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Win streak swept away in MPSF title match

The second-seeded Stanford men’s volleyball team was swept for the first time this season on Saturday, losing the MPSF title match to top seed BYU, 25-23, 25-22, 25-22, at the BYU Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah. The loss ended the Cardinal’s impressive 13-match winning streak, which was their longest since 1997.

(MIKE KHEIR/The Stanford Daily)

Senior Brian Cook (left) won MPSF All-Tournament honors after his .483 hitting performance in the Card’s loss. (MIKE KHEIR/The Stanford Daily)

Despite not receiving an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament due to the loss, Stanford received an at-large berth to the tournament in Chicago this week, in which six teams will play for the NCAA title.

Stanford had already lost twice to BYU this season in the school’s two meetings. BYU was the No. 1 seed and has led the MPSF all season with dominant performances. While Stanford outhit BYU .284 to .266, Saturday’s match was no different than the first two of the season for both teams, as Stanford played well but BYU came out with the win. This loss marks the fifth time this season that the Cardinal lost a match while outhitting their opponent.

The Cougars had a formative advantage at their home court in Smith Fieldhouse, which had a season-best turnout of 4,367 fans on Saturday. BYU came out swinging and seemed to have the momentum from the beginning of the match. The Cardinal were playing catch-up the whole match and were never able to gain the advantage over the Cougars. Stanford had more errors than normal, with some critical attack errors (17) and service errors (17) that provided BYU the chance to capitalize off Stanford’s mistakes and pull ahead late in each set.

BYU led in the first set 16-11 before letting Stanford get within two points at 19-17. But it was a service error by Stanford—which is normally very consistent from the service line—that gave BYU the first set at 25-23. The second set was better for the Cardinal, which led the set as late as 19-17. BYU, however, used the crowd to rally and gain momentum to overcome Stanford and take the second set 25-22. The third and final set was nearly identical to the second, with Stanford coming out aggressively and gaining the lead only to have BYU come from behind to take the lead at 20-18. While Stanford managed to fight off two match points, the third match point was the charm and BYU won 25-22.

Senior outside hitter Brian Cook once again was at the center of Stanford’s offense with a dominant performance, hitting .483 and recording 17 kills. The two-time All-American averages 3.81 kills per set and has hit a .353 for the season. Cook also had two blocks and five digs on the night.

Senior opposite Eric Mochalski also had an impressive performance, with nine kills and nine digs for the match. Conrad Kaminski continued his .500 average hitting percentage, the highest in the MPSF, with six kills for the night. Surprisingly, normally consistent senior Steven Irvin had 10 attack errors in the match, seeming unable to find his rhythm in the high-pressure environment, though he was able to record nine kills and six digs.

It was the performance by two-time MPSF Player of the Year Taylor Sander that led BYU’s offense and spurred the critical points used to rally from behind on multiple occasions for the Cougars. He had 15 kills on the night with a .324 hitting percentage. Sander was named to the MPSF All-Tournament team along with Stanford’s Cook and sophomore James Shaw, who tallied 36 assists in the loss.

The Cardinal will next move forward to face Erskine (21-6) in a NCAA Tournament play-in match on Tuesday, with the winner set to appear in the NCAA Tournament. Erskine is in the second year of its program, quickly making a name for itself in men’s volleyball. If Stanford wins, it will be the first time since 2010 that it has reached the tournament. In that 2010 appearance, Stanford brought home the program’s second national title. Stanford will take on Erskine on Tuesday in Chicago at 4 p.m.

Contact Eliza Thompson at elizat ‘at’ stanford.edu.