PROVO Saturday night proved to be hazardous for top-ranked, undefeated NCAA men's teams on their home courts. Just as No. 1 Memphis suffered its first basketball loss of the season to second-ranked Tennessee, the No. 1 BYU volleyball team fell in three games at the Smith Fieldhouse to ninth-ranked Stanford, 35-33, 30-22, 31-29.
With the loss, BYU drops to 12-1 overall and 7-1 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play and falls to second in the MPSF standings behind third-ranked Long Beach State (12-1, 8-1).
Meanwhile, Stanford (10-6, 6-6 MPSF) accomplished something that only four other teams have done in the past nine years since BYU claimed its first of three NCAA titles that is, post a three-game sweep at BYU.
Pepperdine did it three times (twice in 2002 and again in 2006) and three others once Ohio State (2001), UCLA (2003) and Long Beach State (2005).
"Stanford played great they had nice energy," said BYU coach Shawn Patchell, who put a post-match challenge to his squad.
"That's what I talked about to them 'How do we respond from here?'"
His senior-laden team has already responded well in improving five-game performances. For a program that has gone 3-9 the past three seasons in five-set affairs, the Cougars this season are 4-0 to date.
Now it's a chance to react to a league loss something not uncommon in the powerhouse-packed MPSF.
"Sometimes when you're No. 1, you get complacent and start to believe the hype," said BYU senior outside hitter Ivan Perez, adding he expects the Cougars to bounce back with two more weeks of home matches coming.
The extended homestand will allow BYU to work on its Saturday night woes inconsistency, ineffective receiving and passing, and predictable play.
"It's pretty easy to stop us when we've only got one option," said Patchell.
That option was Perez, with a game-high 24 kills and a .579 hitting percentage. But he was the only Cougar with double-digit kills and the only arm hitting better than .211.
Spencer McLachlin led Stanford with 16 kills, with Matt Ceran adding 15 and Evan Romero 14. The Cardinal outhit BYU .293 to .244 and outblocked the Cougars 13-9.
"We knew it was possible we knew we had a shot," said Ceran, the sole senior on a Stanford squad that has also downed defending NCAA champion UC Irvine twice this season. "It's going to give us momentum to keep going this season."
In the nip-and-tuck opening game that featured 28 ties and 11 lead changes, BYU squandered five game points three on BYU service errors and another on an errant passing.
In the second game, BYU struggled early but caught fire when the score reached the midteens, with the Cougars leading 19-15 and hitting .444 to that point. But Stanford scored 15 of the next 18 points as BYU suffered a rare total meltdown.
"We didn't know how to play with the lead," said Perez.In the final game, BYU again trailed in the first third, took control by a couple of points in the late teens and then watched Stanford inch ahead in the 20s. BYU tied it at 27-, 28- and 29-all before the Cardinal closed out with two points to start their on-court celebration.
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