Up against third-ranked BYU (14-2, 8-1 MPSF), No. 8 Stanford men’s volleyball (9-7, 6-5) struggled to deliver offensively in back-to-back matches, falling 0-3 on Thursday before dropping Friday’s match 1-3 at home.
Despite out-digging BYU in both matches, the Cardinal failed to hit with over .175 accuracy in either game. The Cougars made fewer hitting errors and out-blocked Stanford on Thursday (8.5-4.5) and Friday (18.5-11), producing long point streaks that ultimately defeated the Cardinal.
On the first night of the double-header, Stanford fell in three sets, hitting just .172 to BYU’s .355. After dropping the first two sets, Stanford remained competitive in the third, showing resiliency that has produced several comeback wins in the past month. The Cardinal took an early lead in the set before BYU capitalized on Stanford attack errors to bring the score to a tie at 11-11. The score would remain close, with the teams trading points down the stretch. A small run by the Cougars put them ahead for good late in the set, eventually downing the Cardinal by a score of 25-21.
The Cardinal were led offensively by fifth-year senior outside hitter Gabriel Vega’s 10 digs, the only Stanford player to record double-digit kills. In his second collegiate start, freshman opposite Eric Beatty delivered career-highs with eight kills and eight digs. Junior libero Evan Enriques once again guided the Stanford defense, tallying his seventh double-digit dig performance of the season with 12 digs on the match.
Stanford came back Friday with renewed energy, challenging BYU in all four sets of a deceptively close game. BYU’s 18 blocks and timely point streaks were Stanford’s downfall, but the Cardinal refused to go down without a fight. Stanford took the second set by a tight 25-23 margin to tie the match at one. Senior middle Kevin Rakestraw hit six of his eight kills in the second frame, assisted by freshman setter Paul Bischoff, who recorded his third double-double of the season with 35 assists and 10 digs to go with career-highs in kills (4) and blocks (6).
After a close third set went in BYU’s favor, the Cardinal stayed competitive again in the fourth, fighting through an early deficit and overcoming two match points before falling at last, 26-24.
Vega delivered team-high kills once again in the match, earning 14 kills and seven digs. Sophomore outside hitter Jordan Ewert also reached double-digits, notching 10 kills in the match. Playing in back-to-back matches against a tough opponent, Stanford relied on its bench for energy and offense. Senior outside hitter Clay Jones came off the bench to tally seven kills in his first match since opening weekend.
Stanford has faced several top-ranked teams in the first half of the season. While the team has experienced mixed results, it has shown increased resiliency in these past few weeks, fighting hard through deficits and playing a strong defensive game against each opponent. The Cardinal will have a week to recover before hitting the road next Friday for two non-conference matches in State College, PA.
Stanford will play Lees-McRae on Friday at 2:30 p.m. PT before facing Penn State on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. PT.
Contact Laura Anderson at lauraand ‘at’ stanford.edu.