The No.3 BYU men’s volleyball team took home another pair of road victories as the Cougars defeated UC San Diego in five sets on Saturday, following a three-game sweep on Thursday.
BYU fought hard to keep its perfect 32-0 record all-time against UC San Diego and it showed. On Saturday, senior Rob Stowell led the Cougars with 20 kills and nine blocks, along with teammates Josue Rivera, who had 15 kills, and Russ Lavaja, who led all players with nine blocks.
“We put the ball away when it mattered,” said freshman outside hitter Josue Rivera. “We just kept focused and applied what our coaches told us, played hard and acted like it was our last point every time.”
The Cougars started the first set strong but the Tritons came to play. UC San Diego went up by four, forcing BYU to take a timeout and regroup. BYU coach Chris McGown knew he needed to get his players focused.
“We try to help them regroup mentally and refocus,” McGown said. “We try to help them remember the game plan — this is how we are going to defend this team, how we are going to attack this team, and just go from there.”
The Cougars went on a 5-3 rally to bring them back into the game and eventually win the first set, 25-21.
The second set was one for the record books. The score tied nine times before the set hit 25-all. Each team worked hard and eventually the score was tied at 40. The Tritons scored two in a row ending the set 42-40 and the match tied at 1-1. The Tritons tie the record for the most points scored on BYU in a single match.
“It was a long one and a struggle,” Lavaja said. “It was awesome volleyball and it just went their way, it was a hard fought set for sure.”
Towards the end of the third set the Tritons were up 23-19, but BYU rallied back and was able to take the set with a 6-0 run, putting the Cougars up 2-1 in the match.
Like the previous sets it was lock-step for both the Cougars and Tritons as each team battled it out until UC San Diego took the fourth set, 25-21.
“We expected San Diego to play hard and they really did,” McGown said. “The biggest surprise for me was how well they defended us on the back row, they dug a ton of balls and played really scrappy defense in the back row.”
In the fifth set, tensions mounted as both teams played well, but ultimately the Cougars sealed the victory as the team went on to win the set, 15-10.
In Thursday’s match, Stowell had 13 kills as the Cougars swept the Tritons, 27-25, 25-21, 25-20.
The Cougars are back home this week when the team takes on Cal Baptist on the Friday and Saturday in the Smith Fieldhouse.
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