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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stanford captures national title

By Jake Curtis
Special to The Advertiser

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Stanford's Brad Lawson delivers one of his 24 kills against Penn State as Erik Shoji watches.

DINO VOURNAS | Associated Press

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Brad Lawson

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PALO ALTO, Calif. Stanford's unlikely journey from its 3-25 season in 2007 to a national men's volleyball championship in 2010 can be directly attributed to the four Cardinal starters from Hawai'i.

They were the four best players on the court during the Cardinal's dominating 30-25, 30-20, 30-18 victory over Penn State in the NCAA title game yesterday before a near-capacity crowd of 6,635 at Stanford's Maples Pavilion.

And one of the four, 2008 'Iolani School graduate Brad Lawson, had the game of his life in leading the No. 1-ranked Cardinal (24-6) to its first national title since 1997.

Sophomore libero Erik Shoji (Punahou 2008) and junior outside hitter Spencer McLachlin (Punahou 2007) played some of the best volleyball of their careers. Shoji collected 10 digs, some so impressive that teammate Evan Romero called them "absurd," and McLachlin contributed 12 kills, and was the "X-factor" in the match, according to Cardinal coach John Kosty.

Senior setter Kawika Shoji ('Iolani 2006), the National Player of the Year, was his typical consistent and dynamic self, collecting 47 assists and 10 digs.

But the undisputed star was Lawson, a sophomore, who had 24 kills, four service aces, and just one hitting and one serving error. Many of his kills had stunning velocity and he hit an astonishing .821.

"I don't think I've ever seen a more dominating performance from an outside hitter," Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said.

Lawson said his performance compared to only one other in his career and even that one paled in its importance.

"Maybe the (high school) state championship game, when I was in a zone," he said, "but, no, this was a national championship."

Lawson said he was nervous, but as the game progressed he got more and more dominant, and his kills became more and more powerful.

"You talk about being in the zone," Kosty said. "When he's in the zone like that, you don't talk to him, you don't slap hands."

Appropriately, Lawson got his final kill on match point. Kawika Shoji, who shared the tournament MVP award with Lawson, delivered a long-distance, cross-court set from an awkward angle, and Lawson crushed it.

Kawika Shoji, the starting setter in 2007, was emotional in talking about the journey from worst to first.

"I had hope," he said, his voice cracking. "I dreamed. I wouldn't say I expected it. I knew hard work could get us far. I guess I wasn't thinking that far ahead. Short-term goals are what got us through."