No. 7 Stanford Upsets No. 2 Cal State Northridge

3/27/2009

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STANFORD, Calif. - On a historic night for junior Evan Romero, history took a backseat to a team performance that Stanford hopes to use as a springboard for a late-season surge.

Romero set a school-record for career kills while leading No. 7 Stanford to a 30-27, 34-32, 30-32, 30-22 victory over No. 2 Cal State Northridge in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball match at Maples Pavilion on Friday night.

The victory was big. Stanford (15-8, 8-6) has national-championship hopes and Friday's match seemed to validate those aspirations.

"We've all been feeling that we've been building and building," junior middle blocker Garrett Werner said. "And now we're peaking at the right time. We know we can beat anybody in the nation."

Stanford has won a season-high four consecutive conference matches and seven of eight altogether, and now has its second victory this season over a No. 2-ranked team, having swept Pepperdine on Jan. 24 when the Waves held that position.

Cal State Northridge (19-4, 12-4) actually held the national No. 1 ranking for two weeks in March, and has been in a dogfight with Pepperdine and UC Irvine for first in the MPSF.

But this was Stanford's night, and Romero's in particular. His 17 kills gave him a career total of 1,155, surpassing Curt Toppel's 1,143, and moved him into first on the Stanford all-time list in the rally-scoring era (since 2001). The record, which was broken on a shot to the deep right corner that tied the second set at 22, simply added to the Cardinal's special night.

"I'm honored," said Romero, who has led Stanford in kills in each of his three seasons. "I came here not knowing what I was doing, but what I've done is a testament to the team. Kawika Shoji (at setter) helped me, (assistant coach) Al Shibuya got on me all the time, and Coach Kosty gave me the confidence to learn."

Besides his kills, Romero helped spark Stanford with his blocking. He and Gus Ellis combined for three blocks in the opening set as Stanford bolted to a 5-0 lead and never trailed.

Romero finished with six blocks and by the end of the match was lethal on the offensive end, calling for the ball and delivering, with seven final-set kills.

"Sometimes you have days where you can really feel it," Romero said.

"Evan's just a good physical player, and that's what you need at the opposite position," John Kosty said. "He's a guy who has a go-for-it attitude. He just keeps swinging and we rely on him a lot."

Brad Lawson led Stanford with 18 kills and Spencer McLachlin had 14, but it was defense, not offense, that seemed to key the victory by largely shutting down Northridge's big hitters and with flawless play in the final set.

Stanford absorbed 27 kills from Eric Vance, the Matadors' first-team All-American. But Vance did little damage until the sparking a late rally to win the third set. He and another former Stanford killer, Tanner Nua, combined for 39 kills, but were limited to a .229 hitting percentage. Meanwhile, Northridge middle Kevin McKniff picked up the slack with 19 kills and hit .654.

"We worked on stopping their outsides," Werner said. "We figured we'd let their middle have his kills as long as we were siding out."

For the most part, it worked. And, in the fourth set, Stanford closed the defensive gaps and put on a clinic of defensive play and on its passing in serve-receive. Plus, the Cardinal took advantage of Northridge's 35 service errors.

"We've had an opportunity to think and prepare for about three weeks," Kosty said, referring the break Stanford had for quarter exams. "We knew we could play well against Northridge.

"This is how we need to play. This is our style of volleyball. Confident. A little loose. And serving and passing. That's our game."

Article courtesy of Stanford athletics.

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