PROVO — There weren't any tremendous rallies, athletic playmaking, or spikes more thunderous than the usual sounds that carom off the walls of the old-school Smith Fieldhouse.
No, Saturday night’s MPSF quarterfinal in Provo didn’t attract the biggest stage for the third-ranked BYU men’s volleyball team, even as it faced No. 9 Stanford.
In the end, it was business as usual. Star opposite Ben Patch never even took off his navy blue warmup top.
And that’s just fine for the Cougars.
Tim Dobbert had a match-high 13 kills, 4 blocks and two aces, and setter Leo Durkin dished out 27 assists with five digs, as the No. 3 Cougars advanced to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament semifinals with a 25-19, 25-21, 25-18 sweep of Stanford.
“Everyone contributed really well," BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. "Even a couple of guys who weren’t having the offensive match they were used to, their passing numbers were so high. That’s a credit to them being composed, part of the team, and knowing they can still participate. They all did a really good job.”
Brenden Sander had seven kills, including an athletic back-row attack that gave BYU (24-3) an 11-6 lead in the first set and seemed to set the tone for the remainder of the match. Apart from Dobbert, no Cougar hitter had double-digit kills — but it was the little things like passing and serving that led to victory in the opening round of the MPSF Tournament.
Gabriel Vega had 12 kills to lead the Cardinal, which hit just .197 and served 17 errors with just one ace.
The Cougars’ seven aces were tied for the second most in the season.
“Blocking, hitting, we attacked really well,” Dobbert said. “But I think it all started with our serving and passing. That was probably the best thing we did tonight.
“If we get them feeling pressure with our serves, then we have a higher chance to side out and get easier balls. It’s the same with our passing.”
There’s nothing wrong with what the Cougars did or how they did it. After all, the team that is still haunted by last year’s agonizing defeat in the NCAA championship match to Ohio State isn’t driven to get back to the conference quarterfinals.
The Cougars are out for so much more than a win over Stanford, which lost five of its final seven matches in the regular season.
If there was a time to panic, it might have been when Stanford (13-13) took an 11-8 advantage in the second set after back-to-back kills by Clay Jones.
But there was no panic; Olmstead simply called a timeout, the Cougars retook control when Jake Langlois put down consecutive aces, and BYU rolled into the locker-room break up 2-0 with a 25-21 second-set victory.
““Everyone contributed really well,” Olmstead said. “Even a couple of guys who weren’t having the offensive match they were used to, their passing numbers were so high. That’s a credit to them being composed, part of the team, and knowing they can still participate. They all did a really good job.”
There were a few individual superlatives, of course; Price Jarman evoked a cheer with one of his two blocks that put the Cougars up 19-15 in the third set.
There were also things to work on; while the Cardinal had 17 of the two sides’ 30 combined service errors, BYU had its own issues from the line. The Cougars hit just .192 in the second set, yet still won comfortably, 25-21.
That’s OK — there will be time to work on those things. After all, BYU didn’t have a goal to just play until Tax Day.
The Cougars have designs on a few more weekends of playoff volleyball.
“All the work in the season gets you in that flow, and that’s the best teacher,” Olmstead said. “It’s right now when we want it to manifest itself.”
BYU heads to Long Beach State for the MPSF semifinals. The top-ranked 49ers defeated Southern California in Saturday's quarterfinals to earn the right to host the remainder of the conference tournament.
Stanford's season ends at 13-13.