Though No. 8 Stanford men’s volleyball team knew that Friday’s match against No. 4 BYU would be one of its toughest of the season, confidence was not a question going in. The team was riding a season-long, four-match winning streak — not only getting the results, but also dominating its opponents, not having lost a single set over the streak.
The two teams battled throughout the match, trading sets, until Stanford finally fell in a tough fifth set, in which BYU started on a 6-0 run and never looked back. Ultimately, Stanford (8-5, 5-5 MPSF) fell into a tie for eighth in the conference, while BYU (10-3, 10-1) maintained its position at the top after the five-set marathon, 25-22, 20-25, 25-21, 20-25, 15-7.
From the start, it was clear that the match would be a long battle to the finish between two tough teams. Stanford and BYU went point for point during much of the match, and it wasn’t until the fifth set that the Cougars gained a clear advantage.
Senior outside hitter Brian Cook led Stanford with 20 kills and a .349 attack percentage, continuing his consistent leadership. Senior outside hitter Steven Irvin also had a strong offensive night with 17 kills and three blocks. Yet it was Irvin’s defense that was most impressive, as he tallied a match-high 13 digs. Senior opposite Eric Mochalski was right behind Irvin with 16 kills. Overall, Stanford had a season-best 65 kills as a team and outhit the Cougars .340 to .331.
While the Cardinal had a powerful offensive night, BYU was able to pick up its defensive intensity and ultimately gain an advantage over Stanford. BYU outblocked the Cardinal 10-6 and stepped up in the final set to push Stanford into making some uncharacteristic errors. Stanford’s normally strong service game was surprisingly weak with 21 service errors — four of which came in the fifth set.
“That was a little uncharacteristic for our team,” said head coach John Kosty of the service errors to GoStanford.com. “I also think we had a lot of good opportunities to score points off our serves. It is hard just to point the finger at 21 miscues, but I am sure there were a couple we would have loved to have back.”
BYU senior outside hitter Taylor Sanders — last season’s MPSF Player of the Year — had an incredible performance with a season-high 27 kills and a .417 attack percentage. He also recorded four blocks for the night. Sophomore setter Tyler Heap had a double-double with 53 assists and 10 digs.
And while both teams played high-level volleyball throughout the match, BYU was able to limit its errors and take advantage of moments when the Cardinal looked to be losing confidence. The Cougars were able to take an early 6-0 lead in the fifth set, and Stanford was unable to come from behind. Stanford — which had looked hopeful throughout the match — seemed to be affected by the pressure of the final set. And in the end, it was the Cardinal’s uncharacteristic errors that allowed BYU to gain the last-minute advantage and gain the road victory.
Stanford will look to rebound this weekend, but will not face a break in competition. No. 5 UC-Santa Barbara will make the trip to Maples for a tough matchup on Friday and the Card will take on No. 3 UCLA after a couple of days off in its first Monday matchup of the year.
Contact Eliza Thompson at elizat ‘at’ stanford.edu.