By Cybele Zhang
Looking to win their first game on the road, No. 8 Stanford men’s volleyball (11-5, 3-2 MPSF) travels to Provo, Utah, to take on No. 9 Brigham Young University (7-4, 3-2 MPSF) tonight. BYU has yet to lose a home game this season, but this statistic should not deter the Cardinal, who enter the game on a winning streak.
The conference match is the first of a double header with one game played at each university. On Saturday, the Cougars will again face Stanford but this time in Maples.
As it currently stands, the schools have played nearly identically in conference games and have the same Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) win-loss record. Both teams have dominated on their home courts but struggle when traveling; each squad boasts three wins at home and two losses on the road. Furthermore, both universities enter the game on win streaks; the Cardinal have won their last four, while BYU has won their last three.
The game has important implications for conference standings. The MPSF is still pretty open and highly competitive with five MPSF teams ranked in the top 15.
On the offensive side, Stanford statistically has the slight upper hand. The Cardinal average 13.1 kills per set on hitting 0.38, but BYU averages 11.5 kills per set on hitting 0.306. Stanford also boasts more digs per set, averaging 9.1 compared to the Cougars’ 8.0.
Brigham Young has the blocking advantage, however, with an average 2.5 blocks per game. The Cardinal in comparison average 2.1. Some of this productivity at the net is due to BYU’s tall front row; the team’s median height is 6-foot-6, while Stanford’s is slightly shorter at 6-foot-5.
To combat this strong block, Stanford needs to be hitting consistently and strategically. Look to sophomore opposite hitter Jaylen Jasper to receive most of the sets, but senior outside hitter Jordan Ewert will also be an integral second option. Jasper averages 4.04 kills per set on hitting 0.299, while Ewert averages 3.46 kills per set on hitting 0.299, too.
The key to the offense, however, is junior setter Paul Bischoff — who the team will lean on to read the defense and to spread the ball around to keep the Cougars on their toes. He averages 10.53 assists per set.
“Paul is always steady with his emotions,” assistant coach Daniel Rasay said in a GoStanford.com feature on Bischoff. “He’s a rock, and it’s important as a setter to be that type of person. When guys are struggling, Paul allows them to get re-centered. They feed off his calmness.”
On the other side of the net, watch for BYU’s Jasper-esque player, Gabi Garcia Fernandez. Also a 6-foot-7 sophomore opposite hitter, Garcia Fernandez is second in the country with 4.59 kills on .320 hitting and 5.38 points per set. He also leads BYU in service assists per set with 0.43 and is a close second on the team in digs with 1.49 per set. In the off season, Garcia Fernandez competes with the Puerto Rican Junior National Team.
The Cougars have historically been a reliable team and have won six straight against the Cardinal, a record dating back to 2016. Stanford’s most recent victory over the Cougars came on Jan. 15, 2016. Despite this pessimistic history, the Cardinal will arrive in Provo ready to win, and the teams are certainly well-matched.
First serve is at 7 p.m. PST at Smith Fieldhouse.
Contact Cybele Zhang at cybelez ‘at’ stanford.edu.