The sixth-ranked BYU men’s volleyball team defeated No. 8 Stanford Friday evening, coming back in the fourth set to take down the Cardinal.

When many teams would throw in the towel and move to a fifth set, the Cougars kept fighting, earning one of their most important wins of the season.

“We don’t want to give (our opponents) any hope. We’re on a roll. We’re a force to be reckoned with.” — BYU senior setter Heath Hughes

BYU remained unbeaten in Provo, using set scores of 25-20, 19-25, 25-21 and 26-24 to do so.

“I shouldn’t have expected anything other than just to battle,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “It’s two carbon copy teams.”

BYU entered the match just ahead of the Cardinal in the national rankings at No. 6, the Cougars’ highest ranking this season, and tied with Stanford in second place in the MPSF standings behind second-ranked UCLA.

Despite winning last year’s meetings against BYU, the Cardinal came to Provo as underdogs, winless in the Smith Fieldhouse over the last seven years.

That streak was extended Friday as the Cougars kept their unblemished home record intact and snapped Stanford’s four-match win streak.

“We don’t want to give (our opponents) any hope,” senior setter Heath Hughes said. “We’re on a roll. We’re a force to be reckoned with.”

Stanford went toe-to-toe with BYU in the first set, with the two teams combining for 17 ties by the time they reached 19.

They went back-and-forth before BYU took over, scoring eight of the final nine points to secure game one.

The Cougars’ impressive closeout came on the heels of a 4-1 Stanford run and gave BYU its largest lead of the set.

Sophomore middle blocker Teon Taylor gave the Cougars a boost on defense, stifling Stanford with five blocks in the initial set.

The Cardinal took the air out of the building to start the next set, beginning things with a service ace and using a 9-0 run to take a 17-7 advantage.

The Cougars brought the crowd back to life through an 8-1 run that put them within three, but Stanford squelched BYU’s comeback hopes, completing a wire-to-wire set win by scoring four of the last five points.

“It was a little messy,” Hughes said, “but the great thing (is) we kind of find ways to win, and we did that. People come in off the bench and they help us out in crucial times.”

The Cougars performed well in crucial moments to win another tight battle following intermission, distancing themselves from the Cardinal as the third set wore on.

BYU took a slim lead midway through and never relinquished it. Off the bench, freshman outside hitter Trent Moser led the Cougars to a 2-1 set advantage, earning six kills and three blocks in the third set.

The fourth set looked bleak for BYU after it fell behind 14-20, but that’s when the Cougars’ heroes emerged.

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BYU regained control of serve before inserting Jon Stanley, the team’s specialist from behind the line, and putting the ball in his hands.

“The fight of our team … it’s got one name: Jon Stanley,” Olmstead said. “I’ve lost track of the fairytale endings that (he’s) created.”

Olmstead can add another one to the list after turning to Stanley earlier than usual in the final set.

The senior magician helped dig his team out of a seemingly insurmountable hole and cut the Cardinal lead to two, and Hughes kept the Cougars alive from there, making the difficult play of stepping under the net, outside the antenna, and hitting the ball back to his teammates. Sophomore outside hitter Luke Benson finished the play off with a kill, keeping BYU within striking distance at 20-22. Hughes completed the evening from the service line, helping the Cougars cap off their 12-4 run to stun Stanford.

“It’s just our guys kind of doing what they’ve done all year,” Olmstead said.

What they have done this year is win, and Olmstead has been the mastermind behind the substitutions and changes that have kept his team rolling as the season nears its end.

Friday, the eighth-year head coach earned his 150th career win since taking over BYU’s men’s volleyball program.

“It means that I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of great people,” Olmstead said. “It’s just about so many wonderful people: coaches, staff, all these people that help us be the best program we can be, and then the players.”

The school’s players did just enough Friday to put themselves in a great position to potentially end the year with a perfect home record and earn a second-place finish in the MPSF heading into the conference’s tournament.

Those accomplishments would be extra sweet for a BYU squad that was picked to finish one spot out of last place in the MPSF coaches poll.

The Cougars will get that chance when they face the Cardinal in the regular-season finale Saturday evening at the Smith Fieldhouse beginning at 7 p.m.

The contest will be broadcast live on BYUtv.

BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead secured his 150th career victory since taking over the Cougars’ program Friday night at Smith Fieldhouse. | Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo