The BYU volleyball team capped off the MPSF Conference tournament in the same way they began it, sweeping some California school 3-0. The way BYU has played over the last week would make you think that schools like USC and Stanford are no body big (which we know is not true,) but that's just how insanely good BYU has played in this tournament.
Earlier in the season BYU beat Stanford 3-2 and 3-1, but tonight in the conference tournament final, BYU only needed three sets to put away the Cardinal, though it wasn't without a struggle. BYU got ahead and kept a cushion of a few points through most of the first set, but then on set point the Cougars had trouble closing out and let Stanford earn three straight points before finally winning the set 25-23.
That gave Stanford a little momentum going into the second set where they got a 4-0 lead. The Cardinal kept the lead, but slowly lost the momentum as BYU fought back and tied it, 7-7. After a bit of back and forth the Cougars took a four point lead at 14-10, but let the Cardinal chip away until it was again tied at 17. Some more excellent play from both sides saw each team on the cusp of victory, tied at 22, when BYU was able to get a quick three in a row to win the set 25-22.
The third set saw even smaller leads and fewer ties as Stanford fought to stay alive and push it to at least one more set, but BYU pushed trying to complete the sweep. Eventually the passion and energy from BYU (and from the 5,200 people in attendance) pushed them to a 24-20 lead; and despite fighting to the last second, Stanford lost 25-22.
Taylor Sander was awarded the tournament MVP award and ended the night with 15 kills for the Cougars. The other starting senior on the team, Devin Young, turned in an inspiring performance notching six kills, four blocks and five digs. You really don't know what athleticism looks like until you see a 6-9 middle blocker, lays out with all 7.5+ feet of his reach to dig a volleyball that was just slammed toward the ground by a NCAA all-american hitter. It's impressive, and Young played his heart out in his final home match. Every Cougar on the floor played their best, and it was just enough to keep Stanford at bay and propel them to become champions.
BYU has brought their full A-game each of these last three matches. Winning the MPSF is impressive enough, but blowing past three top ranked teams, and sweeping each one in three sets, is beyond impressive. BYU is playing inspired right now. 4-time All-American Taylor Sander graduated this week, and is seeking his chance to become a national champion. His determination has been contagious and all of the Cougars have picked up on the importance of every match, every set, and every play.
Now BYU will travel to Chicago for the NCAA tournament starting May 1st, but BYU will get a first round bye with the MPSF auto-bid as conference champions. The gravity and importance of the NCAA championship deserves it's own article, so look for that next week, and keep cheering on the Cougars.