BYU men’s volleyball pulls off fifth-set nail-biter

Jaylen Reyes and Josue Rivera pump each other up between points. Saturday's playoff game against University of Hawaii. (Photo by Elliott Miller)
Jaylen Reyes and Josue Rivera pump each other up between points. Saturday’s playoff game against University of Hawaii. (Photo by Elliott Miller)

The BYU men’s volleyball team fended off a Hawaii upset Saturday night in the Smith Fieldhouse, pulling off a fifth-set comeback against the Warriors (25–19, 20–25, 22–25, 25–12, 15–13).

Every BYU Cougar let out a sigh of relief knowing the team would live to play another match.

Setter Ryan Boyce appreciated the match Hawaii gave BYU.

“Hats off to Hawaii,” Boyce said. “They just played an unbelievable match. But I felt like we deserved it, even though we didn’t play as great as we should have.”

MPSF Conference Freshman of the Year and first team all-conference opposite hitter Ben Patch led the way with 25 kills for the Cougars. Conference MVP and fellow first team all-conference outside hitter Taylor Sander chipped in 13 kills, six digs, five blocks and two aces. The Warriors’ outside hitter Brook Sedore led Hawaii with 18 kills and four aces, while middle blocker Taylor Averill added 16 kills.

BYU jumped out to a big 6–0 lead in the first set and never trailed. It led 21–14 at one point before pulling off th

e six-point victory. That’s when things started falling apart for BYU.

“We all had our jitters, and maybe we had an overconfidence of going out thinking we’re going to winning this match in three,” Patch said. “We got anxious and got nervous and backed away from the principles that we’ve developed and the game that we’ve studied.”

BYU struggled in the second and third sets. The team fell behind early and could not catch up, and Hawaii essentially took the crowd out of the game. BYU kept it close but ultimately fell by five. The Cougars jumped out to a quick lead in the third set but slowly fell behind throughout the course of the set. Halfway through the set, Boyce got called for a net violation and coach Chris McGown got upset and was carded. The momentum continued in favor of Hawaii after the call, and the Warriors didn’t look back, winning the set 25–22.

The Cougars got it rolling in the fourth set, however.

“We had a smile on our faces and said, ‘Alright, we have some work in front of us now, don’t we?'” McGown said. “I thought the guys did a good job staying composed and came out with some poise. We got out to a little bit of a lead in the fourth, and it gave us some confidence. We went from feeling down about ourselves in sets two and three into, ‘Alright, now we can play,’ mode.”

BYU jumped out to a huge lead early in the fourth and kept the momentum. Its biggest lead came on the last point of the match, settling on a 13-point victory. That win set up the decisive fifth set.

Taylor Sander jumps for a spike. Saturday's playoff game against University of Hawaii.
Taylor Sander  spikes the ball during Saturday’s playoff game against the University of Hawaii. BYU won in five sets. (Photo by Elliot Miller)

“You hate to have to play five ever with anyone, because who knows what can happen,” McGown said. “Here a few little points go your way and (sometimes) don’t go your way.”

A back-and-forth fifth set found itself in a 13–13 tie. A Patch kill gave the Cougars a one-point lead. A long rally for the match point ended with a 50/50 ball, and after a discussion among the judges and a violation on the Warriors, the point was awarded to BYU. McGown explained the situation.

“If the ball crosses the plane of the net, the setter can still, if he’s in the back row, set that ball,” McGown said. “If our player makes contact with the ball while the setter makes contact with the ball, while their setter is setting it from the back row, he’s considered a back-row attacker at that point, so that was the call.”

The victory put BYU into the semi-finals of the MPSF tournament. The team hosts UCLA Thursday at 8 p.m. UCLA is the last team to defeat BYU and the only team to sweep BYU this season.

McGown was proud of the way his team stuck together and pulled off the victory and said the team is confident going into Thursday’s match.

“I think the whole team has been good about coming together,” McGown said. “To be honest, that’s what we’ve been doing all season long. We learned that along the way, and I think that it’s been the hallmark of this team. We’re just going to settle down and play, even though the world is going nuts around us. We’re just going to stay focused.”

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