The Cougars continued their trail of victory in an intense five sets against reigning national champion UC Irvine (19-25, 34-32, 21-25, 25-18, 15-12) in the Anteater’s home court in Irvine, Calif. Jan. 17.
The teams last met in May during the NCAA championship match, where UC Irvine defeated the Cougars in three sets and claimed the 2013 title.
The Cougars’ win over the Anteaters comes after a night of season highs.
Taylor Sander led with a season-high 25 kills, followed by Carson Heninger with a career-high 17 kills and Josue Rivera with a season-high 12.
Michael Hatch and Sander led with four blocks each and Tyler Heap had a personal best 54 assists. Heninger had a career-high four digs and career-high three blocks. Sander had nine digs and Heap added 10.
The Cougars’ 3-2 win results after a long fight by both teams.
After losing the first set from a scoring streak by UC Irvine, the Cougars turned it around and won the second. UC Irvine took the lead in the second set and the Cougars followed close behind. The teams were tied at 17-17 and neck-and-neck until the end. Seven more ties passed before the Cougars scraped ahead to the 34-32 finish.
“I think we just had a bit of a slow start and just felt a little flat initially,” BYU head coach Chris McGown said. “We made some subs, and particularly Carson came into the match and played really, really well. He did everything we asked him to do and just really played hard. I thought that was a big spark for us.”
The third and fourth sets were close on both ends, with UC Irvine taking the third and BYU the fourth.
The Cougars took the lead in the final set with a 5-2 start and kept it strong with kills from Sander, Heninger and Rivera. After three kills from UC Irvine, Sander fought back with a kill and Heninger ended the night with a final kill ending the set at 15-12.
McGown was pleased with his team’s performance against UC Irvine and said the team showed a lot of heart in winning on the road.
“They’ve got some big servers and they’re a really nice physical team, so to have played as well as we did against a team that physical, especially down the stretch, was really impressive.”
BYU takes on UC San Diego in La Jolla, Calif. on Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. PST.