PROVO One thing about BYU's top-ranked men's volleyball team the Cougars are making their undefeated run interesting.
For the third time in as many Mountain Pacific Sports Federation weekend outings, BYU (12-0, 7-0 MPSF) needed a fifth game to remain perfect.
The latest: Friday night's 30-22, 28-30, 30-18, 27-30, 15-12 victory over No. 9 Stanford before a Smith Fieldhouse crowd of 2,891.
This isn't a struggling Cardinal squad similar to years past. Stanford (9-6, 5-6 MPSF) has beefed up its talent pool and already posted two victories over defending champion UC Irvine.
Still, the Cougars were expecting an easier time undefeated, playing at home and victorious in the last 11 meetings against Stanford.
After dominating a sloppy first game, a three-game sweep seemed possible only the Cougars got sloppier and Stanford fed on its momentum.
"The unforced errors we made got us down and got to us a bit," said BYU middle blocker Russell Holmes, who finished with game-highs of 19 kills and a .654 hitting percentage.
"We've got to work so that when we're ahead, we're not putting it on cruise control but instead keep accelerating ... When we smell blood, we've got to bury teams."
For part of the match, the Cougars were smelling the stink of nagging problems passing woes in some rotations and too many errors in too many facets.
BYU started without opposite Jonathan Charette (bronchitis) and lost replacement Kent Tuttle (ankle sprain) in the second game. Joining Holmes as stats leaders were Andrew Stewart (15 kills), a struggling Ivan Perez (13 kills on .167 hitting) and Trent Sorensen (12 kills and eight blocks).
Add in the Cougars' super-sub opposite.
"Mat Taylor came in and he was our 'X' factor," said BYU coach Shawn Patchell. "He hit .385 (on seven kills), but more than that, he was our emotional leader."
BYU won the opening set, outhitting Stanford .375 to .094 and outblocking the visitors 4-0. Stanford countered in the second, sustaining a several-point lead through much of the game and scoring the final two points after BYU had forced a 28-all tie.
The Cougars responded in the third by hitting .696 for the 12-point winning margin. But they flip-flopped in the fourth - hitting sub-.000 for the first part of the game and trailing late by a half-dozen points late in the match.
In the back-and-forth fifth, BYU shook off a small early deficit and posted a 10-7 lead before the Cardinal tied it at 12-all. The Cougars claimed the final three points and the match on a Stanford service error, a Perez kill and a match-point kill by reserve setter Reed Chilton off a long Stanford pass.
Stanford, which outblocked BYU 12.5, was led by 18-kill efforts from Matt Ceran and Spencer McLachlin.The two teams play again tonight at 7 p.m.
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