Volleyball fans got their money’s worth on Jan. 21 as the top-ranked Cougars defeated No. 5 USC in five close sets. BYU fans can expect the same level of excitement as No. 4 Stanford comes to Provo this weekend.
According to senior opposite hitter Robb Stowell, the difference between Stanford and USC is there are fewer high-profile players on Stanford, allowing the team to play much more cohesively.
“They [Stanford] are a more all-around solid team, whereas USC had a few more flashy players,” Stowell said. “They’re all just all-around good, solid, sound players.”
Freshman libero Jaylen Reyes added Stanford is level-headed and plays smart volleyball.
Stanford is led by two seniors, Brad Lawson and Erik Shoji. Lawson, an outside hitter, was the 2010 MPSF Player of the Year and leads the team in nearly every category. Shoji, a libero, is a three-time AVCA first-team All-American and leads the team’s passing game, which, according to Stowell, will be the biggest challenge in defeating Stanford.
“They are a very good passing team,” Stowell said. “They’re very scrappy and it’s tough to get a kill on them because they get a lot of balls up defensively.”
Junior middle blocker Russ Lavaja talked about the importance of stopping both Lawson and Shoji.
“They’re some of the most elite players in the league and they’re both capable of doing a lot of great things,” Lavaja said. “We’re definitely going to be keying on them and focusing on stopping them most of all.”
The Cardinal have a 5-2 record and are coming off a five-set victory over defending national champions Ohio State. Lavaja, Reyes and Stowell all said the serve and serve-receive game will be an extremely important aspect of this weekend’s game.
“We have to win the serve receive battle,” Lavaja said. “We haven’t really discussed our specific game plan, but regardless, we have to win the serve and serve receive game.”
Stowell said BYU will have to cut down on the amount of errors to beat Stanford.
“One of the keys for us is keeping the ball in play,” Stowell said. “We need to make our serves and hit the ball in so they don’t get any easy, free points. We have a very good block and we’re a very good passing team, so if we keep the ball in play, we’re going to win more often.”
Lavaja said the combination of strong, high-profile players and the team’s sense of unity is what makes the Cougars such a dynamic team.
“We have one of the strongest team aspects I’ve ever seen,” Lavaja said. “We have a lot of key guys and good players, but we just have this strong camaraderie. We all have each other’s backs and trust each other to bring each other up when someone’s down.”
The Cougars will host the Cardinal on both Friday and Saturday nights at 7 in the Smith Fieldhouse.
Stowell offered fans a word of advice in regard to this weekend’s games.
“Make sure you get there early,” he said. “Last week there were about 1,000 people turned away at the door, so don’t wait until the last minute to get there.”