The BYU men’s volleyball team suffered a fifth set loss against Long Beach State on Friday night before bouncing back and beating the Cal State Northridge Matadors on Saturday.
BYU played the 49ers tough despite losing middle blocker Rusty Lavaja to injury, and Ryan Boyce and Devin Young to poor play. BYU was defeated in five tough sets (23–25, 25–19, 18–25, 25–16, 10–15). The 49ers were led by Dalton Ammerman and Taylor Crabb who had 21 and 19 kills.
BYU head coach Chris McGown struggled to find a consistent lineup, using 11 players throughout the match. He found a bright spot in middle blocker Michael Hatch, though.
“Mike Hatch came in and played great,” Coach McGown said. “He was a boy that was a bubble guy, so the fact that he’s worked so hard to make our roster and then break in our lineup is really a tribute to how hard he’s worked.”
Hatch subbed for the struggling Young and made the most of his opportunity, recording four kills and five blocks while providing solid serving in the final four sets. Taylor Sander led the way in a balanced attack for the Cougars, recording 21 kills and six blocks with a .346 hitting percentage. Ben Patch contributed 17 kills, and Josue Rivera pitched in 13 kills in the back-and-forth match.
“I’m just trying to be ready whenever possible,” Hatch said. “To be honest, I didn’t expect any time at all. When coach told me to go in I was just as surprised as everyone else. It’s a great opportunity.”
After losing the first set for the first time this season, the Cougars won in a dominating second set, scoring six of the last eight points. BYU struggled in the third set, falling behind 6–13 early, prompting McGown to sit starting setter Boyce in favor of freshman Tyler Heap.
Young returned after the injury to Lavaja in the third set and played much better.
After easily handling Long Beach State in the fourth set, the Cougars started off slow in the fifth. They fell behind 2–5 and couldn’t take control of the rest of the set, ultimately losing by five.
“We weren’t being aggressive, and we didn’t want it,” Sander said. “I think we were really flat all night, but we can use this as a learning experience. It’s early in the season, and it’s a tough loss, but we’ll get over it.”
McGown offered insight to why the Cougars lost.
“We haven’t been in a spot where we’ve had to battle too much,” McGown said. “Matches have mostly come easy so far, and this one wasn’t coming easy. You don’t want to lose matches, but it isn’t the worst thing in the world for this team to have to go to five and see what they’re made of.”
BYU didn’t need five Saturday night, however.
Sander once again led the Cougars in their 3–1 victory over Cal State Northridge (4–3, 2–3) with 18 kills. Patch had another strong outing with 15 kills and Young bounced back with six kills and nine blocks.
Sam Holt led the Matadors with 18 kills while Brandon Lebrock chipped in 10.
The Cougars took the first two sets 25–15 and 25–22 but dropped the third 22–25. The Matadors pushed the Cougars in the fourth, but BYU pulled off a 25–23 win.
“The only thing bad that happens after a win or a loss is if you don’t learn some lessons,” McGown said. “Hopefully we learn some lessons by losing, and hopefully we learn some lessons by winning tonight.”
Hatch capitalized on the Lavaja injury, playing in all five sets and contributing to the win. Lavaja sat the match on the bench, crutches in hand.
“(The injury) was pretty mild,” McGown said. “They do that precautionary weight off it for 24 hours, then they reevaluate. He’s just following doctor’s orders more than anything.”
The Cougars host UC Santa Barbara Thursday night and UCLA Saturday night.
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