Despite 27 kills from their two-time All-American Taylor Sander, the BYU men’s volleyball team fell to Stanford in four sets in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament semifinals Thursday night.
Sander led all hitters on the night by a wide margin. Brad Lawson, Stanford’s All-American hitter, had 17 kills to lead the Cardinal. Rob Stowell was the only other Cougar to manage double-figure kills with his 11.
“I try to be a leader out there,” the sophomore Sander said. “I love taking those big swings when I’m in the moment and, tonight specifically, I was just trying hard to get my team the energy and motivation to push forward. We fell a little short tonight, didn’t make the plays we wanted and it hurt us.”
After dropping the first set to Stanford 21-25, the Cougars found new life. Rallying behind Sander’s seven second-set kills, BYU took the set by eight leading by as many as ten points at one time and squaring the match at 1-1 before Stanford won the third set 25-19.
“We knew going forward that this was going to be a close match,” said BYU head coach Chris McGown. “Stanford was excellent, they played well. We knew it was going to come down to a battle and it definitely was.”
That battle happened in the fourth set when the win-or-go-home mentality struck the Cougars. The teams traded points back and forth through the entire set. They had to play an extra 18 points to have a decisive win-by-two victor. BYU had six set points to close the contest and force a fifth set, but a timely block followed by an ace sealed the win for Stanford, 35-33.
“We just didn’t make as many plays as we wanted down the stretch and that hurt us,” Coach McGown said. “It was an excellent match by Stanford, credit to them.”
With tonight’s victory, Stanford locks in a spot in the MPSF championship game and keeps their hope for an NCAA tournament berth. The Cougars will return to Provo and hope to be granted the lone at-large bid for their chance to play in volleyball’s big dance.