STANFORD, Calif. — Second-ranked Stanford, coming off a four-set win at No. 1 Nebraska, was poised to ascend to the top spot in the rankings.
BYU had other ideas.
No. 12 Cougars bested Stanford 3-1 (18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 31-29) at Maples Pavilion on Saturday, topping the defending champion Cardinal for the second-straight season.
BYU won a five-set thriller in Provo last season.
Senior McKenna Miller had 18 kills and two aces while freshman Kate Grimmer and sophomore Heather Gneiting added 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Freshman Whitney Bower added 48 assists, 18 digs, three kills and an ace.
“What a gritty match by our team,” BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. “I’m so proud of the way we stuck together and stayed the course. There were so many crucial, big-time plays by so many different players. Everyone had great energy and I’m really proud of the way the team executed on the road.”
Senior Mary Lake had 15 digs, 10 assists and an ace while junior Taylen Ballard-Nixon entered the match in set three and came up big with seven kills and three blocks for the Cougars.
Two days removed from a 3-1 win at No. 18 Utah, BYU (9-2) went on the road to give the Cardinal their first home loss since November 2016.
The fourth set was a classic, with the Cougars finally earning the victory on their eighth match point.
After losing the first set, 25-18, BYU answered back in the second, scoring three-straight points on a kill by sophomore Madelyn Robinson and two Stanford attack errors to take a 7-4 lead. The Cougars maintained their lead the rest of the match, then scored four in a row to go up 24-20 before a big block by Gneiting and Robinson sealed the set for BYU, 25-22. Miller had six kills to pace the Cougars in the set.
Stanford took an 18-15 lead in the third set before back-to-back kills by Miller, a kill by Robinson and a Bower ace gave BYU a 19-18 lead. The Cardinal again fought back to regain the lead late at 23-21, but BYU responded in kind, scoring the game’s final four points to claim set three; a service error and attack error by Stanford tied the set before Robinson’s kill and another attack error gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead in the match.
BYU stormed out front in set four, scoring the first five points, including kills from Miller, Grimmer and junior Kennedy Eschenberg. However, Stanford quickly re-established itself, scoring the next six points. Kills by Grimmer and Ballard-Nixon, followed by an ace by Lake, gave the Cougars an 11-8 edge they used to keep the lead throughout the set, ultimately taking a 24-20 lead. But Stanford would not die, instead staving off multiple match points before taking a 25-24 lead of their own.
But in front of the crowd of 2,964, the Cougars refused to quit. An Eschenberg kill tied the match back up, 25-25, after which BYU had three more match points as the two teams went back and forth. Finally, down 29-28, Grimmer got a kill to fall, then Stanford committed an attack error. A final rally ended when Ballard-Nixon’s kill ricocheted out of play, giving the Cougars the 31-29 set and the match.
BYU is now 13-5 against ranked teams and has four wins against teams ranked fifth or higher since Olmstead became head coach in 2015.
The Cougars will now begin West Coast Conference play starting with a match at Gonzaga at 6 p.m. PT on Thursday. BYU will then play at Portland at noon PT on Saturday.