Down 22-19 in the second set, Alex Nikolov and the LBSU men’s volleyball team rallied together to switch the momentum in the game that ultimately led to a Beach victory.
LBSU defeated Stanford in a 3-0 match that featured a second set Beach comeback of five sets and one error by the Cardinal.
“Very unique circumstances at the end of the second set,” said head coach Alan Knipe. “To be down and have Alex go five straight aces.”
Those five straight aces from Nikolov flipped the script on a set that seemed to be out of The Beach’s reach, then became the focal point in its [25-19, 25-22, 25-18] win against the Stanford Cardinal at Walter Pyramid.
With a .202 hitting percentage that became the team’s lowest tally in a game, Knipe looked to sophomore opposite/outside hitter Nathan Harlan to “give us an upgrade.”
Harlan came in for redshirt junior Olivier Spencer, whose -.125 hitting percentage was the lowest of the year for any LBSU player, and quickly got his first of four kills on his first play in the game.
“In practice we talk about freeing up,” Harlan said. “Once it comes to competition mode, just free up. A really short list of what I’m focusing on and when I was told to sub in for [Spencer] that’s all I was thinking about, a few things on my mind and just execute and just go all out basically.”
Seven plays after Harlan’s first kill, Nikolov began a series of serves that muddled the Cardinal defense.
“I’d love to say there were a whole lot of adjustments and things going on there,” Knipe said about being behind and near a loss in set two during Nikolov’s five aces. “I thought he did a great job of not just hitting his heat but mixing it up, giving us some chances and he got us right back in there.”
The Beach needed less than 10 kills per set to win the match, totaling just 29 on the night which was a season low for the No. 2 team in the nation.
The Cardinal’s 18 service errors and .170 hitting percentage left the door open for The Beach to creep back in and take advantage of its opponents that were three points away from evening the match.
Along with his five aces, Nikolov ended the game with a team-high nine kills and one block. Harlan also chipped in on the defensive side with two block assists in his set and a half of action.
Redshirt sophomore setter Aiden Knipe made his return to the starting lineup and had 24 assists after suffering from the stomach flu which kept him from traveling on The Beach’s visit to UCLA last week.
LBSU will take on New Jersey Institute of Technology on Friday, March 4 at 7 p.m. in its second of a three-game homestand which continues on Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. against Long Island University.