LA JOLLA, Calif. - The men’s volleyball teams of UC San Diego and No. 4 Stanford played an entertaining affair in front of 421 spectators Saturday on Senior Night at RIMAC Arena. In the end, the red-hot Cardinal prevailed in four sets, 3-1, for their 11th straight victory. Set scores were 25-20, 25-18, 20-25 and 25-23.
The Tritons conclude their 2014 campaign at 4-23 overall and 2-22 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF). They had entered the contest with back-to-back wins for the first time since a five-match streak late in the 2012 season and consecutive straight-set sweeps for the first time since 2009.
Stanford, having already clinched both an MPSF Tournament berth and a home quarterfinal, improved to 20-7 overall and 17-7 in league play. It was a seventh straight win for the Cardinal over the Tritons, including a 3-0 home decision in this year’s earlier match-up back on Feb. 7.
Seniors Johl Awerkamp, Mike Brunsting, Nick Iorfino, Scot Metzger and Fred Stahl were recognized prior to the first serve of their final appearances as Tritons. All five were in the starting lineup for a fourth match in a row for head coach Kevin Ring.
Iorfino (15) and Awerkamp (14) both reached double figures in kills. Iorfino added six digs, three blocks, one ace and a career-best four assists. Awerkamp had three digs and two blocks.
Stanford had difficulty with Stahl’s offensive output from the middle position all night, as the lone fifth-year Triton finished with eight kills on .467 hitting (8-1-15), and also posted a team-high five blocks.
Poway native Brunsting used the dump effectively from his setter spot to the tune of five kills on five attempts, to go along with his 41 assists, three blocks and team-high seven digs. Metzger collected five kills of his own alongside four digs.
For the Cardinal, their senior outside hitting tandem of Brian Cook and Steven Irvin led the way with 19 and 12 kills, respectively. Cook’s came at a .667 (19-1-27) clip. He completed his double-double with a match-high 10 digs. The duo had three blocks each. Conrad Kaminski topped all players with eight blocks and three aces.
Buoyed by its seniors, UCSD came out with an abundance of energy in the opening frame, with a Stahl kill and combo block by Stahl and Awerkamp accounting for the first two points of the evening. Through two Stanford hitting errors and kills by Stahl and Metzger, the score was 6-2 in favor of the home side. Down by three at 10-7 following an Awerkamp kill, the Cardinal made the only run it needed, tallying the next six points. Though UCSD closed to within a single point twice, the visitors held on from there, with kills at the end from Kaminski and Irvin giving them the set.
Stanford came out blazing in the second set, notching the first five points, including a triple block by Irvin, Kaminski and setter James Shaw. The Cardinal continued on to leads of 12-3 and 19-10. Despite a rousing ace by Iorfino in the middle of a 3-0 Triton run to get it to 19-13, Stanford largely cruised, hitting .542 (15-2-24).
UCSD went up 2-0 and then 8-3 in the third, a four-point stretch culminating in a dramatic Metzger kill at the end of a lengthy rally. Metzger’s solo block later made it 15-10, with another crowd-pleasing roof job by Stahl and Iorfino on Irvin getting the Tritons to 21-16. Brunsting provided the windmill quick kill at the net on set point.
The fourth set featured a match-high seven tie scores. Stanford grabbed its first lead at 8-7 on a Cook kill. A run of 10 of 12 points made matters look rather grim for UCSD, but down 16-9, Ring’s squad didn’t quit. The Tritons began to slowly chip away at their deficit, and after a Brunsting kill, a big Iorfino kill got them to within two at 19-17. A triple block by Brunsting, Iorfino and Stahl followed, with the 4-0 run capped by freshman Griffin Galvin’s service ace.
Coming out of its second and final timeout of the set, Stanford scored three straight on kills by Cook and Irvin and a stuff block by Irvin and Kaminski. The Tritons made one last push, with Iorfino getting his final kill before combining with Stahl on a block for 22-21. A kill by Irvin and two more from Cook ended the match.
Stanford, as the third seed, will host two-time defending national champion and sixth-seeded UC Irvine in an MPSF quarterfinal match next Saturday, April 19.