The volleyball season comes down to one match for the Cardinal men

The Stanford men's volleyball team and its fans ran the gamut of emotions Thursday night.

The only thing that mattered, though, was the final feeling of relief and jubilation.

The third-seeded Cardinal beat conference rival BYU, 25-18, 21-25, 22-25, 29-27, 15-12, in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament at Gentile Arena in Chicago.

Stanford (24-8) meets host and top-seed Loyola-Chicago (28-1) for the title on Saturday at 5 p.m. (PT). The match will be televised by ESPNU.

The Ramblers reached the championship match by winning a marathon five-set match of their own from Penn State.

Loyola's only loss of the season was to USC on Jan. 4, its third match. The Ramblers are 8-0 against the field and also own victories over BYU and UC Irvine.

Stanford enters the final with a 3-3 record against the field, with all three losses to Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champion BYU, last year's national runner-up to the Anteaters.

"I think it's going to be an electric atmosphere," Loyola coach Shane Davis told "The volleyball crowd here in Chicago can be a rowdy bunch, so I think it's going to be a lot of fun."

Stanford, which reaches its fifth national championship match, is looking for its third NCAA title and first since 2010. The Cardinal is 5-0 in NCAA semifinal matches.

The Ramblers enter play Saturday with a 28-match winning streak. Stanford has won 15 of its past 16 matches.

"I think we understand the gravity of the situation," Stanford sophomore setter James Shaw told "We've got a bunch of senior leaders who want this to be their legacy. The rest of the team understands that."

Stanford won the opening set, 25-18, to take early control of the match. The Cougars recovered their mojo and took the next two matches.

Stanford needed to finish a 29-27 comeback in the fourth set, which featured 19 ties and eight lead changes, just to stay alive.

Stanford rallied from a fifth set deficit as well, and was ahead 12-11 before finishing the victory. First team All-American Brian Cook recorded the final kill of the evening for the Cardinal.

The Cardinal outhit the Cougars .333 to .275, accumulating a season-high 69 kills to record its fourth consecutive win in 5-setters. Stanford had been 0-5 in those situations at one point in the year.

Cook led the team in kills for the 23rd time this season, finishing with 19 kills, 10 digs and three blocks.

Senior opposite Eric Mochalski recorded 18 kills on a .382 hitting percentage and five digs. He also had two blocks, including a key block for a point in the fifth set.

Senior outside hitter Steven Irvin added 17 kills, 12 digs and four blocks. Sophomore middle Conrad Kaminski added four kills, three blocks and four aces. He closed out the fourth set with an ace and then opened the fifth with an ace as well.

Junior middle Spencer Haly totaled four kills and a team-best six blocks.

Shaw finished with 59 assists, five kills, six digs and four blocks. Redshirt junior Grant Delgado registered a career-high 19 digs and had four assists.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford Athletics


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