After suffering tough losses to UCLA and No. 8 UC-Santa Barbara last week that dropped it from No. 1 to No. 6 in the NCAA rankings, Stanford men’s volleyball will look to reverse its struggles as it hits the road again to face No. 7 BYU and Cal Baptist.
The Cardinal now has an opportunity to prove that it can be successful on the road by bringing home two critical wins. Furthermore, Stanford is currently 0-2 in the MPSF and is still looking for its first conference win of the season.
The Cardinal, which started off very strong at the beginning of the season and quickly rose to the No. 1 spot, seemed out of its element and unlucky at times while on the road last week. The offense played consistently, but so did the offenses of both UCLA and UC-Santa Barbara. Certain plays could have gone either way — and did. Both five-set matches pushed Stanford to its limit and proved too much for the team’s first road trip.
But the Cardinal will have another chance this weekend when Stanford (3-2, 0-2) will face No. 7 BYU (6-2, 4-0) in Provo, Utah, this Friday before heading back to California to face Cal Baptist (1-4, 1-3) in Riverside on Saturday.
After losing two matches early in the season, BYU is currently on a four-match winning streak. The Cougars beat No. 1 Long Beach State in four sets and won their last two matches on the road, meaning that they will be entering this game with confidence and positive momentum. Senior outside hitter Taylor Sander broke the BYU men’s volleyball record for aces in a match last Saturday, hitting nine for the match. Sander will be difficult for Stanford to contain and the defense should look to limit his ability to make big plays in the match.
Because both teams are strong offensively and like to use their service game as an advantage against opponents, this match may prove to be a fight of which can out-serve the other and which defense can contain the opponent’s hitting power more effectively.
Though Cal Baptist is currently unranked and coming off a loss in three sets at No. 7 UC-Irvine, Stanford did lose to the Lancers at the UC-Santa Barbara Invitational earlier this season. While the match did not count towards Stanford’s record, Cal Baptist won 2-1 and showed the ability to limit Stanford’s offensive advantage. Furthermore, Stanford’s quick turnaround between matches that will involve a flight from Utah to Southern California could aid Cal Baptist’s upset chances.
Overall, the Cardinal will face two strong opponents again on the road this week. This time, however, it will have the experience of last week’s road losses to use as a lesson for what to work on and as experience in stressful environments.
Stanford plays BYU at 7 p.m. in Provo, Utah, on Friday and Cal Baptist at 7 p.m. Saturday in Riverside.
Contact Eliza Thompson at elizat ‘at’ stanford.edu.