BYU faced Stanford twice during the regular season. One drew the biggest crowd in Provo this season while the other was a thrilling five set match, one of the closest matches the Cougars have played all year. Both matches ended in BYU's favor. The two met again in the MPSF conference tournament, where BYU came out on top with a stunning 3-0 victory (although each set was very close).
Now what has been a nice rivalry throughout the season has come to a head in the NCAA tournament where they will face off for a final time in the semifinal game tonight. Stanford easily won the play-in game against Erskine and will be looking to upset the Cougars. In the past 43 years of NCAA volleyball champions, 38 of them have been from teams that are now in the MPSF conference, so the winner of Stanford-BYU will be the favorite to hoist the trophy on Saturday.
BYU has played some of it's best volleyball through the MPSF tournament, sweeping USC, UC Santa Barbra, and Stanford to win the conference title. Stanford came into that title game on a 13 match win streak dating back to February, and though its only a semifinal, you can expect championship play out of both teams. While BYU has the phenomenal and recently awarded National Player of the Year Taylor Sander leading the attack, Stanford has an all-american talent in outside hitter Brian Cook (first team), as well as outside hitter Steve Irvin and setter James Shaw (second team).
On the other side of the bracket, top seeded Loyola-Chicago will face off against 5th seeded Penn State who won a minor upset against 4-seed Lewis on Tuesday. The Loyola Ramblers only lost one game all year (in January to USC) and have looked dominant, though many point to a softer schedule that allowed such a win streak. They are the on-paper favorites to win the championship being ranked #1 throughout the year. (Although in the most recent poll released just this Monday, BYU was ranked first despite only receiving six first place votes to Loyola's 11).
The match will be played in Chicago tonight at 5PM, it will be live streamed online through www.ncaa.com, and you can expect a recap here on Vanquish the Foe.