The No. 4 BYU men’s volleyball team had an opportunity to take sole possession of first place in the MPSF conference this weekend as the Cougars traveled to California to take on No. 9 Long Beach State.
Two wins would have pushed the Cougars past No. 1 UC Irvine in the conference standings, and on Friday, it looked as if the Cougars would do just that.
BYU swept Long Beach in three sets on Friday night (29-27, 25-11, 25-16), with three Cougars recording double-digit kills.
Senior opposite hitter Robb Stowell led the team with 14, followed by sophomore outside hitter Taylor Sander with 13 and senior middle blocker Futi Tavana with 10.
Tavana also recorded six blocks, and redshirt freshman outside hitter Josue Rivera had a career-high four service aces.
The first set was particularly close as the 49ers took an early 3-0 lead over the Cougars.
Junior middle blocker Russ Lavaja tied the score at 8-8 and from there, the Cougars maintained the lead throughout the rest of the set.
BYU won the second two sets in a much more convincing fashion as it recorded an impressive .750 hitting percentage in the second set to beat Long Beach by a 14-point margin. The Cougars turned in a .452 hitting percentage in the third set to put the match securely out of the 49ers’ reach.
The scene on Saturday was much different than the previous night.
The 49ers gained the momentum early in the match to win the first set 25-17.
The Cougars were able to win the second and third sets by narrow margins (25-22, 25-23), but the momentum swung back in the 49ers’ favor in the fourth and fifth sets (25-21, 20-18), snapping BYU’s seven-game win streak.
Though the match ended in a disappointing manner, several Cougars turned in impressive performances. Sander led the team with 25 kills and was joined by three other Cougars who recorded double-digit kills.
Stowell had 14, followed by Lavaja with 11. Rivera and Tavana both turned in 10 on the night. Tavana also recorded eight blocks.
BYU will return to Provo on Thursday and Friday to take on Cal State Northridge.