By James Hemker
It’s never easy playing the No. 2 team in the nation, and it certainly doesn’t get easier in front of 5,800 rabid fans on their home court.
That was the setting for No. 13 Stanford’s demise as BYU (16-0, 6-0 MPSF) dismantled the Cardinal (6-9, 2-4 MPSF) in three sets in Provo, Utah. Stanford’s offense struggled to find openings, while the defense was unable to slow the Cougars down in the 12-25, 21-25, 22-25 loss.
Freshman setter Nathan Lietzke tallied just 25 assists as the Cardinal were blocked 13 times over the course of the game. Stanford hit .114 as a team, its third-worst percentage of the year. Just 14 balls went to the middles, a symptom of BYU’s strong serving and Stanford’s weak passing. The Cougars tallied seven aces in total.
Junior opposite Jaylen Jasper was the only Cardinal attacker to reach double-digits with 10 kills. Freshman outside Will Rottman contributed nine more, but they came at the cost of eight errors. No other player on the team recorded more than three kills.
BYU cruised with a .329 hitting efficiency, led by opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez and his 12 kills. Just one Cougar hit below .360 on the evening. When the Cardinal could slow BYU down, junior middle Kyler Presho had something to do with it, as he was a part of all six of Stanford’s blocks. After recording two total blocks through his first four starts, Lietzke tallied four on Saturday.
After falling behind 15-23 in the third set, Stanford almost pulled off a miracle to extend the match. The Cardinal sided-out with Jasper’s 10th kill, and then senior outside Eric Beatty terrorized BYU — for the first and only time that night — from the service line. Tough servers forced the Cougars into predictable positions where Lietzke, Presho and Rottman combined for two triple-blocks.
Still trailing by five points, Beatty then aced BYU on three out of four serves, pulling the Cardinal within one. A service error from Beatty and then a response ace from BYU lifted the Cougars from a prolonged match.
Stanford will return to the Farm next weekend for two games against Lewis before BYU comes to town on March 13.