The BYU men’s volleyball team faced a 14–19 deficit and a 0–2 set hole. The Cougars looked out-manned, out-numbered and were all but down-and-out against the No. 1 UC Irvine Anteaters Friday night.
On the brink of getting swept for the first time all season, opposite hitter Ben Patch and the rest of the BYU squad made sure that didn’t happen. The Cougars battled back to win the last three sets to take the match 3–2.
Patch, coming off a week where he won the national and conference Player of the Week awards, led the way with a career-high and a BYU all-time high 35 kills to help the Cougars (13–3) stay at No. 1 in the conference standings and most likely move them back to No. 1 in the nation. Despite the poor performance for most of the match, BYU coach Chris McGown was pleased with the end result.
“I was proud of the way the entire team battled,” McGown said in a news release. “I saw a side of our guys tonight that I don’t know if I’ve seen before. They’ve just become these warriors.”
Middle-blocker Rusty Lavaja returned from an ankle injury to chip in eight blocks for the Cougars, who swept UC Irvine in the season series. The Cougars also snapped the Anteaters’ 11-game winning streak, handing them their last two losses. Outside hitter Josue Rivera chipped in with 12 kills.
“It was not a tactically beautiful match,” McGown said. “It was mostly grinding out and finding ways to score some points and hanging in there. We were down a bit and just kept sticking with it.”
Kevin Tillie led the Anteaters with 20 kills and 13 digs while Collin Mehring contributed 11 kills and 14 blocks.
BYU swept UC San Diego on Saturday night, handing the Tritons their seventh loss in their last nine games.
Patch and Taylor Sander led the way for the Cougars, each recording double-digit kills at 11 and 14.
The Cougars easily handled UC San Diego. The only tension came when the Cougars broke a 25–25 deuce in the second set and won 27–25. BYU extended their winning streak against UC San Diego to 34 games.
The Cougars return home this weekend to host Cal Baptist in back-to-back home matches. Both games start at 7 p.m. and will be aired on BYUtv.