University beat: No. 1 BYU men's volleyball team to host No. 4 Stanford in noisy Smith Fieldhouse
There's no place the BYU men's volleyball team loves more than the Smith Fieldhouse. Lately, it has become a house of horrors for teams.
Last weekend, BYU coach Chris McGown credited the more than 4,200 fans with pushing the No. 1 ranked Cougars by No. 5 USC. The two-match series drew more than 9,300 spectators.
"You could just see the boys feeding off of the energy and it really pulled us through in the fifth set," he said.
After a week off following a sweep of USC, the No. 1 BYU men's volleyball team prepares for a pair of home matches against fourth-ranked Stanford.
BYU has been especially tough in the Smith Fieldhouse, where it lost just once last season, to Santa Barbara in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament. A victory would have put the Cougars in position for their fourth national championship.
"We're a lot stronger this year and ready to try and win a national championship," said All-American sophomore outside hitter Taylor Sander.
BYU (6-1) avenged its lone loss of the season by sweeping then-No. 1 Irvine on the Anteaters' own court in consecutive matches. Meanwhile, the Stanford is in the midst of a 10-match road stretch that covers 7,617 miles and includes the first nine road matches to start the conference season.
On Saturday, the Cardinal (5-2) overcame an injury to team leader Evan Barry and took a five-set victory against defending national champion Ohio State.
However, a loud and proud crowd is expected to greet Stanford.
"The crowd is amazing," Sander said
Aggies are on a roll
After the Utah State women were picked to finish second in the Western Athletic Conference by league coaches, coach Raegan Pebley expressed confidence in her growing program. USU finished 18-15 and third in the WAC in 2011, advancing to the second round of the WNIT.
"On paper we have got as good of a chance as we have ever had," Pebley said.
So far, so good. Not only is Utah State off to its best start ever in the WAC, an aggressive defense and balanced offense has turned the Aggies into road warriors, including a victory at perennial WAC power Louisiana Tech.
Now, the Aggies (13-6, 4-1 WAC) prepare for arguably the conference's toughest road trip they follow a Thursday game at San Jose State by flying halfway across the Pacific Ocean for a Saturday meeting with Hawaii.
The trip will also conclude a three-game league road swing. To this point, following a 78-70 victory Saturday at Idaho, the Aggies are 3-0 on the road in WAC play. Their lone loss came at home to league leader Fresno State. USU (6.1) and Fresno State (9.2) are the only two WAC teams with positive scoring margins. The Aggies are winning at the foul line, where they have made more than 100 more attempts than their opponents.
Five different players have led USU in scoring, led by Ashlee Brown's eight times, followed by Devyn Christensen's six times.