Jan. 15, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - The point wasn't crucial in the big picture other than to give BYU another shot to the gut during Stanford's four-set men's volleyball victory on Saturday night.
Still, the point said quite a bit about Stanford's new chauffer, Evan Barry, during a 25-23, 25-17, 24-26, 25-22 triumph that capped the No. 4 Cardinal's two-match weekend sweep of the No. 2 Cougars to open the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation season.
As a BYU overpass traveled across the net toward Barry, the Cougars and just about all the 1,033 who packed Burnham Pavilion, expected the junior setter to create another Cardinal attack. Instead, Barry bolted into the air while backpedaling and slammed the ball into the deep corner of the Cougars' court.
It was the signature play of Barry's night, during which he had 48 assists and set the Cardinal to a season-high .412 hitting percentage, allowing Stanford (3-0 overall) to pull into a share of the early conference lead with No. 1 USC, at 2-0.
After three matches, Barry's play has guided the success of Stanford's rapidly improving offense, which showed just how lethal it can be when its passing game is in synch. Of its three matches, this was Stanford's smoothest performance yet.
"We're a team that definitely thrives on momentum and fire," Barry said. "When we have all cylinders going, I feel like we're unstoppable."
Brad Lawson had 19 kills and Spencer McLachlin 16 for the Cardinal, which should tuck right behind the top-ranked Trojans in the next AVCA Top 15 rankings.
Stanford increased its winning streak to nine despite going through a third-set series of serve-receive breakdowns that resulted in overpasses and free BYU shots. The remarkable thing, however, was that Stanford nearly overcame such miscues to win the set.
Stanford fell just short in a comeback from a six-point deficit, using a 9-3 run to tie the score at 24-24, but ultimately lost on an ace by BYU's Alex DaPron.
But instead of losing the momentum it built while largely controlling the first two sets, the Cardinal stole it back when Lawson served the first four points of the fourth set, blasting an ace on the way to giving Stanford a lead it never would relinquish.
Such is the talent in the Stanford lineup that if the defense is on - and it is most of the time - there seems to be little an opponent can do.
"One of the strengths coming into this season was that we had our entire passing game come back," said Stanford coach John Kosty of libero Erik Shoji, and outside hitters Lawson and McLachlin. "That was the thing we built this team around, that passing core.
"Credit to BYU, they may be the best serving team in the country. They were relentless all weekend long with their serving, and I was proud of our guys to continually fight those really tough serves off."
Stanford, however, matched BYU ace for ace, getting three from Lawson, two from Eric Mochalski, and seven altogether -- to six for BYU.
With the passing in place, Barry did the rest. Besides keeping the attack balanced, he provided the cleverness that stirred not-too-distant memories of the player he replaced - 2010 National Player of the Year Kawika Shoji. A no-look cross-court back-to-the hitter pass to Lawson, who pounded one of his eight kills in the opening set, was one illustration.
"Evan's been running the team for the last couple of years," Kosty said, of Barry's behind-the-scenes work in practice. "Everybody hasn't had the privilege to watch him play. We were confident that Evan would come into this season and be able to take over this team and do what he's doing right now."
Lawson hit .467 and had six digs, and freshman Brian Cook, out of Soquel High, had a career-high 12 kills and hit .435. Meanwhile, Stanford earned its' first-ever regular-season sweep of BYU since the annual two-match series began in 2001.
Before that, 1998 was the last season Stanford did not lose a regular-season match to the Cougars , winning their only meeting.
Next, Stanford heads into its favorite road trip of the MPSF schedule, a weekend two-match series at No. 5 Hawaii, the home state of seven Cardinal players. Stanford will shoot for its first 3-0 conference start since 2001 on Friday (10 p.m. PT).
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics