By James Hemker
After forcing another fifth-set match, No. 8 men’s volleyball (15-11, 6-6 MPSF) fell to No. 12 BYU (13-11, 6-6 MPSF) for the second time this year. With this loss, the team’s season comes to a close, and seniors Kyle Dagostino, Russell Dervay, Jordan Ewert and Chris Moore complete their Stanford volleyball careers.
“The ending obviously wasn’t what we wanted, and it’s really sad to see those seniors go,” said junior setter Paul Bischoff. “I really feel for them and the entire team. It was a great match, and I’m really proud of the guys and the way they were able to fight to the last point.”
Despite the outcome, the stat sheet proved the game was a fitting finale for Ewert and Dagostino, who both recorded career highs in their last match wearing the Cardinal red.
“Both guys had paramount impact,” said Bischoff. “The fire within Jordan is nothing like I’ve ever seen before. He’s a big player who makes big plays, and he knows how to win and compete at the highest level.”
Ewert posted a quality 28-7-51 attack line, which was good for .481 hitting. He surpassed his previous career high by four kills, and he ends with 767 career kills. Ewert also scooped 10 digs to record his team-leading fifth double-double of the year. He rounded out his contributions with an ace and a block.
“In Kyle, you have one of the best leaders I’ve ever played with,” said Bischoff. “When the dynamic on the court is not going so well, he’s able to manage that really well. Having both of them on court was really good for us this year, and it really helped us out.”
Dagostino, who reached double digit digs for the seventh time this year, paced the court with 16 of them. He ends with 200 total on the season, and Dagostino is the first Stanford libero to hit the 16 dig mark since 2016. He also contributed seven assists and received 32 serves with just one error.
Bischoff was as crafty as ever, setting up 56 assists and squeezing a season-high six kills past BYU. He also impacted the defense with seven more digs and three blocks. In part due to his efforts, Stanford hit for .345 on the night, and BYU finished with a .305 hitting percentage.
Besides Ewert, sophomore opposite Jaylen Jasper was the main recipient of those assists, recording 16 kills on .211 hitting. Jasper tallied a career high 13 digs to record his second consecutive double-double.
The two middle blockers, junior Stephen Moye and sophomore Kyler Presho, were essential components that allowed the Cardinal to fight to five sets. Moye paced the floor with five blocks, collected four kills and served two critical aces. Presho sparked the offense at the beginning of the fourth set, terminating three of his nine kills in consecutive points. He tallied four blocks on the defensive side.
Junior outside hitter Eric Beatty ended the night with seven kills, four blocks and three digs. He found the team’s two final kills which forced deuce in the fifth set.
The 25-18, 16-25, 24-26, 25-19, 14-16 match was as close and competitive as any neutral volleyball fan could have asked for. Stanford came out strong in the first set, and the Cougars responded with an equally dominant performance in the second.
The third set fell to BYU even though Stanford rallied back from 21-24 to force deuce. The Cardinal forced five sets after a strong fourth frame with a .481 hitting percentage and a .894 sideout percentage.
The fifth set began with a 4-4 tie. BYU was able to gain a two-point cushion that the teams rode to 8-10. A huge Cardinal block brought the score to within one, but BYU rattled off another run of points to force their first match point at 11-14.
With Ewert behind the service line, Stanford mounted its most important three-point comeback of the year to force deuce. In spite of the surge, a block and a kill sent the Cardinal packing and the Cougars on to Pepperdine.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said head coach John Kosty. “We fought really hard against a BYU team that we knew was going to be good. We knew it was going to be an absolute battle, which it was. My heart goes out to the seniors; we wanted to give them an opportunity to push through, but we came up one swing short.”
While they were not always called upon during gametime like Ewert and Dagostino, Dervay and Moore also served crucial roles in every other aspect of the team’s preparation.
“Chris and Russell have been unbelievable teammates,” said Kosty. “When they have been called upon, they have risen to the highest of levels, and they have done a tremendous job over their four years to really support and create a great atmosphere on this team. They have been very unwavering throughout this entire process.”
The Cardinal end the year with a 15-11 record, which is a remarkable improvement from last year’s 6-20 season. Stanford last finished a season with more wins than losses back in 2016.
“This year we were able to form this solid dynamic, and we were able to take steps forward each day and have a system,” said Bischoff. “It really helped us along the year to have a nice, solid, core group of guys that were on the court fighting together.”
Being a part of the MPSF, Stanford faces the best teams in the country, represented by the fact that six of their losses came against teams who were ranked in the top-five at the time of competition.
Kosty commented earlier in the season that this year’s team was built on veteran leadership and young power. Even though the graduation of the senior class will leave large gaps in the roster, the team is clearly on the rise.
Soon the Cardinal may not be looking at the top-five from the outside.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.