situation, was key,” Kosty said. “We didn’t go for the kill right away. We wanted to see if we could get a better opportunity and we did.”
After going 0-5 in five-set matches to start the season, Stanford is now 3-0 when the match is pushed to the limit. The Cardinal’s current 12-match winning streak is the longest since it won 16 in a row to close out the 1997 season with the program’s first national title.
“I think they have been doing it with patience and confidence,” said Kosty, referring to the team’s current winning streak.
Senior outside hitter Brian Cook led the Cardinal with 21 kills and nine digs in the win. Irvin and Mochalski added 15 kills apiece, while Haly finished with six kills and four blocks. Sophomore middle Conrad Kaminksi pitched in with five kills and six blocks.
Shaw registered 53 assists in the win. He also tallied eight digs, four blocks and three aces. Redshirt junior libero Grant Delgado notched a match-best 12 digs, while sophomore Madison Hayden came off the bench to serve two aces.
La Cavera paced the Anteaters with 19 kills on a .310 attack percentage. Jeremy Dejno added 12 kills, while Scott Kevorken posted seven kills and seven blocks for UCI.
Stanford, the No. 3 seed in the MPSF tournament, will travel to Provo, Utah next week to take on No. 2 seed Pepperdine at Smith Fieldhouse. Top seed and host BYU will battle No. 4 seed UC Santa Barbara in the other semifinal match on April 24.
“We have to keep elevating our game,” Kosty said. “Pepperdine is going to come out tough and they are also a good serving team. We understand what we are good at and we understand how Stanford volleyball wins, and we just have to keep it simple.”