Widgets Magazine

Men’s volleyball sweeps two-game series against BYU at Maples

If the Stanford men’s volleyball team (8-11, 5-8 MPSF) makes a run to the NCAA tournament, then it will likely point to March 6 as the day it all started. The Cardinal, unranked since their Feb. 13 loss to Concordia, defeated No. 4 BYU on consecutive nights this weekend, both by 3-1 scorelines. It marked the first time in three years Stanford had swept the Cougars in a regular-season series. Indeed, this is the first time this season that Stanford has won two consecutive matches in any form.

Vega, Gabriel

Gabriel Vega came up big in both matches against BYU for the Cardinal, earning his first career double-double in his second matchup. HECTOR GARCIA-MOLINA/Stanford Photo

Followers of the sport could be forgiven for thinking BYU fields two different teams. The white-shirted version that plays in Provo hasn’t lost since 2013. That makes 39 consecutive matches and two MPSF tournament titles won on the Cougars’ home floor. But the team in blue shirts that plays away from Smith Fieldhouse is surprisingly mortal, posting a measly 3-5 record this season alone. Stanford was happy to add to their misery this weekend.

Friday night’s match started the way of most Stanford matches this season: with a close 21-25 loss. What happened next, though, was a complete departure from the script. BYU never cracked 20 points again, as the Cardinal posted 25-19, 25-16, and 25-18 set wins to take down the heavily-favored Cougars.

The key to the win was great passing from the back row. Junior outside Madison Hayden and junior opposite Gabriel Vega had 9 and 8 digs, respectively, while primary libero Evan Enriques, a freshman, was errorless on 35 service receptions. He added nine digs to co-lead the Cardinal to 39 on the night. The defense held BYU to .183 hitting and 41 kills, ten fewer than Stanford’s 51 kills on a superior .246 attack percentage.

“One of the key things for us tonight is that we passed well,” said head coach John Kosty. “A lot of the credit tonight goes to Evan, Madison and [senior outside] Daniel [Tublin] for getting the ball to [junior setter] James [Shaw] so he can do his job.”

Not content with a single trademark victory, Stanford pushed on for a second victory on the bounce Saturday night. This time, the Cardinal would win the first set 25-21 before dropping a tight second set 24-26 to the Cougars. But the men in red and white flipped the scoreline in set three, posting a 26-24 victory of their own before closing out the final set 25-18.

If the first match was all about defense, then the second match had the offense to go with it. Vega had hit 21-4-40 for .425 from the right side, while Hayden had 17 kills on the outside. Pin offense has been a problem for the Cardinal, so supporters will be pleased to see these two emerge as offensive threats. They were needed in this game particularly, with normally stellar middles Conrad Kaminski and Spencer Haly both having ineffective nights offensively. Kaminski, a junior, hit just .111 on 18 swings while Haly, a senior, hit .143 on 21. Ordinarily, this would spell doom for Stanford, but not this night.

Defensively, Vega would complete the first double-double of his career with 10 digs. Enriques was errorless again on 29 service receptions to go along with 12 digs. Hayden turned in a banner performance on serve-receive, going 40 for 41 as BYU targeted the junior hitter to little avail.

Kosty was effusive in his praise for Vega. “Gabo has found a home on the right side,” he said. “He has been very consistent over the last three to four weeks now. He has really stepped up his game and is playing at a really high level.”

Stanford ended the weekend 8-11 overall, with a puncher’s chance in the MPSF, the toughest conference in the country.

Contact Kevin Bishop at kbishop@stanford.edu.

About Kevin Bishop

Kevin Bishop is a volleyball beat writer for The Daily. He runs cross country and track for the Stanford varsity team, and would like to pursue an athletic career as long as possible before turning to the working world. To that end, Kevin is pursuing a double major in computer science and economics, with an eye towards a career in coding or computational financial analysis. The Bay Area native is a lifelong Warriors and 49ers fan, and now fervently supports north London side Spurs in the EPL.